Very few members of Region VI-4A have played their full complement of non-region games. They had little time to tweak issues after losing some valuable on-field time. Prepared or not, the most important portion of the regular season is upon them.
Six of the seven teams are scheduled to open region play this week, with little room for error.
“Not a whole lot of us have been able to play consecutive weeks,” North Myrtle Beach coach Matt Reel said. “I think [West Florence] is the only one, and of course they missed last week. It’s just kind of where we are. … It’s completely different than we’ve ever done.”
If the region’s schedule holds over the next few days, Hartsville heads to North Myrtle Beach, Myrtle Beach is off to Darlington and West Florence will make the quick trek to Wilson.
Two of those teams, Myrtle Beach (No. 3) and North Myrtle Beach (No. 6) are included in the most-recent South Carolina Prep Football Media Class 4A polls. West Florence has been receiving votes the last two weeks. And no one is discounting a return to form at Hartsville, another program that has struggled to navigate quarantines already this year.
But the team everyone is all of a sudden really watching is the one not playing a region contest this week. South Florence is 3-0, beat Bluffton, Manning and Irmo by an average score of 59-12 and has been a drastically different team than the one now-second-year coach Drew Marlowe marched out last season.
The Bruins finished sixth in the seven-team region, something that appears almost unthinkable this year. If they win their non-region game at South Pointe on Friday, the notice on Marlowe’s team will increase not just locally, but across the state.
South Florence is ranked No. 8 in the statewide polls.
Entering this week, Hartsville, West Florence and South Florence are the only three teams that have played three games. North Myrtle Beach, Wilson and Darlington each have two games, while Myrtle Beach has just one.
The lack of games has left some in a position where the list of unknowns is high, even within their own teams.
“All of us were trying to find some games to play to get our kids reps and see what our teams looked like,” Reel said. “For us, we lost all these people last year, so we’ve got all these new faces mixed in with some guys who have been proven. Until they’re in the fire, until you watch them respond, you have no idea what you’ve really got.”
REGION VI-5A CLARIFICATION
Despite social media chatter pointing to the contrary, last Friday’s two games between Region VI-5A opponents do not count in that region’s standings — at least not yet.
Sumter defeated Carolina Forest and St. James topped Socastee. However, unlike last year, when region teams were facing off in the most important regular-season games early in the season, last week’s contests are considered non-region games unless the rematch is canceled due to one or both teams being in quarantine.
The actual region games are scheduled to begin Oct. 1, with each of the five teams slated to play the other four over the course of five weeks. Conway and Socastee currently have out-of-region opponents scheduled during their open date in that window — Conway picked up a Week 9 game against Georgetown and Socastee has a Week 10 matchup against Waccamaw. But both of those games could be scrapped if either team can get in their four region games otherwise.
Those will not be decided until later in the season.
THIS AND THAT
Conway football will be the ninth and final Horry County team to begin its season when the Tigers head to Blythewood. Carlton Terry’s team used Week 0 as an open date and then spent each of the last three weeks in various stages of quarantines. … As of Monday morning, Aynor is the only local program without a game this week. The Blue Jackets have been selective about finding an opponent this week, in part because they want a home game and also because Region VII-3A front-runner Dillon is on the schedule for next Friday.
THIS WEEK’S SCHEDULE
As of Monday morning, here is Horry County’s slate of games for this Friday
Carolina Forest at Socastee
Conway at Blythewood
Myrtle Beach at Darlington*
Hartsville at North Myrtle Beach*
Loris at Dillon*
South Columbus at Green Sea Floyds
Sumter at St. James
*-denotes region game