MYRTLE BEACH – In one of the most intense high school football games on the Grand Strand this season, Carolina Forest scored a touchdown with no time on the clock to beat Socastee, 46-44, on Oct. 22.
After a pass interference penalty on Socastee occurred in the end zone as the clock expired with the Braves leading 44-40, Carolina Forest was awarded an untimed down. On the next play, Socastee was called for pass interference again, giving the Panthers another play.
That's when Panthers senior running back Luke Janack plunged into the end zone from five yards out for his fifth touchdown of the game, giving the Panthers the win and a berth in the Class AAAAA state playoffs.
“What can you say about Luke Janack getting his way in the end zone right there from the 5-yard line,” Panthers head coach Marc Morris said. “I didn’t know how we were going to win or lose, but I was going to try to do it with the ball in his hands.”
Morris also gave credit to senior wide receiver Nathan Schuessler for a big kickoff return that set the Panthers up with good field position on their final drive following a go-ahead touchdown by Socastee.
Late in the third quarter, Panthers junior defensive back Haiden Glazer picked off Socastee sophomore quarterback Rocco Wojcik to set the Panthers up at the Socastee 45. Glazer finished with two interceptions in the game.
Carolina Forest took advantage of the turnover with an 8-yard touchdown run from sophomore running back Kalil Johnson to give the Panthers a 40-31 lead with 11:42 to go in the game.
After the teams traded interceptions, Wojcik cut the Panther lead to 40-38 with a 25-yard touchdown run with 4:48 to go in the game.
Socastee head coach Ben Hampton called an onside kick, which his team recovered. The Braves then drove the ball down the field and scored a touchdown with 35 seconds to play when Wojcik found senior wide receiver Jakari Harmon for a 12-yard touchdown on third-and-goal to give the Braves a 44-40 lead.
That set the stage for Carolina Forest's last-minute comeback.
“I can’t speak enough (on) how hard coach Hampton’s staff coached and how hard his kids played,” Morris said. “We’re real fortunate to win tonight.”
The win brought Carolina Forest’s overall record to 4-4 and its Region 6-AAAAA record to 2-1, guaranteeing it can finish no lower than fourth in the region. That fact is crucial because only four of the five teams in the region make the playoffs.
Meanwhile, Socastee fell to 1-5 overall and 1-3 in region play. The Braves will need St. James and/or Conway to lose Friday night, as both those teams are 1-2 in the region, to stay alive in the playoff hunt. If that happens, the final region standings will be determined by tiebreakers.
St. James will host Carolina Forest on Friday with a home playoff game on the line for the Panthers, while Conway will host region-winner Sumter. Socastee’s region schedule is finished, and it will travel to non-region rival Waccamaw for its final regular-season game.