Zayshaun Rice faked a pop pass to a receiver streaking across the back field, snagged it back into his control, and then calmly connected on another first-down pass.
It was that sort of night for the Wilson quarterback — and the previously top-ranked North Myrtle Beach defense. The Chiefs had too little in the tank to keep up with Rice and the rest of the Tigers, falling 43-21 in a game that featured two of the remaining six unbeaten teams in all of Class 4A.
“[Wilson coach Derek Howard] doesn’t want to admit this, but I see a lot of similarities between them and Myrtle Beach,” Chiefs coach Matt Reel said after the loss. “They pick and choose their vertical shots with their tall receivers and they’re going to chain you to death. They’re going to throw the screens. They’re going to throw the chain routes, the comebacks, the quicks, the things that their quarterback knows they can get rid of. And they did a great job of that.”
At one point in the first half, doing just that, Rice completed 15 consecutive passes. Nine of the 15 completions in that stretch were between eight and 15 yards, accompanied by two deeper passes of 35 and 37 yards, and he had three first-half touchdown passes, all to Jakobe Quillen.
It was part of an onslaught that helped Wilson build a 22-0 first-quarter lead, a figure that was significant since North Myrtle Beach had only allowed 21 total points in its first five games. The Chiefs had a chance to keep it closer just before halftime, but they missed a field goal and then opened the second half with a three-and-out. Moments later, it was a four-touchdown game again and everything but official.
Rice finished with 336 yards and five touchdowns passing and another 47 yards on the ground. Quillen had 13 receptions for 194 yards, along with his four scores.
“They were very tired,” Rice said. “We had to take advantage. When we kept scoring, their heads went down. So we had to just focus on that and driving the ball and pushing it on them.”
North Myrtle Beach had won its first five games of the year by an average of 22.8 points per contest, and only one — the season opener against Conway — was determined by fewer than three full touchdowns (that was a 17-point win).
Some of those games came against teams with sub-par records, but everyone knew this was going to be the best opponent the Chiefs had played to date. The Tigers came into the week at 6-0 and cruised through those by an average final score of 37-11.
What’s more, Derek Howard’s team was ranked No. 5 in Class 4A. It certainly looked better than that against North Myrtle Beach.
It was just the Chiefs’ second loss at home in Reel’s three seasons. However, the bigger issue is the one at hand. North Myrtle Beach finds itself in the middle of the pack in the toughest region in the state.
Hartsville and the Chiefs are both 1-1 in Region VI-4A, and Reel’s team still has to play the Red Foxes (Oct. 25) before closing out the regular season against Myrtle Beach.
That means North Myrtle Beach has little choice but to find some rhythm against winless Darlington next week.
“No matter how our region goes, if you’re 2-0 or 2-1, if you don’t concentrate on [the next opponent] you’re setting yourself up for failure.
“It’s a false sense of arrival. Tonight’s the first time we’ve been kicked in the face and it was like ‘What are we going to do?’ We didn’t do a good job of responding to it.”