By John Smithson
The North Myrtle Beach Chiefs continued their undefeated season with a first round 41-12 playoff victory over James Island last Friday at the Hank Hester Sports Complex. The Chiefs had never played James Island, which made the playoffs as an at-large selection with a 4-3 record.
The Chiefs, fresh off their big win over Myrtle Beach that gave them the 6AAAA region championship, also benefitted from the win by getting the home team designation in the playoffs for the first two games.
The favored Chiefs won the toss and deferred, kicking off to James Island and allowing their defense to do its job. Braxton Scott, the Trojans freshman starter, got a quick first down after a roughing the passer penalty by the Chiefs but also threw three incompletions to force the offense to punt.
The Chiefs began their offense on their own 34 yard line and two Nyliek Livingston runs set up a Cameron Freeman pass intended for Nick Moss, which was intercepted by James Island at their 14 yard line. The Trojans got a pass completion to their 37 but couldn’t get a first down and punted to the Chiefs 23 yard line.
This time the Chiefs offensive line and Livingston took only three plays to score, the first a 38 yard downfield run with several cuts to the Trojans 38, then a four yard run, followed by a Livingston run up the middle and right, following his blockers into the end zone for a 6-0 lead. The PAT kick was missed, as the snap was picked up by Zane Smith, but he couldn’t get to the end zone, and the Chiefs lead remained 6-0 with 5:50 left in the first quarter.
The Trojans returned the Chiefs kickoff to their 23 and two short pass completions advanced the ball to the 34 and a first down. Three incomplete passes and a delay of game penalty forced another Trojans punt from their 28 to the Chiefs 48. The Chiefs Devin Montgomery showed he was an able backup to Livingston with four runs, the first two getting a Chiefs first down aided by a face mask penalty. Following an incomplete pass to Moss near the end zone, Montgomery capped the drive with a short run to the 30 and then a huge hole opened his journey to the end zone and a Chiefs 12-0 lead, following another missed extra point.
James Island’s next possession netted a first down on a 27 yard pass play but stalled at their 40 and they punted to the North Myrtle Beach 27 yard line. The Chiefs wasted no time adding to their lead. Three Livingston runs, the last a 45 yard scamper down the right sideline, put the Chiefs at the James Island 20 and following a short Freeman run Livingston took off around the left side untouched into the end zone for a 18-0 lead. A Freeman to Tyree Smith pass was good for the two- point conversion and a 20-0 advantage.
The Trojans returned the Chiefs kickoff to their 41 but their offense was stopped at the Chiefs 47, setting up yet another punt, which died on the Chiefs 10 yard line. The Chiefs Wil Murray entered the game at quarterback, but the Chiefs punted from their 15 after six plays.
James Island began their drive at their 42 and a Chiefs penalty put them on the NMB 41. Three running plays advanced the ball to the 26 and on the next play the Trojans thought they had a touchdown on a pass to the end zone, but a holding call put the ball on the Chiefs 39. Quarterback Braxton Scott then hit Jaden Scott with a pass that bounced off a Chiefs defender and into his arms for the pass and run touchdown and the Chiefs lead of 20-6 after blocking the PAT.
The Chiefs offense answered quickly. Chandler McCall returned the Trojans kickoff to his 26. Livingston ran to the 32, then used his spin move to break tackles on his way to the James Island 42. Livingston had a short gain to the 39 and following an incomplete pass, Nick Moss scored around the left side on a pitch, while the Chiefs offense headed right. The PAT made the score 27-6 with 1:19 left in the half.
Both teams had offensive plays in the final minute but neither team could move the ball and the half ended with the Chiefs leading 27-6.
The Trojans second half kickoff went out of bounds setting the Chiefs offense up at their 35. Three more Livingston carries put the ball at the Chiefs 49. Nick Moss took a pass to the Trojans 37. Livingston then ran left and evaded tacklers to the 14 yard line. Elijah Vereen scored on a sweep from the shotgun from 8 yards out and the PAT made it 34-6 with 8:23 left in the third quarter.
Following a three and out by the Trojans the Chiefs began their drive from their 42, capped off by a Montgomery run for a touchdown from the 15, once again set up by great blocking from the offensive line. The PAT increased the Chiefs lead to 41-6.
The Trojans then went on a fourteen- play drive, moving the ball to the Chiefs 28 yard line until Elijah Vereen stopped a fourth down play, tackling Scott for a loss at the Chiefs 35. The Chiefs advanced the ball to midfield but turned the ball over on the third play of the fourth quarter. That Trojan possession ended with a McCall interception at the Chiefs 34. The Chiefs three and out and punt put the ball on the Trojans 30. They moved to their 46 before Braxton Scott passed 64 yards to Jaden Scott to the Chiefs one yard line, and Braxton Scott ran it in from a yard out for a 41-12 score that remained the same on the failed two point try with 4:39 left in the game.
The Chiefs reserves used up what was left of the clock and North Myrtle Beach moved on to the second round of the state playoffs at home next Friday at The Hank. The Chiefs will play North Augusta.
The Chiefs offense netted 404 yards on the ground, with 206 of those yards by Nyliek Livingston, who along with the offensive line, had to be the players of the game. Coach Matt Reel echoed that thought after the game. “Our offensive line and Nyliek had a great game. We tell both the offensive and defensive lines that they have to be physical and dominate, and tonight the offense did that. We also say if we run the ball well and play good defense, we have a chance to win. We didn’t play great, but we played well, and the guys will have to meet those standards going forward. I’m still proud of our team. They are a great bunch of guys and I want them to enjoy this win. We will get back to work tomorrow, looking at film, fixing any mistakes and getting ready for a big home game next Friday,” Reel said.