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Myrtle Beach's Mickey Wilson is surrounded by Chiefs as the Seahawks defeat North Myrtle Beach 35-7 in 2018 winning the lower state semifinals at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium in Myrtle Beach. Photo by Janet Morgan/Myrtle Beach Herald janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

Matt Reel knows why Myrtle Beach fans mostly shrug off the game against his school.

North Myrtle Beach, for all the strides it has made over the past decade, has still struggled to make the annual Chiefs-Seahawks contest something more.

“Nobody here wants to say it, but unless we start beating them, it’s not a rivalry,” Reel said leading up to Friday’s game. “They’d probably say their biggest rival is Hartsville. When I first got here, that’s all I heard about. It is a rivalry, but until we start winning some games, it’s not a real rivalry.”

The next chance to change that comes tonight. The highly anticipated game in Little River will determine which of the two schools wins the Region VI-4A crown and earns a No. 1 playoff seed — an all-important spot given the guaranteed two home games that come with it. The loser will hit the road next week and likely not play another game at home this season.

The meaning behind it all, though, has been dwarfed somewhat due to Myrtle Beach’s dominance in the series.

Since Chiefs and Seahawks began their annual series in 1996 (two years before North Myrtle Beach moved to the same classification), Myrtle Beach has won 21 of the 28 games. Sixteen of those Seahawk wins came by double digits, and 11 of them were decided by three touchdowns or more.

What’s more, Myrtle Beach has won four of its state championships in that span while North Myrtle Beach has failed to get beyond the third round of the playoffs. So, while Chiefs fans have drummed up the game against their neighbors to the south, this is basically where Myrtle Beach fans expect to be each year.

Obviously, COVID-19 restrictions will change the environment some Friday. North Myrtle Beach is allowed a hair over 1,000 fans in the stadium, and as of Monday all of those tickets were essentially spoken for. 

Those lucky enough to get a ticket will be witnessing a first, either way. Since these teams were put into the same class, they’ve never met in the regular-season finale with the winner taking the region title.

For Reel, bursting through that window of opportunity could help change the dynamic of the game and its perception.

“We’ve grown our program. We’ve grown our brand. Now it’s time to get to the next level,” Reel said. “We haven’t done that with Hartsville. We haven’t done that with Myrtle Beach. We need to establish ourselves so we’re around in the playoffs [in the later rounds] and do things we haven’t done before.”

STAT MONSTER

Noah Jones has had some big games this season for Aynor.

The senior quarterback started off the season with a 109-yard performance against Lakewood and then put up 173 and two touchdowns a couple weeks later while nearly leading a comeback against Dillon. But what he did Friday made all of that seem routine.

In a blowout victory over Green Sea Floyds, Jones rushed for 318 yards and seven touchdowns in what coach Jason Allen described on Twitter as “One of the best individual performances I’ve ever seen.”

Running mostly out of the Blue Jackets’ typical bunched sets, Jones was getting fantastic blocking ahead of him throughout the evening. Film from the game showed that he was routinely not touched for the first time until he was well beyond the line of scrimmage — if at all. Twenty one of his 33 carries went for five yards or more, and four of his rushes went for 20 yards or more, including a 60-yard scamper to end his night.

Jones will have a week to rest up before the Blue Jackets play again. Having already locked up the No. 2 finish in Region VII-3A, Aynor will head to Oceanside Collegiate next week to begin the Class 3A playoffs.

AROUND THE AREA

Outside of the Myrtle Beach-North Myrtle Beach game, no other Horry County programs will play games this week that alter their trajectory for the postseason. Conway, Aynor and Green Sea Floyds are idle (as of Monday morning), while Socastee (vs. Georgetown) and St. James-Loris will play non-region games.  Carolina Forest, Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach and Aynor will be the county's only playoff teams this year.

Contact Charles D. Perry at 843-488-7236

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