Last fall, Region VI-4A gained notice when it mattered most.
Teams from the division won 12 total playoff games and turned the Class 4A lower state field into a de facto region tournament. Those charged with ranking South Carolina’s prep football teams haven’t forgotten that dynamic finish, and the teams themselves aren’t giving the pollsters any reason to change their minds so far this season.
Four from the region — Myrtle Beach, Hartsville, North Myrtle Beach and Wilson — are all inside the Top 10 in the Class 4A state poll, while Marlboro County was also receiving votes last week prior to a loss to Cheraw. What’s more, the first three are each inside the Top 5, and Myrtle Beach and Hartsville were holding on to the top two spots as of the latest polls.
None of it affects much of anything outside of bragging rights and confidence, but it is evidence that the division is gaining respect all across South Carolina.
“Last year was the proof in the pudding,” North Myrtle Beach coach Matt Reel said. “Myrtle Beach and Hartsville have been the cream of the crop. For the last 10 years or so, you had to go through one of them, if not both of them, to get to the state championships. Marlboro County was [in that position] for a few years, too.
“Recently, with our success and [coach] Derek [Howard] at Wilson getting that into shape, I just think our records outside of our regions are really good.”
That is sort of an understatement.
Lost amid much of the shuffle of last year’s flood-shortened regular season was just how good these teams performed. The top five teams in the region were a combined 18-2 in non-region games in 2018. Yes, some big match-ups (namely Myrtle Beach-Carolina Forest and Hartsville-Abbeville) were wiped out because of school cancelations.
But so far this year, those top four schools are backing up the expectations brought about by last year’s success. Currently, Myrtle Beach and Hartsville are 1-0, while North Myrtle Beach and Wilson are 2-0. Five of the six victories have come by double digits.
We’ve see some of the stacked-region state poll results at the lower levels — even locally, where Green Sea Floyds is currently joined by fellow Region VI-A members Lake View and Hemingway in the Top 10. However, what Region VI-4A is doing is an extreme anomaly, both in terms of current rankings and what could come in the next several weeks. It is entirely possible, given each of those four teams’ schedules, that the region could grab four spots in the Top 5 prior to the start of region play, when some losses are inevitable.
Here is a quick breakdown of those top four teams and what the month of September will present.
*Myrtle Beach Seahawks, current ranking No. 1
Remaining non-region games: vs. Laurens, at Socastee, at Carolina Forest, vs. Conway
Biggest potential land mine: At Carolina Forest, Sept. 20
*Hartsville Red Foxes, current ranking No. 2
Remaining non-region games: vs. Camden, at Conway, vs. Bluffton, at Abbeville
Biggest potential land mine: at Abbeville, Sept. 27
*North Myrtle Beach Chiefs, current ranking No. 5
Remaining non-region games: at West Brunswick, vs. St. James, vs. Socastee
Biggest potential land mine: at West Brunswick (N.C.), originally scheduled for Friday
*Wilson Tigers, current ranking No. 8
Remaining non-region games: vs. South Florence, vs. Lower Richland, at West Florence
Biggest potential land mine: at West Florence, Sept. 27
Of course, the current No. 3 team in the Class 4A poll, Daniel, could help out the region’s cause with a loss. Daniel does have a home game against Class 4A No. 9 squad Ridge View on Sept. 20. Greer, which was No. 4 in the rankings last week, has now started the season 0-2 and is likely to drop in the polls.
Continued success in this portion of the state could mean another boost in the rankings for Region VI-4A as a whole, not to mention the perception of those teams.
“I don’t see it changing," Reel said. "I really don’t.”
“It puts a lot of pressure on in the region,” he continued. “You can start 5-0 and then get into your region and go 1-4 and you’re tying to get into the playoffs.”
HERE WE GO AGAIN?
Area football programs have already started to plan for game postponements for the contests originally scheduled for Friday, thanks to the expected impacts of Hurricane Dorian.
With school already canceled for Tuesday, and expected to last at least one or two more days minimum, the likelihood of anyone playing prior to Saturday is extremely slim, and even that may be a stretch. Teams will want at least two days of prep time (not to mention at least one day of practice immediately preceding a game).
Schools are allowed to practice Monday, on the condition that they are done before noon — at which point the mandatory evacuations for coastal areas are set to begin.
Eight of the nine Horry County teams are scheduled to play Friday, with only St. James sitting idle. For the rest, they will have to likely make up ground with make-up games to be held Saturday or Monday.
Teams are required to have three full days off between games, meaning next week’s schedule could also be affected, even if the weather reverberations are minimal.
AROUND THE AREA
Carolina Forest standout linebacker Latrell Pitts was held out of the Panthers’ season-opening victory due to a minor leg injury suffered in a scrimmage against North Myrtle Beach on Aug. 12. Coach Marc Morris said Pitts will also not play this week’s scheduled game against Colleton County and is expected to return for the team’s home opener against Hoggard (N.C.) on Sept. 13. The junior record 61 tackles a year ago. … Green Sea Floyds has blown out each of its first two opponents, beating West Columbus (N.C.) and Hannah-Pamplico by an average scored of 49-5. In the midst of that has been an ultra-efficient start by running back Jaquan Dixon. With his first 10 carries of the year between the two games, Dixon rushed for 208 yards and five touchdowns. … Throughout the first two weeks of the regular season, Horry County teams are a combined 6-2 against teams from outside the area. The average margin of victories in those six wins is 37.3 points.