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Socastee's Xavier Gore rushes as the Braves lose to North Myrtle Beach 26-0 on Friday, Sept. 2o. Photo by Keith Alan Jacobs / info@myhorrynews.com

Jeremy Rich saw first hand what the right football hire could set in motion.

Now, the third-year Socastee principal is hoping to do just that.

Rich will commence the interview process for his next football coach as early as next week. He’ll be looking for his own version of Marc Morris, the man who transformed Rich’s previous school, Carolina Forest, from afterthought in South Carolina’s largest classification to one of the best teams in Class 5A.

“It was great to see Marc and the assistant coaches that he had on his staff [turn that around],” said Rich, who spent five years as an assistant principal at Carolina Forest prior to being promoted to the top job at Socastee in 2017. “They completely changed the culture of Carolina Forest football. It was refreshing to see how much he and the students were putting into it. You could see the dividends. You need somebody like that to change the culture, to get the community to buy in, to get the parents to buy in.”

The Carolina Forest comparison isn’t just there because Rich worked there when Morris was hired and then accomplished what he has so far. It’s also because of the state of Socastee football entering 2020.

The Braves were 1-8 last fall under interim coach Marty Jacobs. His predecessor, Doug Illing, was 30-36 in the six years prior, with 12 of those victories coming in his first season while Hunter Renfrow was behind center.

Socastee was 7-5 the following year, but they failed to win more than three games in four of the five ensuing seasons.

It has made finding the right person to take over that much more important.

“There’s definitely pressure there. … Football is your driving factor of the atmosphere for the whole school,” Rich said. “It’s the beginning of the year; it impacts on how your school year goes. If you have a successful football season, it drives the rest of the year.”

Getting to that point will continue with the in-person interviews. Rich said if one candidate immediately stands out above the rest, they’ll re-submit that name back to Horry County Schools for final approval. If they need to narrow it down from multiple applicants, Socastee will utilize secondary interviews.

Horry County Schools spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier said Socastee received 41 official applications for the opening, two more than Loris did for its position to replace nine-year head coach Jamie Snider.

Loris Principal Richard Crumley said his school also plans to begin interviews next week, using a similar formula — but also a relatively similar candidate pool — as Socastee. Crumley said he has already seen applicants from inside the building, within the school district and outside the state. He believes that points to the perceived stable footing of Loris football, regardless of also having a program that has had five consecutive losing seasons.

“Based on calls and emails that I’ve gotten, there are a number of people out there who feel like with the right leadership that we can be successful,” Crumley said. “I don’t think that they think it’s years and years and years before that happening. We’ve got multiple people with multiple years of experience as either a head coach or coordinating experience, almost to a person out of the 40.”

Now, for Loris and Socastee, it’s all about finding the right fit.

Contact Charles D. Perry at 843-488-7236

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