NORTH MYRTLE BEACH — It was time, and fifth-ranked Wilson sensed it.
It was a chance for coach Derek Howard’s Tigers to prove they belong among Class 4A’s elite.
Believing it is one thing.
Proving it is another.
On Friday night at fourth-ranked North Myrtle Beach, Wilson proved it with a resounding 43-21 victory.
“This just lets you know we’ve got a pretty good football team at Wilson High School,” Howard said. “The kids work hard, and they’re a talented group, and they don’t make a lot of mistakes. It’s hard to beat a football team like that when we’re not making mistakes and giving the game away.The kids just played solid tonight. I’m proud of them.”
On a night when Howard’s city-champion Tigers improved to 7-0 for the first time in program history, no one led Friday’s charge harder than quarterback Zayshaun Rice and receiver Jakobe Quillen. They not only connected for three first-half touchdowns, but they combined for 345 first-half yards before halftime.
Rice completed 19 of his 24 first-half passes for 230 yards during that time. At one point, he even completed 15 consecutive passes. Quillen, meanwhile, caught nine of those passes and went into halftime with 115 yards. For the game, Rice passed for 336 yards and five touchdowns and rushed for an additional 47 yards. And Quillen had four touchdowns by game’s end to go along with his 12 catches for 165 yards.
“I know this sounds like a broken record, but I heard (Rice) say the other day to a friend that it’s so easy and so simple to play here,” Howard said. “And I think that’s what we try to do here: make it so simple that the kids can just focus on having fun. And when we have talent like (Rice) and (Quillen) with their special talent, they’re just hard to cover and hard to stop. And with some of the other pieces we have, that’s just a great group.”
They not only gave the Tigers points, but they gave this team an added confidence — even a swagger hard to obtain on North Myrtle Beach’s home field.
So much so, on this very field in last year’s second round of the playoffs, Wilson lost 34-22. On Friday, Wilson answered that by scoring 22 points in the first quarter alone.
“That just shows the progression of this group that has grown up,” Howard said. “The guys that were on the field that playoff game last year were on the field tonight. It meant something for them to come in here and beat a good football team.”
On Friday, after punting on their first possession, Rice converted a fourth-and-short pass and finished the drive with a 14-yard pass to Quillen for a 7-0 lead. After a 37-yard TD pass to Quillen made it 14-0, Wilson’s special teams took advantage when a high snap went through Chiefs punter Zane Smith’s hands deep in their own territory. Wilson’s Taveon Johnson stripped the ball from Smith, and JoCorien Groover fell on it in the end zone for a touchdown.
“I challenged the kids to play a complete game in all three phases, and I think that’s what we saw,” Howard said. “So that shows we can have a complete team.”
After a two-point conversion made it 22-0, Rice and Quillen connected for a 12-yard TD pass and led 29-0 with just more than six minutes left before halftime.
After North Myrtle Beach capitalized on a deflected pass that resulted in an interception and touchdown drive, Wilson answered in the third quarter with a touchdown by Yavin Smith that made it 36-7. Yavin Smith finished Friday’s game with 72 yards on four catches.
But once the Chiefs scored early in the fourth quarter, Rice and Quillen were far from done. Rice found Quillen in the left corner of the end zone for a 33-yard TD pass and 43-14 lead.
During Howard’s postgame speech, he made sure he had his Tigers’ attention, since their next game is homecoming against Hartsville. While he warned against having a letdown after such a big victory like Friday’s against North Myrtle Beach, he reminded Wilson what it can do when all of its cylinders are firing.
“If you play like that, nobody in the state can play with you,” Howard told his team. “You hear me?
W 22 7 7 7 — 43
NMB 0 7 0 14 — 21
W — Jakobe Quillen 14 pass from Zayshaun Rice (Vraj Patel kick), 5:03
W — Quillen 37 pass from Rice (Patel kick), 1:35
W — JoCorien Groover fumble recovery in end zone (Ja’Travious Sherrills run), :15.1
W — Quillen 12 pass from Rice (Patel kick), 6:16
NMB — Zyer Belle 35 pass from Cameron Freeman (Zane Smith kick), 1:15
W — Yavin Smith 1 pass from Rice (Patel kick), 7:35
NMB — Freeman 2 run (Smith kick), 9:11
W — Quillen 33 pass from Rice (Patel kick), 6:09
NMB — Malik Livingston 59 pass from Freeman (Smith kick), :57
RUSHING — W: Rice 7-47, Smith 9-27, Austin 8-12, Cody Gunn 3-(-3). NMB: Gore 4-42, Zyon Belle 10-19, Montgomery 1-13, Vereen 5-12.
PASSING — W: Rice 27-34-1-336. NMB: Freeman 10-19-1; Livingston 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING — W: Quillen 12-165, Smith 4-72, Sherrills 4-58, Robinson 2-16. NMB: Zyer Belle 5-97, Livingston 3-67, Farmer 1-3, Zyon Belle 1-1.