MYRTLE BEACH - Last year, the game took forever. This year, Myrtle Beach took Marlboro County behind the woodshed.
The Seahawks won their second consecutive Class 3A Lower State championship in convincing fashion, cruising past the Bulldogs 40-13 Friday to clinch a berth in next weekend's state championship. It was a rematch of a 51-50, three-overtime thriller from last November, but this one featured much less drama.
Leading by 10 at halftime, the Seahawks scored on their first three possessions of the third quarter to blow the game open and give themselves a shot at another state title. Myrtle Beach meets Upper State champion Clinton on Saturday, Dec. 6 at Columbia's Williams-Brice Stadium.
"They both feel great," Myrtle Beach linebacker Steven Cobb said of the Lower State titles. "But this one feels better, because everybody kind of doubted us this year. So, we definitely came out here and accomplished our goal."
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It took the Seahawks (12-1) a few minutes to get rolling. They fell behind 7-0 on the first drive of the game and then punted on their first possession, but then scored on six consecutive drives to build a 38-13 lead late in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs carried an undefeated record (13-0) and plenty of motivation into Doug Shaw Stadium. Last year's loss, which was settled on Marlboro's failed two-point conversion, was as painful as they come. But the Bulldogs couldn't find a similar offensive groove after going 85 yards for a touchdown on the opening drive of the game.
"We couldn't get anything going," said Marlboro coach Dean Boyd, whose team had 521 yards, including 403 in the air, in last year's meeting. "You have to give Myrtle Beach credit. They've got a great football team and they did a great job. ... We just struggled after the first drive. We just didn't get anything else."
Boyd's team couldn't keep up once the Seahawks caught fire in the second half. Seahawks quarterbacks Everett Golson and Morgan Byrd combined for three third-quarter touchdown runs that put the game out of reach. By the middle of the fourth quarter, most of Marlboro's fans - the school brought a group of several thousand - had already started heading home.
"I'm just so proud of our kids," Myrtle Beach coach Mickey Wilson said. "They really came out tonight and played ball. They just worked their tails off to get to this point. With all the change we've had in the program over the past five or six months, you just can't say enough about the kids and what they've done."
Despite giving up an early touchdown, the Seahawks took a 17-7 lead to the locker room.
After the first drive of Friday's game, it appeared it might be a long night for Myrtle Beach's defense. Marlboro received the opening kickoff and needed just 3:32 to drive 85 yards for the opening score. A 59-yard run by tailback Malcolm Thomas set the stage for his short touchdown run with 8:21 left in the first quarter.
Myrtle Beach went three-and-out on its first drive, but Alford fumbled deep in his own territory on the ensuing drive and Cobb recovered. Golson hit Dallas Goodman for a 13-yard gain on third-and-nine and then the junior signal caller tied the game with a four-yard scoring run.
On Myrtle Beach's next possession, Golson engineered a clock-eating drive that kept the ball away from the Bulldogs for 7:41 in the second quarter. On the fourth play of the drive, Thomas dropped an interception, and the Seahawks made him pay.
Golson hooked up with Goodman for an 18-yard gain on fourth-and-10 deep in Marlboro territory, and then again on a six-yard touchdown five plays later. The Seahawks led 14-7 with 4:04 left in the first half after the 16-play drive.
Thomas' hands failed him again on the next drive. The Bulldogs had driven to Myrtle Beach's 44 when the speedy senior slipped behind Seahawks safety Alex Holloman. However, Alford's pass was slightly underthrown and Thomas couldn't catch what would have been the tying touchdown.
Taking over with 2:33 left, Golson drove the Seahawks to Marlboro's 9 in nine plays. With 9.5 seconds left in the half, Jordan Butler kicked a 26-yard field goal to give Myrtle Beach a two-score advantage.
The teams combined for 913 yards in last year's meeting but had just 340 between them at halftime Friday.