Ronnie Bass is ready to craft his own story.
His father, who now goes by Ron, was a star at the University of South Carolina in the 1970s. The 2000 Walt Disney movie “Remember the Titans” then refreshed people’s memories of the quarterback nicknamed “Sunshine,” part of a major integration at Virginia’s T.C. Williams High School and the team’s subsequent monumental state championship.
The younger Bass spent much of his time in elementary school taking verbal jabs from Clemson fans watching their team dominate the series against USC. There were also repeated questions about Hollywood stars and how much money his family had made from the film that brought his dad’s name back to the forefront.
In the last few weeks, though, the North Myrtle Beach sophomore quarterback has started to change the conversation.
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Bass has started three of the Chiefs’ last four games. The best of the bunch came last week, when he led his team to a victory over rival Myrtle Beach. The win ultimately earned the Chiefs a home game in the first round of the Class AAA playoffs. On Friday against Midland Valley, Bass will be starting again.
“I’m still learning his personality,” coach Blair Hardin said. “A lot of our players are learning his personality. But we’re learning his strengths [for this year] and years to come as well.”
Future vs. present
This was a narrative most believed would develop next season.
When Hardin was hired, the Chiefs already had Kendrick Furness, a senior who started the past two seasons under former coach Perry Woolbright. Furness had a breakout season in 2013 out of Woolbright’s spread system, throwing for 19 touchdowns and nearly 2,000 yards. And while Furness ran for another 457 yards and five touchdowns, Hardin desired a transition to the option. He immediately had Bass – who moved to Little River from Greenville prior to last year – run it on the junior varsity team.
The partial scheme change on varsity didn’t go as well. North Myrtle Beach was 1-5 after a loss to Lake City to open the Region VII-AAA schedule. A week later against Georgetown, Hardin pulled the trigger with not only Bass, but five other offensive starters.
Furness actually played the final minutes of regulation and overtime in the win against the Bulldogs that night. The senior then played the entire second half against Wilson and all four quarters against St. James.
In Week 10, it was Bass’ turn again.
“I don’t see it as much as a competition as everybody else does,” Bass said. “It’s fun for us. People think it’s a rivalry, they think it’s uptight. We joke around about it. We’re best friends.”
The co-starters, for lack of a better term, could flip again should the Chiefs win a playoff game for the second straight season. Not so coincidentally, it was last year’s first-round game that put everything in motion.
Furness threw for 283 yards and four touchdowns in a win at Orangeburg-Wilkinson. He and his back-up were exchanging notes throughout the whole game. The philosophy continued into August’s team camp, where the two were forced to spend every waking football minute together for nearly a week.
The senior was still coaching the sophomore.
“They encourage each other. They challenge each other,” Hardin said. “It’s a good working relationship with those two.”
Said Bass: “People like Kendrick are rare. You don’t find many people like him.”
Like father like son
With a few varsity games under his belt, the newest Chiefs quarterback is starting to hear the comparisons to his father.
Dad sees it, too.
“When I watch him play, it’s almost like watching film of yourself,” said Ron, currently the regional sales manager at WMBF-TV. “He’s further along in the passing game than I was as a sophomore. My passing didn’t even start until I was a junior [when he moved from California to Virginia, one plot line in “Titans”]. Even there, if we threw eight times a game, it was a miracle.”
The elder Bass parlayed his success at T.C. Williams into a scholarship to USC. For the Gamecocks, he threw for nearly 3,000 yards and ran for another 1,000. Longtime South Carolina fans still remember him running for more than 200 yards in a 1974 victory over North Carolina.
Ron coached Ronnie through flag and recreational leagues before the Hillcrest and now North Myrtle Beach coaches took over.
Bass Version 2.0 is still very much a work in progress. However, he’s one with tools that fit what Hardin is trying to, well, run.
“He’s fast,” Hardin said. “He’s not a blazer, but he moves very well. He has legitimate speed.”
In what is essentially two-and-a-half games, he’s run for about 130 yards and thrown for 349 (he had previously rushed for 58 yards prior to his time as a starter). For the first time since region play began, though, Hardin felt comfortable enough with what he had seen to publicly announce a starter early in the week.
The quarterback competition is another pairing between father and son. When Ron Bass arrived at T.C. Williams in 1971, he joined a program that had a presumed starter. It was one of the minor aspects of the film he said wasn’t spiced up to the point of fiction.
“The dancing on the field and the singing in the locker room, we didn’t do that,” said Bass, who was portrayed by actor Kip Pardue and, along with other players, served as an unpaid consultant for the film. “You just kind of put up with those. It is a good story, and the good parts are there. It’s an honor that the story was told. The rest, you kind of put up with it and chalk it up to Hollywood.”
Making his own story
Ronnie Bass will have an opportunity against Midland Valley to help North Myrtle Beach add to its biography.
The Chiefs (4-6) are one of four teams entering the Class AAA playoffs with a losing record, and the only one of the four to earn a home game. Like the rest, they played their way in during the region schedule, capped by the victory over the Seahawks.
“About this time last year, I was backing up Kendrick and he was always telling me that was going through his mind during the game,” he said. “I took that and turned it into real life. I used it. I made myself get better. Starting against Myrtle Beach, that had a big impact on me.”
Hardin believes getting Bass on the field more was all about confidence. He said work in the weight room will help Bass’ throwing velocity, as well as sustaining hits while carrying the ball.
Hardin brought that up to prove nothing is written in stone for the rest of this season, no matter how long that is. The coach made it clear through words and actions he has zero problems making a change during a game. He’s going with his gut.
At least to start Friday, that feeling pointed to the kid who just happens to have a famous father.
“There are similarities, obviously,” Ron Bass said. “We both moved into the new school as the new kid on the block. We both had to deal with that. As far as expectations and what happens from here, that’s up to him.”