By John Smithson
The North Myrtle Beach Chiefs football team finished their shortened 2020 regular season with an impressive 34-6 win over the visiting Myrtle Beach Seahawks in their final regular season game at The Hank Hester Sports Complex last Friday evening. The 6-0 Chiefs, ranked number two, defeated the 5-2 Seahawks, ranked number three, and with the win took the 6AAAA championship and a home game into the first round of the playoffs this Friday.
The Chiefs won the toss and deferred, kicking off to the Seahawks, who made a first down but had to punt from their 39-yard line when the Chiefs defense stiffened. A good punt set the Chiefs up on their 19 and on their second play a Cam Freeman pass was complete to Tyree Smith after the Seahawks defender fell down, giving Smith a long gain to the Myrtle Beach 14. Two Chiefs penalties put them back to the 29.
Nyliek Livingston ran to the 15 and Freeman charged to the one-yard line for a first and goal. The drive stalled and the Chiefs brought in Zane Smith for a 33-yard field goal attempt, which sailed just wide of the goal posts.
Myrtle Beach went backwards in their next series and ended up punting from their 15, with the ball landing on the Chiefs 49. The Chiefs got a first down on two Livingston runs but the Seahawks defense stopped Freeman’s fourth down pass attempt with a loss back to the 43 and the Seahawks took over there.
The Seahawks went three and out and once again punted, this time to the Chiefs 13 yard line. Livingston ran for no gain on first down and the first quarter ended 0-0. The Chiefs lost ten yards on a backward pass, luckily recovered by Braxton Farmer at the three yard line. The Chiefs got two yards on the next play, then Zane Smith punted from his end zone to the Chiefs 47.
Myrtle Beach used a twelve-yard pass and run to get a first down at the Chiefs 29. Two plays later the Chiefs roughed the passer and the Seahawks had a first down on the 14, followed by a two yard loss on a run and a pass to JJ Jones to the 8, but an incomplete pass in the corner of the end zone left the Seahawks with a successful field goal and a 3-0 lead with 7:45 left in the second quarter.
Following the Seahawks kickoff, the Chiefs started at their 20 and Livingston quickly headed left on first down for 22 yards and a first down. Myrtle Beach was offside on the next play and Freeman hit Moss for 14 more yards to the 26. Livingston carried twice to the 15 yard line and Freeman followed with a 15 yard run for the touchdown and the Smith PAT for a 7-3 lead with 5:17 left in the second quarter.
Myrtle Beach still did not get their offense going after the Smith kickoff and were punting after five yards in three plays. Sullivan Hardin punted to the Chiefs 30 and North Myrtle Beach could not do much better. The Chiefs got a first down, but a penalty and Seahawks defense left the Chiefs punting from their 32. Smith fumbled the snap and Myrtle Beach took over at the 26 yard line.
The Seahawks lost yardage to the 34, then took themselves out of field goal range with a delay of game penalty. With only thirty seconds left in the half, the punt was dead on the 10 yard line and Freeman took a knee to end the half, Chiefs leading 7-3.
The Chiefs began the second half at their 20 and three plays later were forced to punt, with the kick to the Myrtle Beach 41 yard line. Quarterback Jake Doty replaced an injured Ryan Burger and completed passes to Adam Randall and Ryan Burch to the Chiefs 38. The third pass attempt was tipped and intercepted by Chandler McCall and returned for the Chiefs second touchdown and a 14-3 lead with 9:23 remaining in the third quarter.
The Seahawks returned the kickoff to their 22 but gained only nine yards in three passes, setting up another punt, which went out of bounds at the NMB 32. Livingston ran for two to the 35, Freeman kept it to the 43 and then Livingston cut his way through the Seahawks to the Myrtle Beach 41. The drive stalled and Smith dropped one of his punts on the Seahawks one yard line.
The Seahawks Cam Ward burst through perfect blocks in the middle of the line and was off to what looked like a touchdown, until Chandler McCall turned on the speed and tackled him from behind at the Chiefs 15 yard line. The North Myrtle Beach defense went to work and three plays later the Seahawks had to settle for a second field goal from Hardin and a 14-6 score.
The Chiefs next possession started well with an 18 yard pass play to McCall getting a first down, but incomplete passes and a short Freeman run forced a Smith punt, which went out of bounds at the Myrtle Beach 12 yard line. The Seahawks were three and almost out until Elijah Vereen blocked the punt, the ball going out of bounds at the 13 with one second left in the third quarter. On the next play Vereen made the most of that one second, taking a direct snap around the left side to the end zone for a touchdown and 21-6 Chiefs lead entering the fourth period.
Myrtle Beach followed the Chiefs long kickoff with a short spurt from their 20 to the 45 of the Chiefs, aided by a NMB pass interference penalty. The Chiefs defense once again stepped up a fourth down incomplete pass gave the ball back to the Chiefs at their 44. Two short-yardage runs by Devon Montgomery and Freeman moved the ball to the Seahawks 47, before Montgomery ran for 44 yards to the Seahawks 3 yard line. Freeman rushed to the goal line but fumbled the ball and Myrtle Beach recovered for a touchback.
Myrtle Beach went backwards to their 15 in three plays, but their next pass was completed to the 22 and a first down after a NMB penalty to the 38. Doty’s next pass was intercepted by Jamareon Bessent and the Chiefs took over on their 41. Livingston followed with a 42 yard scamper over the right side and downfield to the Seahawks 17 yard line. Chiefs Tavarius Hooks ran left on the next play for a touchdown and a 27-6 score.
The Chiefs scored their last touchdown following the kickoff, when Myrtle Beach followed three plays that gained two yards with a fourth down pass, which was intercepted by TJ Cox and returned for a touchdown and a 34-6 score following the PAT.
Myrtle Beach had the ball for the last four minutes, but time ran out on a failed fourth down try near midfield.
Coach Matt Reel was happy with the win and top seed in the playoffs, but also pleased with a team win. “It was a fun night. I believe in our guys and they just go out and do it. We had some dropped balls in the first half and Myrtle Beach had some guys hurt, but our defense was aggressive and locked in all night. They bothered the quarterbacks, getting in their passing lanes and our linebackers did a great job of competing. They play hard and I feel good every time we come out,” Reel said.
Reel also felt the Chandler McCall catch-from-behind tackle was a big play at the time. “They were close and a touchdown at that point might have given them momentum, but McCall stopped him and they only got three points. It kept us confident going forward.”
Reel was particularly pleased that the win gave the Chiefs a home game in their first playoff game. “By winning we don’t have to travel to a game and the grind of eight hours on the road. Now we are home with our home fans and a normal preparation schedule. That was huge for us,” Reel said.
The Chiefs win over the Seahawks was their first over their rivals since 2017. James Island will be the Chiefs first playoff test, with the game Friday set to start at 7:05 pm at The Hank Hester Sports Complex.