FLORENCE, S.C. – Former Marlboro County High School coach Dean Boyd, now at York High, is more than a little familiar with some of the top defensive players in the Pee Dee area.
Come December, he probably will be happy to have some of them on his side of the field for a change.
Rosters for the 83rd Annual Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas were announced Sunday via Facebook Live, and the Sandlappers coach made sure his defense will have a distinctive Pee Dee flavor.
Five area athletes were chosen, with four coming on the defensive side of the ball. Hartsville High had two in linebackers Justin Abraham and Kevon Haigler while Dillon’s Ty King was also selected at linebacker.
Two Cheraw teammates are also headed to the all-star game as well: defensive lineman Xavier McIver and Jalen Coit – the lone offensive representative from the Pee Dee at wide receiver.
The quintet will face off against the best from North Carolina at 1 p.m. on Dec. 21 at Wofford College’s Gibbs Stadium in Spartanburg.
“It was definitely unexpected,” said Abraham, who is part of a Red Foxes defense that has allowed 13 points or less in two of their three games this season. “It’s not really something I had as a goal, so I’m very thankful and grateful for this opportunity.
“It’s never really something that crossed my mind. I’m just ready to enjoy the new experience.”
Abraham had 18 tackles and 1½ sacks prior to Friday’s 17-6 victory over Conway. The Hartsville senior has been a stalwart at linebacker and the defensive line for the past few years, but he enjoys playing linebacker, he said.
“I have to give a lot of credit to my coaches, because they’ve really pushed me to be better and work hard,” Abraham said. “I’ve just tried to train hard and listen to them.”
He will have a familiar face beside him, as Haigler was selected for one of the spots as well. Before the game against Conway, Haigler was right behind Abraham with 17 tackles and 2½ sacks.
Unlike Abraham, making the Shrine Bowl was something Haigler has been working toward for quite a while after playing linebacker since he was in recreation league football.
“I think probably since sixth grade; I really started hitting the weight room then,” he said. “I’ve just trying to work on being the best player on the field every Friday night. The past few years, I’ve also really tried to work on my pass-rush skills.”
King, the third LB taken from the Pee Dee, continues a strong defensive tradition for Dillon in the Shrine Bowl. So far this season, he has 12 total tackles and one sack for a Wildcats’ defense that hasn’t given up a point yet.
“I’m surprised and thankful for the opportunity,” King said. “When I first got here, I was new to Dillon, but I bought into the program and what they taught me and what the coaches coached. I became a leader, I think, going into my senior year.
“I was working toward getting stronger and faster on the field and getting better in the classroom.”
Cheraw has gotten off to a 4-0 start by outscoring opponents 88-38. Coit has been an offensive weapon on the outside – he had 13 catches for 264 yards and three touchdowns heading into a 14-12 victory Friday over Central.
McIver has been an equally strong force along the defensive line, registering 21 total tackles, including two for a loss and a pair of sacks.