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North Myrtle Beach's Zyon Belle is surrounded by Myrtle Beach's J.J. Dent (left) and Kenny Byrd as the Seahawks win and advance to the third round of the playoffs. Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

If Kenny Byrd was a quarterback or tailback, his 2019 production would have been more highly lauded.

The “video game” cliche may even have been attached to some of the stats he put up.

Instead, the Myrtle Beach linebacker was often overlooked as a defender on an offense-first team in an offense-first era. 

“I had a lot tackles, but nobody said anything to me,” said Byrd, the MyHorryNews.com Defensive Player of the Year. “It’s still mind-blowing to me, personally.”

Byrd made his impact each game with 160 total tackles and 22.5 tackles for loss. He also forced six fumbles and picked off four passes. There were three defensive touchdowns. And, for good measure, 8.5 sacks. All of those were comparable to the 2012 numbers put up by Octavius Thomas, one of the team’s most decorated linebackers in recent memory. However, what Thomas and many of the Seahawks’ best players had at their disposal was time.

Byrd certainly did not.

The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder transferred from York to Myrtle Beach the day before the start of fall camp and wasn’t even listed on the team’s preseason roster. Within days, it was evident that he needed to not only be playing, but starting.

“We put him in a position on our defense where he’s not only gotta be a good player, but a good leader,” Myrtle Beach coach Mickey Wilson said. “He was able to pick up on those things really fast and able to handle it.”

Along with linebacking mate Shedrick Pointer and defensive lineman Quamil Spells, among others, Byrd was able to lead the Seahawks to a top-two spot in the class in defensive points allowed per game, not to mention the Class 4A state championship game. 

Myrtle Beach lost to Wren, but it couldn’t erase everything the team had accomplished prior. Nor could it take off the luster of Byrd’s top-notch season and what Wilson believed should come next.

“To just come in and grasp our system so quickly shows you how smart of a football player he is. He’s been a great kid. A lot of [colleges] are missing the boat on him. I know with the transfer he’s probably not known as well, but he should be signing with someone. Someone needs to offer that kid, for sure.”

It appears to be only a matter of time before that happens, especially after selection to the Touchstone Energy Cooperatives Bowl, a hotbed of lower-level recruiting.

Either way, Byrd was already able to say he was proud of what was a part of at Myrtle Beach, and how his first four months at the school backed up what he already knew.

“I always believed in myself and my family believed in me,” he said. “I worked hard and I worked to achieve success.”

MYHORRYNEWS.COM ALL-COUNTY DEFENSIVE FOOTBALL TEAM

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Kenny Byrd

School | Myrtle Beach

Position | Linebacker

Grade | Senior

Year in review | North-South honoree helped lead the Seahawks to the Class 4A state championship game by putting up 160 total tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, six forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, four interceptions and three defensive touchdowns in his only season with the team.

Tonka Hemingway

School | Conway

Position | Defensive line

Grade | Senior

Year in review | University of South Carolina commitment and Shrine Bowl selection had 92 tackles, 24 tackles for loss and four sacks for the region runner up Tigers. 

Nevon Tyler

School | Carolina Forest

Position | Defensive line

Grade | Junior

Year in review | The unsung hero of the Panthers defense was a constant source of backfield pressure against the run and pass, as he put up 51 total tackles and five sacks.

Tanner Cox

School | Green Sea Floyds

Position | Defensive line

Grade | Senior

Year in review | Two-way trench starter had 28.5 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks and one forced fumble for the classification’s second-best defense in 2019.

Jemale Faulkner

School | St. James

Position | Defensive line

Grade | Senior

Year in review | Sharks’ potent run stopper notched 79 tackles, four for loss and recovered a fumble in his final season for the up-and-coming program.

Luke Janack

School | Carolina Forest

Position | Linebacker

Grade | Sophomore

Year in review | Panthers’ leading tackler finished the year with 131 stops and three sacks while taking over the middle in one of the area’s top defenses.

Shedrick Pointer

School | Myrtle Beach

Position | Linebacker

Grade | Senior

Year in review | North-South all-star had 124 total tackles to go along with 17.5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, 3.5 sacks and two turnovers. 

Drew Shelley

School | Aynor

Position | Linebacker

Grade | Senior

Year in review | Helped Aynor to undefeated regular season and region title by recording 102 tackles, 16 for loss, two sacks and two fumble recoveries. 

Jevade Isaiah

School | Loris

Position | Defensive back

Grade | Senior

Year in review | Lions’ strong safety and free safety recorded 70 tackles on the year, forced a fumble and recovered another while knocking down two passes.

A.J. Campbell

School | Green Sea Floyds

Position | Defensive back/linebacker

Grade | Senior 

Year in review | North-South honoree and starting safety piled up 56 tackles, 7.5 for loss and 6.5 sacks. He also picked off two passes and recovered two fumbles.

Trace Hall

School | North Myrtle Beach

Position | Defensive back

Grade | Sophomore

Year in review | Chiefs' safety was second on the team in tackles (61), helping North Myrtle Beach hold six opponents to 10 points or fewer.

Zane Smith

School | North Myrtle Beach

Position | Punter

Grade | Junior

Year in review | Averaged 41.5 yards on 53 punts this season, pinning opponents inside their own 20-yard line 19 times and recording a long of 61 yards.

Contact Charles D. Perry at 843-488-7236

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