After falling from the ranks of the undefeated, the Marlboro County High football team faces another tough challenge.
"This will be something of the proverbial gut check for us this week. It isn't so much about winning or losing but about playing our best football for 48 minutes," said head coach Dean Boyd.
Last week against Hartsville, the defense kept the game close for a half but the flood gates opened after intermission. With the offense struggling, the defense could not maintain the pressure on the Red Foxes.
"For all of our players, this was the first time they have been on the big stage. It has been almost four years since we met a highly ranked opponent with a legitimate chance to get that huge win," said Boyd.
"After a decent start, things just unraveled. Now we have to gather ourselves and get back to playing the way we did in the first four games of the season," said Boyd.
Missed assignments from almost all of the offensive positions, as well as the quality of Hartsville's defenders had the Bulldogs stuck in neutral. Cleaning up those mistakes will be the focus this week.
"We tried a few new wrinkles for Hartsville and that caused a bunch of confusion in the game. We will go back to our fundamentals and make sure everyone is executing their assignments," said Boyd.
A big concern for the coaching staff is getting the team to forget the Hartsville game and move forward.
"They were down emotionally at practice on Monday. The team has to realize it was just one game and that we can still accomplish a great deal if we get back on track," said Boyd.
With another storm threatening to visit the Pee Dee on Wednesday and Thursday, the Bulldogs will be altering their practice schedule some during the week. The team tried to put in as much of their normal Wednesday work on Tuesday, anticipating not being able to go out to practice on Wednesday.
The junior varsity game was moved up to Wednesday night but Boyd does not expect the weather to prevent the varsity game being played on Friday.
"If it isn't raining, we'll play as scheduled. The field might be soggy but, at this time, we expect to be able to go ahead with the game," he said.
Scouting the Seahawks
The Bulldogs will take on another of the state's top ranked teams at home this Friday. Myrtle Beach comes to McAlpine Stadium with a 4-0 record after smashing Darlington, 49-0, in their region opener last Saturday.
It was the Seahawks' first game since September 7 due to Hurricane Florence and the flooding that followed.
While Myrtle Beach hasn't faced a quality opponent so far, they have been dominant in their four games.
The offense is averaging 47.75 points per contest, while the defense has surrendered just 26 total points.
Junior Luke Doty runs the offense. Last season he started at wide receiver and played as a reserve at quarterback.
Now the starting QB, Doty has been sharp, completing 49 of his 66 attempts for 706 yards and nine TDs.
He is also a rushing threat, running for 142 yards.
Da'Ron Finkley (12 receptions for 226 yards, 3 TDs) and Marcus Grissett (14 receptions for 196 yards, 4 TDs) are the primary receivers.
Four-year starter Jermani Green is the primary running back. Green has 270 yards and seven TDs so far this season. He rushed for 939 yards and 22 scores as a junior.
The defensive front is is stout, led by J.B. Favorite, Chris Brown and Will Walton. Linebacker Michael Brown is the team's leading tackler with 26 stops.
Keys to the game
The Bulldogs have to play better on offense. Myrtle Beach will move the ball and score points, regardless of how good the Marlboro defense plays. To upset the Seahawks, the Bulldogs must do the same.
Tee it up
The Bulldogs and Seahawks will kick off at 7:30 Friday at McAlpine Stadium.