After six Horry County teams kicked off their football seasons last week, the final three will join suit this Friday, as Carolina Forest, Myrtle Beach and Aynor get things going.
For those three — and by association, the other six — it showed a difference of opinion in scheduling.
The South Carolina High School League allows teams in all five classes 11 total weeks to complete a 10-game regular season. But how exactly to use the one dedicated off week is more about personal preference than anything else.
“We like playing straight through,” Myrtle Beach coach Mickey Wilson said. “It’s tough to play [the first available week]. We feel rushed to get everything in and offensively it allows us to maintain continuity.”
The last time Myrtle Beach didn’t take its off week to start the year was in 2017, when it lost 56-0 at Byrnes. The Seahawks ended up scheduling their off week for the third Friday in October that year, a product of being in a five-team region in that two-year block.
In 2016, Wilson’s team had a similar set-up, and although it beat Byrnes to open the calendar, the schedule was altered thanks to Hurricane Matthew that October.
There were delays that year, then the next, and of course in 2018, when Horry County Schools closed for the better part of a month. Teams scrambled to make up the games, and no team was pushed more than St. James. After going one month and one week between games, the Sharks had to play three region games in 12 days after completely sacrificing two non-region games.
Mother Nature’s recent puppeteering with school closures and game postponements/cancelations is also in the back of every coach’s mind as they set their future schedules.
“With the weather, things can be so different just a county over depending on the storm’s impact,” Aynor coach Jason Allen said. “Rescheduling in the middle of the season is very difficult. It’s certainly frustrating to sit at home for weeks while others on your schedule are able to play. But that’s sometimes the hand you’re dealt.”
The Blue Jackets’ 2018 and 2019 schedules were already set in stone when Allen took over the program prior to last season. But while they included the 10-straight-game philosophy (more on that in a moment), Allen said he would change it if necessary going forward.
Aynor and Green Sea Floyds were also the product of another type of an out-of-their-hands scheduling change this year. Both schools were scheduled to play the now-closed Creek Bridge again to complete the current two-year block. The Blue Jackets were originally supposed to play Creek Bridge Sept. 20, while the Trojans - who previously shared a region with Creek Bridge — now have an extra off week set for Nov. 1, the final week of the regular season.
The last-minute change left Aynor and Green Sea Floyds with a nine-game regular season schedule.
SPEAKING OF SCHEDULING
October will be here before we know it, and that means the all-meaningful region games aren’t that far away.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t a bunch of top-notch non-region contests set to happen in the coming five weeks. Here are five of our favorites that will be played on Horry County soil.
*Waccamaw at Aynor, Friday: The Blue Jackets have had a solid recent run against Waccamaw, winning seven of the last 10 meetings. However, Warriors coach Shane Fidler’s team dominated Carvers Bay 44-0 last week and is much improved from the last few seasons.
*Green Sea Floyds at Aynor, Sept. 6: The Trojans not only aren’t going to sneak up on anyone this year, they are playing with a purpose (see: last week’s beat down of West Columbus). Now, factor in that one of the Trojans’ three losses last year came against Aynor.
*Hoggard (N.C.) at Carolina Forest, Sept. 13: This was the victory from a year ago that signaled to everyone that the Panthers would be pretty good. Hoggard has won 63 games in the last six years and doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon.
*Myrtle Beach at Carolina Forest, Sept. 20: One of the on-field sacrifices of the 2018 flooding was this would-be gem. Now, amplify the hype meter associated with a defending state champion, two future NCAA Division-I quarterbacks and imagine how high-profile it will be.
*Conway at Myrtle Beach, Sept. 27: Myrtle Beach is used to playing back-to-back games under the spotlight, and the final non-region game will be no different, regardless of record between the two rivals.
AROUND THE AREA
Among the highlights of last Friday’s opening games was a number of area defensive players starting off the season with double-digit tackle figures. Four Loris players - Jacob Black (13) Radrez Bellamy (11), Jevade Isaiah (11) and Jaylon McLeod (10) - were joined by Conway’s Tonka Hemingway (14) and Al-Jaquan Washington (11) and St. James’ Jemale Faulkner (11). … Asked about the performance of first-time starting center Alex McGillicuddy, North Myrtle Beach quarterback Ramsey Lewis was nothing but complimentary. Lewis, who was in the shotgun throughout Friday’s win over Conway, said that every snap hit him directly in the hands. McGillicuddy, standing in for injured regular center Hayden Best, could again start this week against Loris. Chiefs coach Matt Reel said that McGillicuddy graded out at 80 percent for the game against a stout Conway defensive line. … Green Sea Floyds’ 51-9 victory over West Columbus (N.C.) utilized a running clock in the second half. Still, the Trojans’ piled up 233 rushing yards, led by Jaquan Dixon’s 101 yards (on just four carries). In total, eight different players had at least one carry. … For those wondering about Carolina Forest only having four regular-season home games this fall, it is a direct product of its season opener. The Panthers were originally scheduled to play at Lower Richland last year and then have the 2019 game at home. However, Lower Richland’s stadium renovations last year were delayed, causing the schools to flip the venues.