Mickey Wilson is preparing for his seventh lower state championship appearance in 12 seasons as Myrtle Beach head coach.
It’s more than the other eight programs in Horry County have had combined. Yet, this one is unlike any of the others. The 800-pound gorilla in the room has changed the biggest topic of conversation from football to COVID-19 precautions.
“It’s hard to control your kids when they’re not with you. You continue to preach to them to be safe and do their best to stay away from large gatherings and parties and wear their masks,” Wilson said in advance of his team’s Class 4A lower state game at North Myrtle Beach on Friday. “There are a lot of things out there you can’t control. You have your fingers crossed.
“We’ve been very lucky with this. You kind of look at it and I think we’ve been blessed that we haven’t had to deal with it up to this point. With this, it’s day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute.”
When Wilson said that his team — and, for the most part, the area as a whole — has been lucky, he and the rest of the coaches with teams still playing football know full well how quickly one stroke of bad luck can alter anyone’s plans. Last week, Oceanside Collegiate announced approximately eight hours before kickoff that its second-round game at Camden was canceled due to exposures.
The Landsharks were forced to forfeit the game, and Camden moved on with what was essentially a last-minute bye. It was the first South Carolina High School League team to see its season end under a quarantine (although there was another team from the South Carolina Independent Schools Association that had to do the same).
Immediately, Oceanside became the rallying comment for coaches in other programs.
North Myrtle Beach coach Matt Reel brought up the Landsharks during his post-game speech after the Chiefs defeated North Augusta Friday night. And he said reminders will be given throughout the week.
“I think about those guys at Oceanside and not knowingly doing anything wrong,” Reel said. “For some of these kids, it’s three or four years for this moment, to go to lower state and play for a state championship. It’s taken away an opportunity. It’s the nature of football this year.”
So far, COVID-19’s impacts on the two teams have been relatively minimal since the start of the season. The Chiefs did cancel a non-region game against St. James as a precaution, electing to only play their six region games leading into the playoffs.
Myrtle Beach, meanwhile, was the only Horry County team to have played every game as scheduled (after the initial SCHSL-mandated changes, of course). Wilson has mentioned that part to his players, too.
“We preach to our kids not only to be safe, but how fortunate they are to be playing football,” he said.
TICKETS, BROADCAST INFO
Although North Myrtle Beach sold as many as 1,000 tickets for some early season games, the Chiefs will again decrease the overall total to approximately 850 for Friday’s contest, athletics director Joe Quigley said.
That is about the same figure the school allowed for the regular-season finale against Myrtle Beach on Nov. 6 and the first two home playoff games. Of that estimated total, the Seahawks will receive about 320, or roughly 38%.
North Myrtle Beach parents could start purchasing theirs on Sunday. Monday, booster club members were allowed to begin buying theirs. If any are left (unlikely but possible), general ticket sales will be processed Thursday.
It was not immediately clear how Myrtle Beach was going to break up its sales.
For those who can’t get into the Hank Hester Sports Complex to see the game in person, there will be ample chances to watch or listen to the game live. In addition to the radio broadcasts for North Myrtle Beach (WRNN-FM, 99.5/nmbchiefs.com) and Myrtle Beach (WYNA-FM, 104.9), the game will also be aired as the Friday Night Rivals game of the week on WWMB CW-21 and on WPDE.com.