MYRTLE BEACH — The South team was sick of being on the losing end of the SCADA North-South All-Star Football game.
From July on, coach James Waring said his assistants and coaches did everything to make sure a four-game skid in the series ended Saturday. All involved from the Lower State's side of the all-star event did just that.
The South won 23-0, getting one of the strongest defensive efforts in recent memory and taking a North offense with plenty of college talent out of the equation throughout.
But this wasn't just about executing on one December afternoon at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium. It was about the coaching staff, particularly Hartsville coach and South defensive assistant Jeff Calabrese crafting a group of players who could make an immediate impact.
“What Coach Calabrese did was he went out and got a lot of guys in the Pee Dee area that he had seen play. They knew each other,” Waring said following the victory and a bath from a Gatorade jug. “When they came together, a lot of these kids were from the same area; they've played each other before. It wasn't like it was a brand new set of guys. It was almost like the team was intact from the beginning.”
The defensive shutout closed the North's advantage in the all-team series to 36-26-2. It also helped erase some of the sting from last year's 42-3 North victory. That score marked the second-largest margin of victory in the first 63 games. South Aiken's DeAndre Schoultz rushed once, but defended all of the passes thrown his way on defense and returned a kickoff to the 3-yard line. North Augusta's Trey Morgan chipped in an interception as well. Strom Thurmond's Hykeem Brooks and Montel Webb and North Augusta's Parker Collins were also in action for the South, while Williston-Elko's Jahmaya Jenkins also participated.
It was clear early in the 64th annual game that the North team wasn't going to have the type of offensive production from last season. The South defense frustrated North quarterbacks Kylen Binn (Blythewood), Trey Robinson (Dorman) and Devin Pearson (South Pointe).
It mattered little that South quarterbacks C.J. Frazier (Bluffton) and Anthony Smalls (Hanahan) combined for three first-half interceptions. While the South offense finally got on track with some big plays, including a pair of second-half touchdowns from Fort Dorchester's Daitwan Commodore, the North failed to finish its most successful drives.
“From what I saw, it looked like we out-worked everybody,” South defensive MVP Darius Leonard said after recording nine tackles and combining for a safety. “They were tired, and we were still in shape. We had another level we played on. We took that next step and played as big boys.”
They also overcame a system that was designed to create more offense. Defenses were required to use four-linemen sets and weren't allowed to blitz; offensive sets were all-but required to go out of a spread that eliminated many rushing options.
“This is an all-star game, and its designed for offensive teams. We can't blitz,” Myrtle Beach linebacker Octavius Thomas said. “For them not to score a lot of points, a shutout, whew. All week, since we got here, the escorts talked about how they lost to the North four times in a row and they can't stand it. They had to take the heat for those kids.”
Thomas and the other four area players selected for the game all had a visible role in the victory for the South team. The Seahawks linebacker finished with a pair of tackles and a fourth-quarter sack that basically forced one of nine North punts.
Myrtle Beach teammate Max Huggins was arguably the busiest of the five. He had six punts for a 39.7-yard average, connected on all three of his extra point attempts. His one field-goal attempt was blocked.
Georgetown offensive lineman Dillon Alford helped the South offense rush for 245 yards, while fellow Bulldog Anthony Blair (three tackles) drew some of the biggest cheers of the day for a monster sack on the North's last drive of the game.
Socastee linebacker Adam Crane recorded two tackles, including one for loss, and forced a fumble.