Since Mickey Wilson took over as coach of the Myrtle Beach football program in 2009, the Seahawks have won their playoff openers by an average of 45.2 points. It was more of the same this season for the defending Class 3A champions.
Coming off a surprising loss to rival North Myrtle Beach in their regular-season finale, the Seahawks found their offensive rhythm early Friday night in a 69-28 romp over the Gilbert Indians in the first round of the 3A playoffs at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium.
“They knew it on Monday when we came to practice that they didn’t play well last week,” Wilson said of his Seahawks. “They responded real well in practice. They had a great week of practice and played real well tonight.”
For the first 12 minutes and 30 seconds of the game, the Seahawks were on pace to score over 100 points with junior quarterback Drayton Arnold on his way to a national-record type of night. After Arnold connected with senior Kyle Belack on a 57-yard scoring strike just 30 seconds into the second quarter, the Seahawks held a 35-0 lead and Arnold was 9-for-9 passing for 321 yards with four touchdown passes.
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But Gilbert responded to the early onslaught by Myrtle Beach, and Arnold was sidelined late in the first half because of a right-hand injury. That stretch of the second quarter was the only damper on an otherwise impressive performance by the Seahawks.
On the drive after Myrtle Beach went up 35-0, the Indians went 80 yards on two running plays with senior Jakayus Leaphart racing 41 yards to get Gilbert on the board. It was a surprising turn of events considering the Indians had managed just 12 yards rushing and 76 yards of offense on their first four possessions of the night. It was just the beginning of Gilbert’s resurrection. Myrtle Beach turned the ball over on its next two possessions, and the Indians capitalized both times to cut the deficit to 35-21
The Seahawks reasserted control in the second half when they outscored the Indians 21-0 to end any upset hopes of Gilbert and overcome the loss of Arnold, which could end up being a huge loss for Myrtle Beach.
“We don’t know the significance of it right now,” Wilson said of Arnold’s injury. “He got pulled by the training staff tonight, and we will know more about it tomorrow.”
With Arnold out, backup quarterback Jake Deskins came in and performed well. The senior finished 7-for-7 passing for 111 yards and two touchdowns in the second half. If Arnold is out, Deskins, who is listed as a tight end on the Myrtle Beach roster, is the most likely Seahawk to take over under center.
“He is a senior for us, and he has been playing some tight end for us,” Wilson said of Deskins. “We tried to get him on the field because he is a good athlete. He has been our backup last year and this year. We got him out there, and he did a great job tonight. He is steady, and he threw the ball real well. … He had a great time out there. He was really composed and did a good job.”
In just less than a half of play, Arnold finished 16-for-17 passing for 396 yards and the four touchdown throws. Senior Brandon Sinclair had two rushing scores and 88 yards on 19 carries and also scored on an 81-yard touchdown pass from Arnold. Senior Tysheke Vaughn scored twice, once on 42-yard interception and then on a 38-yard run to end the scoring for the Seahawks. Four receivers finished with more than 100 yards receiving – Kelton Greene (5 catches for 119 yards and a touchdown), Kyle Belack (8-130, 2 TDs), Sinclair (3-115, 1 TD), and Malik Waring (4-109, 2 TDs).
Gilbert went 5-5 during the regular season with every win at home and every loss on the road. The Indians were led by senior Leaphart with 23 carries for 157 yards rushing and three touchdowns and junior quarterback Nick Hendrix with 116 yards rushing and a touchdown on 13 carries.
Myrtle Beach (10-1) will host Hanahan next weekend in the second round of the playoffs.
“We came out of the gate strong,” Wilson said. “We kind of let them back in it with some sloppy play, but I thought out kids handled it well. … I thought we played well tonight. It was a great first win in the playoffs, and we are going to get ready to go to work on Week 2 (of the postseason).”