MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – The Hartsville Red Foxes came to be known by their resiliency, reaching the Class 4A lower-state final despite returning five starters.
In Friday’s lower-state final against Myrtle Beach, Hartsville battled all it could to compensate for losing starting quarterback Owen Taylor to a second-quarter knee injury.
It wasn’t enough, and the Red Foxes lost 28-21 and ended their season with a 10-4 record.
“I was so proud of our kids,” said Hartsville coach Jeff Calabrese, who has guided his program to four straight lower-state finals. “They fought their butts off all year. When the chips were down, they kept battling.”
With Taylor at quarterback, the Red Foxes built a 14-0 lead by scoring on their second and third possessions. But his knee injury suffered while being sacked left him unable to return.
“He’ll be all right,” Calabrese said. “But we couldn’t put him back in the game tonight. It wasn’t worth it, he couldn’t move well enough to defend himself. But he WILL be fine.”
Hartsville’s first touchdown was set up by a bad Myrtle Beach punt that landed at the Seahawk 39. A 7-yard J’Shawn Anderson run, followed by Myrtle Beach personal foul, set up Darian McMillan’s 2-yard touchdown that made it 7-0.
Myrtle Beach’s next punt put Hartsville at the Seahawk 49. Shortly after that, Owen Taylor completed a 37-yard TD pass to D.P. Pendergrass for a 14-0 advantage.
Myrtle Beach then made its move.
Bolstered by a personal-foul penalty that got Red Fox linebacker Bailey Carraway ejected, the Seahawks went to a Wildcat-type formation featuring Xayvion Knox. On fourth and 1, Knox rumbled 24 yards to the Red Fox 14, and then scored to bring Myrtle Beach within 14-7.
On the first play of Hartsville’s next drive, Taylor was injured while being sacked. That, along Carraway’s ejection, presented quite a challenge when receiver Roddi Morris was left to direct the offense with their season on the line.
“We had a lot of momentum early and then we lost (Carraway) and we lost Owen, and that kind of settled us a little bit, and they made some plays,” Calabrese said. “We just couldn’t get back in the thing. Roddi was a warrior out there and did a lot of good things. It just wasn’t our night.”
But the coaching staff did what it could to utilize Morris.
“We tried to cater to his strengths,” Calabrese said. “This is a big ask for a young man that hadn’t played a lot of quarterback in his life. The other thing that kind of messed up our other stuff was us not having a whole lot of depth.”
A short while later, after Myrtle Beach stuffed Pendergrass on fourth down, Seahawk quarterback Ryan Burger found J.J. Jones for a 35-yard pass. They soon connected on a 21-yard TD pass that tied the game at 14.
Things continued to go back and forth in the third quarter. After Myrtle Beach intercepted Morris, Burger threw a 47-yard touchdown pass to none other than Jones. After Hartsville answered with a 10-yard run by Pendergrass to tie the game at 21 (he finished with 165 rushing yards), that once again showed Calabrese his team’s character.
“I think the bottom line is our kids fought,” Calabrese said. “It didn’t matter who was in and who was out. They kept battling and kept battling.”
But Burger, playing in place of injured University of South Carolina commit Luke Doty, was back at it. He completed a 47-yard pass to Adam Randall, which set up a 5-yard run by Knox to give Myrtle Beach a 28-21 lead going into the fourth quarter.
And that’s how the score stayed, and the Red Foxes’ final record became 10-4.
“I hate they came up short tonight because they showed such great character when their backs were against the wall,” said Calabrese, whose team lost 42-21 against Myrtle Beach in the regular season.
“The bottom line in football is you have to be able to adapt and overcome. And we tried and we fought and we almost did it. But again, we showed a lot of great character and fight tonight.”
H 14 0 7 0 -- 21
MB 0 14 14 0 -- 28
H – Darian McMillan 2 run (Chase Elsesser kick), 3:04
H – D.P. Pendergrass 37 pass from Owen Taylor (Elsesser kick), :41.5
MB – Xayvion Knox 14 run (Sullivan Hardin kick), 7:03
MB – J.J. Jones 21 pass from Ryan Burger (Hardin kick), 1:43
MB – Jones 43 pass from Burger (Hardin kick), 9:01
H – Pendergrass 10 run (Elsesser kick), 2:03
MB – Knox 5 run (Hardin kick), :12.5
RECORDS: H 10-4, MB 14-0