MYRTLE BEACH — Bryce Lybrand said his ‘aha’ moment came on Sunday.
It was then, while the Beaufort coach and his staff were breaking down film on Class 4A top-ranked Myrtle Beach, that he believed his defense had what it would take to top the Seahawks and keep the Eagles’ state championship hopes alive.
Five days later, his team proved him right.
The Eagles beat Myrtle Beach, 20-19, Friday night at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium after stopping a loaded Seahawks’ offense time and again — including when it counted most. Myrtle Beach’s two-point conversion attempt with 1:06 remaining was batted down, and the Eagles’ celebration followed not long after as they clinched a spot in their first Lower State final since 2007.
“Yeah, it got uglied up on defense, but that’s because we’ve got a really good defense,” Lybrand said. “We’re good.”
While quarterback Tyler Haley (161 total yards, passing touchdown), running back Amariee Morris (66 rushing yards, rushing touchdown) and receiver Kacy Fields (nine receptions, 72 yards) each had their moments, the biggest victory of Lybrand’s tenure to date was all about that defense.
Linemen Eamon Smalls and Alvin Wilson and defensive backs Daryl DePass and Jalin Porter played about as well as they could have against a stacked Seahawks squad that had been scoring at will the last three games, and, frankly, for most of the season. Myrtle Beach punted five times in the game, was stuffed twice on fourth-down attempts and had another series ended when Porter picked off a pass from quarterback Ryan Burger.
Hunter Rast scored the game’s first points when he took a first quarter punt back 65 yards for a touchdown. After two Myrtle Beach scores, Morris’ 7-yard scamper tied it again in the third quarter, and then Haley’s 6-yard strike to McLeod Reichel gave the Eagles the lead with 4:19 to go.
The biggest play of the night, though, came on the Seahawks’ final snap. After Clemson commit Adam Randall scored on a 1-yard touchdown run to narrow the gap to one point and Beaufort jumped offsides, Myrtle Beach elected to go for two and the lead.
Beaufort did what it had all night, forcing Burger to scramble and throw a pass that had little chance of being completed.
Moments later, the Eagles recovered the onside kick and burned up the final few seconds.
“I knew since last year when we took that ‘L’ to them that we wanted this game,” Smalls said, referencing Myrtle Beach’s 49-37 second-round victory in the 2020 playoffs. “There was no pressure coming in. I really wanted this game.”
Beaufort (11-2) moves on to host the Class 4A Lower State final against West Florence (10-2). After finishing third in the Region 6-4A regular season, the Knights have beaten James Island, South Aiken and Hartsville to stay alive in the postseason and have six consecutive victories overall. Since the Eagles are the higher seed, they earned the home game.
That was secondary to Lybrand.
“If you’re going to win a state championship, it doesn’t matter where you play,” Lybrand said. “You’ve just got to play some really good people. If you told us to go over to Beaufort Middle School, we’d do that.”