Matt Reel is known for being more of an offensive guy.
The third-year North Myrtle Beach coach is smart enough to realize it.
“When I got hired, the one thing I knew we needed was to hire was a defensive coordinator we could fully trust," he said. "On Friday nights, [the coordinator] would be calling the plays."
The Chiefs have leaned on Greg Hill to run that unit, and Reel is quick to point out that others around the region and county have found their own gurus to boost their overall stock.
Simply, if there has been a rebound effect to spread offenses, potential big-point production and top-end skill guys, it is that more of the local squads are starting to find ways to navigate them from the flip side. Locally, it has carried several squads throughout the year and — in some cases — right into the second round of the playoffs.
Horry County teams Carolina Forest, Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach and Green Sea Floyds are all inside the Top 10 defenses in their respective statewide classifications in regards to points allowed per game. Not coincidentally, they represent four of the five local teams still alive for a state championship. (The area’s other remaining playoff team, Aynor, is in the Top 20 in Class 3A.)
Now, all of those teams have seen lapses from time to time. For instance, Myrtle Beach’s first defensive play against Lakewood last week in the Class 4A playoff opener was an 80-yard passing play where a blown coverage put the Gators on the board less than two minutes into the game.
However, it’s the overall product that the coaches are seeing week to week that is paying dividends.
“When we don’t make mistakes in the secondary, we can be dominant on that side of the ball,” Seahawks coach Mickey Wilson said. “Once they settled down and realized they just needed to keep fighting … the defense took control of the game.”
In the last three quarters of the 63-31 win, Myrtle Beach’s defense allowed just a shade over 100 yards of Lakewood offense. About one-third of those came in the final two minutes after the game was well in hand.
LEGETTE’S COMMITMENT PAYING DIVIDENDS FOR CAROLINA FOREST
A little over a year ago, David Legette said that he felt like he owed his coaches everything he had.
They had elected to give him time to heal properly from a once-nagging ankle injury during his sophomore season that slowed his development, and he wanted to make his second chance in the offense really count.
If anything, Carolina Forest senior is now making them look smart. Over the course of the last six weeks — which encompasses the five region games and Friday’s victory over Cane Bay to open the playoffs, all Legette has done is rush for more than 800 yards and 18 touchdowns.
“The amount of work he’s done in the weight room to build up his body and get to where he is now, he’s been a great player,” Carolina Forest coach Marc Morris said after Legette had another huge game. “The last few weeks, he’s been a huge part of what we do.”
In that six-game span, only Socastee held him to fewer than 100 yards, and that was probably because he only had seven carries. Against Cane Bay, his 172 yards and four touchdowns came on only 11 carries.
During the second half, he was a spectator.
“It doesn’t bother me,” Legette said. “Not if we’re winning like that.”
It isn’t as if he hasn’t had his chances, after all. He enters this weeks game against River Bluff needing 89 yards to reach 3,000 for his career.
SEEDS OF DOUBT
There were 70 SCHSL first-round playoff games last week, and we only got more proof of how much the regular-season success meant to advancing in the postseason.
Amid all those games, there were only 15 seedings-based upsets. In other words, 79 percent of the home teams/favorites moved on to the second round. There were no more than four bracket busters in any individual classification, with that many occurring in only Class 4A and Class 3A.
But here’s where it gets really interesting.
Of the 15 lower-seeded teams that won, eight of them were No. 4s. All of them were schools who finished with a losing region slate.
Locally, the biggest impact of these games was No. 4 North Myrtle Beach, which not only defeated No. 3 North Augusta on the road, but also set up a second-round showdown with Myrtle Beach in the process.