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Marlboro County High School
Bennettsville

 

Bulldogs have turnaround season and make AAAA playoffs

By David Shelton

Senior Writer

Bennettsville – The 2017 football season was one that Marlboro County head coach Dean Boyd would like to forget. In fact, that’s exactly what the coach did.

Boyd entered the 2018 season with higher expectations. The coach revamped his coaching staff and brought in new ideas. And the results were good.

Marlboro County went from 3-7 in 2017 to a 6-3 record during the regular season of 2018. The Bulldogs earned a spot in the Class AAAA state playoffs, traveling to Airport for a first-round game on November 9.

“I’m really happy with the way we turned things around this year,” Boyd said. “We weren’t perfect and we still are working to get better but we were a lot better than we were last year. I feel like our kids bought in more. I feel like the changes we made were for the best. Our coaching staff worked really hard and our kids responded to the challenge.”

The Bulldogs had a chance for seven wins during the regular season but lost their last regular season game, 12-0, to North Myrtle Beach. Boyd says that loss will stick with him for some time.

“I really believe we should have won that game,” the coach says. “It was 0-0, in the rain, until four minutes left in the game. We had so many chances to score in that game, dropped three touchdown passes. It was very frustrating. It was as tough a loss as I’ve had in coaching.”

Neither team reached 200 total yards in the defensive battle. Marlboro County managed just 163 total yards and lost major yardage to sacks. The Bulldogs’ defense allowed only 192 total yards.

“Our defense played great,” Boyd said. “We have made great progress defensively. We are a lot better on that side of the ball than we were last year. Again, those guys just bought in.”

Junior linebacker Ismael Sloan has been one of the key leaders defensively this season. He leads the team in tackles and has made several big plays over the course of the season.

“He’s been a very consistent player for us this year,” Boyd said of Sloan. “He’s made some big plays for us, getting some turnovers. We look forward to having him back next year as a team leader.”

Senior nose guard Shamar Sprattling also has been strong this fall, along with senior safety Jordan Swinton. Marquez Johnson along the front and ends Dashawn Zimmerman and John McLeod continue to be solid performers as well on defense.

Offensively, senior quarterback Elijah Blair has had the type of season that Boyd had hoped he would. Blair enjoyed his greatest success during this season, finishing the regular season with more than 1,000 yard and 14 touchdowns passing and more than 600 yards rushing with 11 touchdowns.

“He had a great year,” Boyd said. “He’s a really good football player. Some college is going to get a steal. Great student and a great young man too. I’m really happy for him.”

Sophomore running backs Demarkes Hicks and Jacardo Riggins give Boyd plenty of reason for optimism. Each has rushed for more than 400 yards this season and show great promise for the future.

Seniors Tyrek Eaddy and Rictavius McInnis have been the team’s most consistent receivers. Calron Thomas also has shown progress in the passing game.

Leading the way up front are seniors Torquery James and Trey Patterson, and junior Gary Bethea.

Boyd feels his team has as good a shot as any in the state playoffs. The Bulldogs take on region 5-AAAA champion Airport in the first round.

“I think we match up okay personnel-wise and hopefully the tough schedule we have played will help us in the playoffs,” Boyd said. “Airport is well-coached. Their offense is pretty good. Their quarterback is a really good player. We have to do a good job of tackling and we need to execute on offense better than we did last week. It’s the playoffs. We’re excited about the opportunity.”

 

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