They’ve heard the whispers at May River for the past two years, as the Sharks ripped through two impressive regular seasons followed by deep runs in the Class 3A playoffs: Wait till they move up to 4A. Well, here they are.
May River makes the leap to Region 7-4A after a four-year run culminated by a tough home loss to Dillon in the Class 3A Lower State championship, and with a star-studded cast of returners including quarterback Ahmad Green and linebacker Eli Hall, they intend to keep winning.
The Sharks ran the table against Region 7-4A two years ago and nearly did the same a year ago, losing only to eventual region champion Beaufort High, so there’s no question they can compete at this level. There’s also little doubt May River’s offense will once again be of the high-octane variety with Green working behind an outstanding offensive line.
There are more question marks on the other side of the ball, but Hall and defensive backs Steffin Gadson and Mike Sunkins are back along with linebacker Kade Carpenter, so they are working to get the newcomers up to speed. Veterans like linebacker Anthony Nelsen and defensive linemen Toshane Willingham and Rett Harrell are ready to take on larger roles to help plug a Rod Grant-sized hole on the defensive line.
The one X-factor in the new region is James Island, which dropped down from Class 5A and hosts the Sharks on Friday night. That one will set the tone, and if May River prevails, you can pencil them in as a serious contender for the region crown in their first year in 4A.
MAY RIVER SHARKS FOOTBALL
Coach: Rodney Summers
Record at MRHS: 26-20 (5th season)
2019 record: 10-3 overall, 3-1 region, Class 3A Lower State finalist
Top returners: QB Ahmad Green, LB Eli Hall, OL Ben Marler, OL Moxon Zehr, OL Will Wilson, OL Garrett Bonneville, DB/WR Mike Sunkins, DB/WR Steffin Gadson
Notable losses: RB Donovan Ling, WR/DB/P Terry Fields, K Bryce Summers, DB Jayden Void, LB Melik Frost, TE Joseph Tapscott, RB/DL TJ Polite-Grant, LB Ridge Dowe, LB Malachai Dougherty, DL Rod Grant, OL Kailin Prescott Ferguson
Breakout candidates: RB Jaiden Jones, RB Cam Scott, LB Anthony Nelsen, DL Toshane Willingham, DL Rett Harrell, WR Melvin Livermon
PLAYERS TO WATCH
• Ahmad Green, QB: All eyes are on Green when the Sharks have the ball, because the fourth-year starter has the ability to break a big play at any moment and does so often. If the Sharks can develop one of their young quarterbacks waiting in the wings, we might get to see Green in some other roles where he can show off his skills that translate well at the next level. Wherever he lines up, you’ll want to keep an eye on No. 7.
• Eli Hall, LB: Hall is one of the few holdovers, along with Green, from those early teams that struggled at May River, and he’s not going to let his younger teammates forget it. A state champion wrestler, Hall is the vocal leader of the defense, and he’s a monster who flies around the field and brings the hammer.
Who will take over Terry Fields’ role as the go-to guy when the Sharks need a big play?
Fields was a versatile presence who could be counted on to come up with a big pick on defense, burn a DB for a deep ball from Green, or take a punt return to the house — oh, and he was a heck of a punter, too. It’s hard to imagine one guy filling all those roles, so the Sharks may need to count on several players to step up. Melvin Livermon is a track star with the potential to be a big-play receiver and kick returner, and Steffin Gadson is a standout DB who will see more time on offense this season, so if they continue to grow into their expanded roles, May River should be just fine.
REGION AND BEYOND
The region is new, but the competition is not, with the exception of James Island. If the Sharks get past the Trojans and rival Bluffton in Week 2, it will set up a showdown with defending region champion Beaufort High, which handed May River its first loss last season. For now, that seems like the contest to circle on the calendar as the one that will decide the region title, but there are plenty of land mines along the way.
9/25 — at James Island*
10/2 — vs. Bluffton*
10/9 — vs. Beaufort High*
10/16 — at Colleton County*
10/23 — vs. Hilton Head High*