The Marlboro County High football team faces another important Thursday night game. Their contest with North Myrtle Beach has been moved up a day to avoid heavy rains that are predicted for Friday.
"It is always the home team's call as to when the games are played. Coach Reel (North Myrtle Beach head coach Matt Reel) consulted with me and we agreed to play on Thursday," said MCHS head coach Dean Boyd.
"A rainy night would make our offense hard to run, so in that sense it is an advantage to play on Thursday. North Myrtle runs an option-based attack that is difficult to prepare for, so losing a day of practice is a disadvantage," said Boyd.
Many schools throughout the state have rescheduled their Friday night contests to Thursday or Saturday. Steady rains are predicted to move through the state beginning Thursday night and continuing throughout Friday.
"This game will decide the playoff fate for three teams, so we want it to be as unaffected by weather conditions as possible. Regardless, we need to go out and play well," said Boyd.
In hopes of missing the rain, kickoff has also been moved up a half hour to 7 p.m.
Marlboro County re-ignited the season in the last two weeks, first smashing Darlington then coming from behind in thrilling fashion against Wilson last Thursday. Now assured of a playoff bid, the season finale against North Myrtle Beach will determine who the Bulldogs will face.
“Well, the million dollar question is can we beat North Myrtle?” said MCHS head coach Dean Boyd. “If we do, we’ll lock down third place in the region and that would set us up for a road trip to South Aiken in the first round.”
A loss to the Chiefs will make the situation about as clear as mud. Marlboro, NMB and Wilson will finish in a 2-3 tie, with each having a win over one of the other two. The tie breaker is defensive points allowed against the other two teams involved in the tie.
Wilson allowed a total of 35 points combined to NMB and Marlboro County. The Bulldogs have allowed 25 and the Chiefs 14.
“It looks like we have to win to get the third place bid. If we lose but score less than 10 or score more than 21, I believe we’ll be fourth. Otherwise, it will be fifth place,” said Boyd.
The fourth place team will travel to Airport, while the fifth place team will be heading to Bluffton.
Bulldog standout safety Jordan Swinton was called for a targeting hit on a Wilson receiver in the fourth quarter of last week’s game. Marlboro County appealed the penalty, which would have not allowed Swinton to participate in the North Myrtle Beach contest. Boyd was informed Monday that the penalty would be lifted and Swinton would be able to suit up against the Chiefs.
Scouting the Chiefs
North Myrtle Beach entered the season after the most successful season in school history. The Chiefs went undefeated in the regular season, won the region and reached the (third) round of the playoffs before falling to Berkeley.
The team was hit by some substantial graduation losses but returns a lot of the key components from the 2017 squad. Quarterback Cason McClendon is one of those. Now a senior, McClendon has started since late in his sophomore season. This year he has hit on 77 of 131 attempts for 976 yards and 9 TDs. He also is a rushing threat although his stats would not indicate such due to sacks that count against his numbers.
“He is just a very solid player,” said Boyd. “He has a good arm and understands their offense. He does a good job running the option although he doesn’t run the ball that much.”
The Chiefs lost star running backs Kered Class and T.J. Gore to graduations but taking up where they left off are Ramsey Lewis and Zyon Belle. The juniors have combined for over 900 yards.
McClendon’s top target is senior Naseem Harrison. He has over 300 yards receiving and two touchdowns.
On defense, Boyd describes the Chiefs as scrappy. Defensive lineman Curtis Wolfe is their best run stopper. Linebacker Jordyn Gillings is the leading tackler.
The Chiefs sailed through their non-region schedule but were surprised by Wilson in their region opener. After getting smashed by Hartsville, they returned the favor to Darlington. Last week, they trailed Myrtle Beach 17-0 early but nearly completed a late come-back, falling 17-14.
Keys to the game
Defending the option offense is never easy and the Bulldogs haven't been forced to do so very much this season. When defended well, the offense grinds to a halt but done poorly and the Chiefs can make an opponent look silly.
Last week, the Bulldogs play what Boyd refers to as "complimentary football," where the offense, defense and special teams all play a key role.
If they are going to continue their recent success, each unit must put their two-cents in.
The Bulldogs and Chiefs will now kick off at 7 pm at North Myrtle Beach's on-campus stadium. The school is located at 3750 Sea Mountain Hwy, Little River.