St. James’ Jimmy Cervenka tries to yank the ball free in the game with Hilton Head on Friday. St. James won 24-10. Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

The St. James football team doesn’t need to plan on packing up its pads for the year after Friday’s regular-season finale just yet.

The Sharks, who are 4-5 overall and 1-3 in Region VI-5A heading into this week’s rivalry game at Socastee, still have an outside shot of making the Class 5A playoffs as an at-large team.

They’ll need to dispatch the Braves, of course, but if they can do that and get a few lucky breaks from around the state, they may just be postseason bound.

“If we get in, we get in. We’ll enjoy it if we do,” coach Tommy Norwood said. “But I haven’t really looked at anything. I think the good thing about this is our kids know their kids [at Socastee]. Their kids know our kids. We really don’t need to get them up for that one.”

Norwood said the staff told players during Saturday’s post-game film review that they would have a chance of making the postseason, although he admitted he didn’t know how much of a chance that would be.

On Saturday morning, after all regular-season games have been completed, a selection committee from Class 5A, 4A and 1A (the three to utilize at-large berths) will convene to determine who makes the cut.

In order to do so, teams must finish the first-out of each region’s automatic berth pool. The top four are automatically qualified in six-team regions, and the top three are automatics in five-team regions. They’ll look at all available qualifiers from the four lower state regions and the hybrid Region IV.

In order to even be a part of the conversation, St. James will have to take care of business at Socastee to ensure it finishes fifth. The Sharks would move to 5-5 overall and 2-3 in the region, but they would lose the head-to-head tiebreaker with the West Florence-South Florence loser, which would also be 2-3.

If the Sharks do lock up fifth place, they could get some help via losses from the following teams: Irmo and Spring Valley in Region IV; White Knoll and Chapin in Region V; and Stratford in Region VII.

All of those teams could very well lose, as many of them are playing front runners in their own region or non-region games against better opponents. It means St. James isn’t out of the conversation.

“If we win, we have a chance. That ought to give them a little bit of fire,” Norwood said. “Hopefully, we’ll bring it this Friday.”

The Sharks have made three trips to the postseason since launching varsity football in 2004 — 2006 and 2010 under former coach and current athletics director Billy Hurston and again in 2015 under Robby Brown. That last year was the only time St. James won a postseason game.

To do so again could be a boon the second-year coach attempting to build a long-term program.

“It could be huge for us,” Norwood said. “To go from a one-win team last year to this year, it gives people a little bit more confidence. Maybe you get five more kids who come out.”

Speaking of Region VI-5A teams

Carolina Forest (7-1, 4-0 region) and Conway (3-5, 3-1 region) are going to meet Friday for the region crown.

With so many variables — even for the Panthers, who many predicted would win the title — the thought of those two teams playing for 2019 region supremacy is a bit unheard of. In fact, it’s never happened before. 

Since the 2008 season, when Carolina Forest moved up to the state’s largest class and began sharing a region with Conway, the highest stakes involved in this annual end-of-the-regular-season game came last year, when the two teams were facing off for the right to finish second and host a playoff game.

Yet, history aside, Conway defensive lineman Tim Shelton predicted in July that this would be the case.

“That’s going to be the biggest game of the season,” the senior said, even before the start of fall camp. “They’ve got a whole bunch of good people. We’ve got our people. A whole bunch of people are going to come see it. There is going to be a lot to lose.”

This week, when informed of Shelton’s prophetic comments over the summer, Conway coach Carlton Terry had a quick rebuttal.

“Did he say if we’d win?” Terry asked.

Around the area

Last week, Loris quarterback Gage Conner became the second Horry County quarterback this season to throw for at least 300 yards in a game, and his 333-yard effort against Aynor is now the season-high for any signal caller in the area. Conner also had three touchdowns while completing 21-of-41 attempts against Aynor. His yardage total bested Luke Doty’s 311-yard performance against Hartsville on Oct. 4. The next two highest totals this season belong to Carolina Forest’s Mason Garcia (282 yards against St. James on Oct. 18) and Conner, who threw for 257 yards against Green Sea Floyds on Sept. 13. … Doty (1,640 yards) and Garcia (1,545 yards) are the lone quarterbacks in the area to eclipse the 1,500-yard mark so far this season. … Myrtle Beach coach Mickey Wilson said that two of his top receivers — Adam Randall and J.J. Jones, should be available for the first round of the playoffs next week, when the Seahawks open the postseason at home. Randall suffered a separated shoulder against Carolina Forest on Sept. 20 and hasn’t played since. Jones hyperextended his elbow last week against Wilson. X-rays showed no extensive damage.


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