MYRTLE BEACH - It's no wonder the week leading up to today's 62nd annual North-South All-Star Football Game has gone so smoothly.
After all, the game manager, former Myrtle Beach High football coach Scott Earley, is no stranger to the school, community or the game.
"It's been a very sentimental week for me," said Earley, who left last spring to become the football coach and athletics director at Chapin. "Being back here has reminded me how much I miss the ties I have to this community. There have been a lot of stories told and tears shed."
A lot has transpired in the months since Earley's departure. He inherited a program that had been down for years and wasted little time injecting excitement by upsetting top-ranked Strom Thurmond in the opener. The Eagles started 7-0 but lost their last four games.
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"We had a good season, but we lost six starters, our quarterback and our top running back," Earley said. "We just didn't have enough gas or enough depth to finish. I've basically taken the same blue print I used down here up there, so it's going to take us a little more time to compete against those Upstate teams."
Earley has been able to reunite with his former Myrtle Beach players, coaches and friends in the community this week, but after the game it's back to Chapin.
"The good news is even though you move away, you don't lose those relationships," Earley said. "And it's been good for me to see the program is in good hands. They have a lot of kids coming back next year, and they're going to have a good opportunity to win it all. I'll be rooting for them."
Unless, of course, they meet Chapin in the 2010 state championship game. Either way, Earley will be back to run next year's North-South game.
- Terry Massey, for The Myrtle Beach Sun News
South offensive lineman DeAndre Shell doesn't have to imagine what it would be like to play in the NFL. He just has to talk to his uncle, former Oakland/L.A. Raiders player/ coach Art Shell.
"We've always been real close, and he's been a big help to me," said the younger Shell, a 6-foot-1, 300-pounder from Goose Creek High. "I always send him my game films, and he looks at them and tells me what I need to work on. It's great to have someone that knows football like he does helping me out."
Despite the fact that they live on opposite ends of the country, they have managed to stay in close communication. Art Shell invited DeAndre out for a Raiders game against the Baltimore Ravens a few years ago.
"That was my first NFL game, and it was really cool," DeAndre Shell said. "It made me want to work harder so hopefully I can play at that level someday."
- Terry Massey, for Myrtle Beach Sun News
Dodd gains a fan
Chester's Bobby Kelly has joined the Chas Dodd fan club.
Dodd, Byrnes' starting quarterback the past three years, was caught in the numbers crunch and got passed over for South Carolina's Shrine Bowl team. So when the opportunity came to play in the North-South all-star game, Dodd never looked back or asked what if.
"The Shrine Bowl's loss is our gain," said Kelly, one of several wide receivers Dodd has been rifling passes to at practice. "He throws a good ball, and if you are the primary receiver and get open, it's right there for you to catch.
"In just three days, we receivers become very close with Chas and hang together after practice. We scrimmaged Byrnes every year since I've been on the varsity, so I've followed his games. He had a good career, and now that we are playing our last high school game, I'm glad to be on his side."
Dodd, a Rutgers commitment, completed 253 of 391 passes for 4,161 yards and 51 touchdowns this season. Byrnes' record during Dodd's three seasons as the starter is 42-3.
- Phil Bowman
The (Charleston) Post and Courier