The last time Beaufort High faced powerhouse Myrtle Beach, Bryce Lybrand was coaching in Charlotte. Now, in his third year with the Eagles and the second as the head coach, his squad has a real shot to take down the Seahawks and achieve a near-improbable goal: reaching the Class 4A Lower State finals.
It’s the most anticipated game at Beaufort in years, as Mickey Wilson’s group travels to the Eagles’ dazzling turf field for a sold-out contest Friday night with a spot in the final four on the line.
Myrtle Beach topped the 4A polls for the majority of the season’s first half, but a road loss to unranked Wilson and blowout defeat to red-hot North Myrtle Beach set them back. If the Eagles find the potential they brought a week ago in a convincing 45-14 win over a solid West Florence squad, they’ll have a tremendous shot at pulling off the upset.
The Eagles have built an impenetrable defensive line, led by sophomore sensation Eamon Smalls who’s already been receiving looks to play at the next level. He’s supported in the trenches by seniors Theo Washington and Jeremiah Simmons, who have shut down the best offenses in the area, including last year’s 3A Lower State finalists Ahmad Green and May River. William Winburn is a beastly linebacker in the middle of the field, and Daniel Phares’ speed, athleticism, and clutch factor has shown up again, this year on the defensive side. The return of sophomore standout Daryl Depass should be a massive help to the secondary as the playoff run continues.
But the Seahawks are talented from top to bottom and are riding some big momentum after scoring 37 unanswered points in their first-round win over South Aiken. Ryan Berger was a warrior, coming back from an ankle injury and throwing for 276 yards and three touchdowns in the playoff opener. UNC commit and senior JJ Jones has been nearly unguardable this year. The 6-foot-3 superstar can catch anything thrown his way, including a one-handed leaping jump ball that belonged on SportsCenter’s Top 10. Andrew Doss is a dangerous threat on the ground, picking up 184 yards and two scores last Friday. This game could come down to that star-studded Eagle defensive line. If Smalls and company can find the upper hand and put pressure on Berger, Beaufort will give the junior quarterback a daunting task on the road.
It’s been an incredible comeback season for Tyler Haley. After missing the latter half of 2019 due to injury, the junior has delivered in all areas. In last week’s rout of West Florence, Haley lit it up for 217 yards through the air plus 89 more on the ground. He’s got the accuracy to hit the deep throws and rarely makes poor decisions with the ball. It’s so important to be able to throw the ball reliably in high school football, especially when you can mix the passing game with a dynamite ground attack. Amariee Morris put together a monster game last Friday, breaking tackle after tackle on his way to four touchdowns, three of them coming from at least 25 yards out. Along with Jaylin Housel and the versatile Kacy Fields, the Eagles’ tandem of rushers has made this dynamic offense a pain to hold down. Myrtle Beach will also have to worry about deep receiving threat Marcus Goodwater, along with a reliable Fields and breakout star McLeod Reichel, who is becoming a valuable tertiary piece in the Beaufort passing game. As long as Haley continues to execute Lybrand’s exceptional gameplans and take what the defense gives, the Eagles should find ways to move the football against a Seahawk squad that has shown inconsistencies in the last month of the season.
There is no better teacher than defeat, and a tough loss to Carolina Forest gave the Eagles just what they needed: a look at how to win against the best competition in the state. After a beating at the hands of the Panthers, Beaufort turned around two weeks later and crushed a talented West Florence squad in a game which many thought would come down to the wire. It took awhile for Myrtle Beach to wake up last week, but when they did they turned into an unstoppable force. Whichever team can find their groove early and handle that nervous energy the best will set themselves up for a successful night. With two straight trips to the title game and a championship just two years ago, the Seahawks have a huge advantage in experience. But the Eagles will have the home crowd behind them and are playing with incredible confidence.
He’s just in his second year, but Lybrand has already made a heck of a mark on this program. Now, he’s got an opportunity to deliver an enormous statement for his school and for football in the Lowcountry.
Three years ago, the Eagles just weren’t ready to take down a perennial powerhouse. But this year feels different. All the ingredients are there to put together a night for the ages at Beaufort High School. If that defensive line can stand up to the Seahawks’ explosive arsenal and Haley conjures up something special, the Beaufort Eagles will have a shot to slay 4A football’s goliath.
PREDICTION: Beaufort 35, Myrtle Beach 31
Written by Wes Kerr / Photos by Justin Jarrett