By John Smithson
The North Myrtle Beach Chiefs returned to the Hank Hester Field for Homecoming last Friday night and beat the visiting Knights 28-21 to remain undefeated atop the 6AAAA region.
The Chiefs win and the upset win by Wilson over Myrtle Beach on Friday now sets up the big game with the Seahawks a week from Friday at North Myrtle Beach.
West Florence came into the game 3-1 but the Chiefs were trying to win and lock up a playoff spot in the region finals.
The Chiefs received the opening kickoff and started at their 20 after no return. Nyliek Livingston lost two on his first carry but he got the Chiefs a first down at their 31 after two runs. The Chiefs drive sputtered and three plays netted four yards and a Zane Smith punt to the West Florence 35 yard line.
The Knights copied the Chiefs offense, with a first down to their 36 and only one yard thereafter on two option runs and an incomplete pass by quarterback George Floyd. Their punt bounced dead at the Chiefs 33. Livingston ran left to the Chiefs 40, then went left again on the next play and down the sidelines to the Knights 14 yard line. Chiefs quarterback Cam Freeman then faked to Livingston going right and cut left and untouched to the end zone for a 7-0 lead after Smith’s PAT with 5:49 left in the first quarter.
The Chiefs kickoff went out the back of the end zone and the Chiefs defense stuffed West Florence on three plays netting one yard. Following the Knights punt and a short Chiefs return to the visitor’s 46, the Chiefs stayed on the ground for three plays to the Knights 38 but decided to punt after a time out.
Smith’s punt went out of bounds near the West Florence five- yard line. The Knights ran the ball to their 27 and after the Chiefs declined a penalty, West Florence eventually punted from their 33, a kick that floated out of bounds at the Chiefs 47 as the first quarter ended.
The West Florence defense held the Chiefs to two yards and fourth down on their 49 and Smith punted to the Knights end zone for a touchback. Floyd completed a short pass, but a penalty set them back to their 11 and they could only advance to their 27 to set up another punt.
Trace Hall received the kick at his 25 and ran ten yards to the Chiefs 35. Following a five-yard Livingston run to the 40, Cam Freeman hit Nick Moss to the 49 and Livingston took it to the 45. Freeman then stepped back and hit a wide-open Xavier Anderson for a 45 yard touchdown pass and run and a 14-0 Chiefs lead with 8:46 left in the second quarter.
Smith’s kickoff was returned from the 5 to the 24 for the Knights and after Floyd got a first down to their 42, mistakes and penalties set up a Knights punt from their 29 yard line, the ball rolling to the Chiefs 16.
Freeman lost one yard but on the next play gained 85 yards, hitting Anderson once again in stride for his second touchdown in about four minutes for a 21-0 lead following the PAT.
The Chiefs kicked off and the Knights once again started on their 20 but could not move the ball and punted from their 20. Hall fair caught the ball at the Chiefs 47. Livingston ran twice to the 41 and then Freeman and Anderson hooked up for their third pass and run for a touchdown, this time with Anderson catching the ball over his shoulder and outracing the Knights defenders for a 28-0 Chiefs lead and 2:01 left in the half.
The Chefs kickoff went to the 7 yard line and Nyke Johnson caught it and ran through the Chiefs team for a 93-yard touchdown with 1:47 left in the half. The PAT was good and the score 28-7 but the Chiefs were called for roughing the kicker, so the Knights tried an on-sides kick from the NMB 45, which the Chiefs recovered on their 33.
North Myrtle Beach used a completed pass to Moss and Freeman keeper to the 45 of West Florence for a first down but the offense stalled, and a Smith punt was tipped and went out of bounds at the Knights 43. West Florence made a first down to the 38 but the half ended 28-7.
The second half began with a Chiefs long kickoff and two Knights first downs, mostly due to runs by Floyd. From the Chiefs 48 West Florence tried a fake punt but the Chiefs took over on their 44. Devin Montgomery made a nice run to the Knights 25, but three plays later the Chiefs try for a Smith field goal was stopped by a defensive rush that forced a low kick.
West Florence went nowhere. A run, penalty and incomplete pass set up a punt from their 8, which rolled to the NMB 42. The Chiefs punted from their 45 after three plays and West Florence started from their 26. The Knights got 26 yards on a misdirection run, a Floyd keeper right for 14 more and another Floyd run to the 22 of North Myrtle Beach. The Knights capped off the drive with a 22 -yard pass to Dylan Snyder with 2:41 left in the third quarter and the Chiefs lead 28-14.
West Florence tried an onsides kick, but it failed to go ten yards. From their 49 the Chiefs used Montgomery runs to the 36 and a pass to Anderson to the 20 as the third quarter ended. Cam Freeman fumbled on a keeper as the fourth quarter began and gave West Florence an offensive opportunity.
The Knights then began a long drive for a touchdown, sparked by a Floyd to David Lee 25-yard pass play and several key runs by Floyd, topped off by a six-yard direct snap run for the touchdown by Marshall Brown. With 7:05 left in the game and a PAT, the knights were closer by a 28-21 score.
The Chiefs answered with a game-ending, time-consuming drive of their own, starting with a 15-yard run by Livingston and a keeper by Freeman to their 47. The legs of Livingston took them to the West Florence 22, where a fourth down Freeman signal call caused the Knights to jump offsides. Four plays later Freeman took a knee, and the third-ranked Chiefs were 5-0.
Coach Matt Reel again praised his team’s performance, with a slight exception. ”We played better in the first half and they got back into the game some, but that last drive where we used up the clock was great. We have been doing a good job of running the ball and it was nice to see Freeman pass for the touchdowns and also run the option well. He has been throwing the ball better. Livingston gives it everything he’s got out there. Our running backs play off each other well and our maturity as a team helped us a lot. It got us our first goal to qualify for the playoffs. Now we have to reach our second goal with a win in two weeks. We will have two weeks to get prepared for Myrtle Beach and we will need to be prepared for our biggest game of the season so far,” Reel said.
The Chiefs had a game scheduled this Friday with St James, but it has been cancelled. They meet the Seahawks on Nov. 6 at 7:30 p.m. at home.