Sharks surprise Tigers

St. James running back Deondray Stanfield is upended by the Tigers’ Zikeim Weaver during the Sharks’ 10-7 upset victory Friday, October 25. Photo by Robert Anderson

Tommy Norwood just wanted a chance.

He and his St. James football players will have to wait until next year to get it.

The Sharks were passed by for the final spot for the Class 5A Lower State playoff bracket Saturday morning via the at-large berth, ending the season at 5-5. That was a solid step forward for a team that was 1-7 in 2018.

But that wasn’t enough for the postseason.

“I think we deserved a shot. Outside of [a few region games], we were pretty consistent the rest of the year,” Norwood, the second-year coach said. “I’m real proud of our kids and what they’ve accomplished here. At a lot of schools, going 5-5 is not an achievement. Where this school has been, that shows great improvement. Hopefully [next year] we wake up on Saturday morning not worrying about getting in because we’re already there.”

The Class 5A playoffs allow for one at-large team in the Upper State and Lower State fields, and competition for each comes down to the first team out from the automatic berths. For six-team regions like St. James’ that means the fifth-best squad can apply.

The Sharks’ credentials featured those five victories. However, their strength of schedule was lacking to a degree. The five victories came against team with a combined record of 13-33.

The St. James in-or-out debate was about the only drama left to Saturday morning after the rest of the Grand Strand’s other football teams already knew their fates by the time they crashed after Friday’s games.

Carolina Forest, Conway, Myrtle Beach, Aynor and Green Sea Floyds had already sowed up their first round home games, and North Myrtle Beach knew exactly where it was heading on the road. 

Carolina Forest, which clinched its first region championship in school history with a 42-13 win a Conway on Friday, will open the postseason against Cane Bay. For the 8-1 Panthers, it will be just the second true home playoff game in school history. Last year’s “home” contest against Lexington was moved to Coastal Carolina’s Brooks Stadium after significant damage on its own turf due to lasting effects from the flooding after Hurricane Florence.

Conway will also be at home as a No. 2 seed against Wando after winning a head-to-head tie-breaker over West Florence inside region play.

Unanimous Class 4A No. 1 team and Region VI-4A champion Myrtle Beach will play at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium against Lakewood. Like Carolina Forest, the Seahawks won all of their region games by double digits.

Region foe North Myrtle Beach earned the No. 4 spot out of that division, courtesy of a three-way tiebreaker over Marlboro County and Darlington, and will head to third-seeded North Augusta.

Region VI-3A champion Aynor, which earned its first undefeated regular season since the 1950s, will open at home against former regular opponent Georgetown on Friday. The Blue Jackets have two guaranteed home games, and could be at home for as many as four, should they continue to win.

Green Sea Floyds will be off this week before playing a second-round, Class 1A game at home Nov. 15. The Trojans were also off last Friday, courtesy of a quirk in the schedule based upon the closure of Creek Bridge High School.

The only other two Horry County programs, Socastee and Loris, were both eliminated from playoff contention prior to Friday night’s regular-season finales.

SCHSL FIRST-ROUND PLAYOFF GAMES

Friday, Nov. 8

CLASS 5A

No. 4 Cane Bay at No. 1 Carolina Forest

No. 3 Wando at No. 2 Conway

CLASS 4A

No. 4 Lakewood at No. 1 Myrtle Beach

No. 4 North Myrtle Beach at No. 3 North Augusta

CLASS 3A

No. 4 Georgetown at No. 1 Aynor

CLASS 1A

Green Sea Floyds has first-round bye and will play at home Nov. 15 in the second round

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