Mickey Wilson knew his team had played a good number of Thursday games during his tenure. One immediately stood out.
“I know North Myrtle Beach beat us on a Thursday night,” the Myrtle Beach coach said, referring to a 24-19 loss to the Chiefs in 2017 that ultimately prevented the Seahawks from winning a region crown.
But as far as the other nine times Myrtle Beach had to play on Thursday?
The Seahawks, who will head to Wilson a day earlier than normal this week, are 8-1 in those games since their coach took over the program in 2009. That includes four victories over West Florence and one each against Conway, Carolina Forest, Wilson and West Brunswick (N.C.).
Most notably was the 2017 season, when the Seahawks played five Thursday night games, a product of scheduling needs in Florence (where three teams share Memorial Stadium), weather and television broadcasts.
The Seahawks also played on Thursdays twice in 2014 and one game each in 2016 and 2012. If there is anything to draw off all that experience, it is how to prepare for knocking out a crucial game a day early.
After all, the coach knew this one was coming, unlike another recent last-second change.
“If you don’t know, like for the state championship game last year — they called us on Tuesday morning and said ‘You’re playing on Friday now’ — that was very hectic,” Wilson said of the Class 4A title game. “[Normally for a Thursday] we’ll do a Wednesday/Thursday combo practice [on Wednesday]. That’s a little stressful. But other than that, it’s not too bad. I think from the coaching standpoint, I know most of our coaches would dive into the film a little quicker than they would normally.”
The byproduct for Myrtle Beach is that the coaching staff will have an extra day to prepare for the regular-season finale against North Myrtle Beach, should by some odd chance Myrtle Beach needs to win that one to clinch the region champsionship. If the Seahawks choose, they’ll be able to send a staff member or two to scout the Chiefs live on Friday and get a jump-start on any possible strategy changes for the regular-season finale.
A win against Wilson would mean the Seahawks would automatically win the Region VI-4A title, regardless of other outcomes. At the very least, they would own a tie-breaker over Hartsville, the only other team that could also finish 4-1 in that scenario.
Even with a loss to the Tigers, Myrtle Beach would still be playing for a chance at the title and a guaranteed top-two playoff seed.
Andrew Brown’s name recognition may not be in line with some of the other top players from around the area, but his impact to the Aynor offense is undeniable now.
Among his notable huge plays in Friday's win over Dillon were three rushing touchdowns and a monster 24-yard pass on a third-and-16 play on the drive that eventually allowed the Blue Jackets to take the lead for good.
And, oh yeah, the senior quarterback ran for 150 yards.
“I’m definitely going to feel it in the morning,” Brown said after the win. “I don’t know how many times I ran the ball tonight, but it felt like 100. It’s going to add up, but it’s all worth it.”
Brown had 39 carries in the game, including 15 in the fourth quarter alone. In that period, Aynor’s offense was on the field for all but three plays — one Dillon offensive play, the Wildcats’ ensuing kickoff and then the Blue Jackets’ successful onside kick after Brown’s third rushing score of the night.
His impact on the night led to the history-making victory. But here’s the really crazy part: As recently as the first week of August, Brown was still listed as a receiver on the official team roster.
It’s safe to say that the move has paid off now. If Aynor wins either of its last two games of the regular season, the Blue Jackets will almost certainly win at the very least a share of the Region VI-3A crown. They haven’t won a region title since 1989.
If they beat both Loris and Lake City, which is looking more and more likely, none of the tie-breakers will be necessary.
And chances are Brown — who now has 141 carries this year — will have played a big part.
SPEAKING OF PLAYOFFS
With two weeks left in the regular season, several Horry County teams have already punched their postseason tickets, even if there is plenty of seeding left to be determined.
So far, Carolina Forest, Conway, Myrtle Beach, Aynor and Green Sea Floyds know they will be alive come the second Friday in November when all five classifications begin their playoffs.
Carolina Forest (3-0 Region VI-5A) can clinch a top-two finish with a win over West Florence this week. Should the Panthers lose to the Knights but defeat Conway the following week, it could enact a three-way tie for first, given some other scenarios playing out the right way.
Conway, which lost its first four games to open the season, is 3-0 in region play, having already defeated West Florence, Socastee and South Florence. It would take a convoluted tie-breaker for the Tigers to finish any worse than third.
Myrtle Beach (3-0 Region VI-4A) needs only a win over Wilson to earn to earn the region championship, but even a loss in that one and a win over North Myrtle Beach could still lead the Seahawks to a share of the title and a likely No. 1 seed for the Class 4A playoffs.
Aynor (3-0 Region VI-3A) is in the driver's seat toward a region crown and could lock that up as early as Friday with a win against Loris (if Dillon beats Lake City).
Green Sea Floyds (1-0 Region VI-1A) is already playoff bound, courtesy of all three teams from the region making the postseason. However, the Trojans’ win over Lake View last week means they only need to defeat Hemingway in order to clinch sole possession of the region crown and all the spoils that come along with it. Coach Donnie Kiefer’s team will have a first-round playoff bye, then stay at home throughout the lower state playoffs as long as it continues to win.
Technically, even the teams that are winless in their respective regions (Socastee, St. James and Loris) are alive for a playoff berth.
AROUND THE AREA
Carolina Forest quarterback Mason Garcia needed just eight completions to reach 282 yards passing last Friday against St. James. That’s an average of 35 yards per completed pass. … The Panthers went over 3,000 yards of total offense for the season last week as well. The team is putting up 437 yards per game so far this fall. … Darlington’s win against North Myrtle Beach last week snapped a 20-game losing streak, dating back to the 2017 season. It was also the first time the Chiefs fell to the Falcons in four all-time meetings between the two schools. … Conway's multi-faceted senior Xavier Kinlaw has scored seven total touchdowns in the past two weeks. He has six receiving scores and one kickoff return for a touchdown.