Welcome to the real thing, ladies and gentlemen.
After weeks of seeing what the Grand Strand high school football teams have to offer, Friday's games start determining playoff positioning (or lack thereof) for squads in the state's lower three classes.
Once again, there are plenty of great story lines about to play out. Socastee attempts to move to 6-0 for the first time in coach Tim Renfrow's 10 seasons. North Myrtle Beach - which heads to Socastee - is playing for its fifth win of the year after failing to win a single game each of the last two seasons.
Myrtle Beach is putting its 19-game region winning streak on the line when it travels to Wilson. St. James tries to recoup from an emotional week as it makes its way to Georgetown. Aynor, Loris and Waccamaw all try to make that crucial first step in Region VIII-AA. And Carvers Bay (Region VII-A) attempts to keep its four-game winning streak going while Green Sea-Floyds (Region VIII-A) goes against arguably its toughest region foe all season.
On to this week's predictions:
GREEN SEA-FLOYDS (1-4) AT JOHNSONVILLE (5-0): Think it's safe to assume that no one is going to take Johnsonville lightly the rest of the way. The Flashes are starting to come into the state title contender picture, and they have the look a team that could go undefeated throughout the regular season. Green Sea-Floyds is still reeling after a difficult non-region schedule. Had it not been for the near-season-long loss of running back Rashad Bessant, maybe things would be different. As it stands, Bessant (ankle) probably won't be back until Week 9 or Week 10, if at all. Prediction: Johnsonville 36, Green Sea-Floyds 13
CARVERS BAY (4-1) AT C.E. MURRAY (1-4): Carvers Bay's only loss came to the aforementioned Johnsonville Flashes. Since then, all the Bears have done is defeat four opponents, including three teams from higher classes (Andrews, Georgetown, St. James) and a quality Class A foe (St. John's). Nate Thompson's team has adjusted to running back losses of its own. Still, it has positioned itself as one of three teams believed to have a shot to win the region. Prediction: Carvers Bay 22, C.E. Murray 11
ANDREWS (1-4) AT LEE CENTRAL (3-2): Andrews started to figure out how to move the ball a little better in last week's loss at Stall. However, the Yellow Jackets have a long way to go if they're going to keep up with some of the high-scoring teams in this region. Timberland, Lake Marion and Lee Central are all averaging more than 32 points per game. Lee Central is prone to giving up points (80 vs. Hartsville, 54 vs. Central). Andrews probably isn't there yet, though. Prediction: Lee Central 36, Andrews 25
WACCAMAW (3-2) AT MULLINS (1-4): Waccamaw may have been a long-shot to beat Timmonsville last week. And while the Warriors fell 50-0, they need to make sure it's a one-week deal. Mullins is struggling a bit, and a win on the road would do wonders for a Waccamaw team that has already eclipsed last year's win total. Mullins, though, has a strong recent history against Waccamaw. Home-field advantage won't hurt, either. Prediction: Mullins 20, Waccamaw 15
MARION (1-4) AT LORIS (3-2): Marion may be one of the harder teams on this side of the state to figure out. The Swamp Foxes lost their first four games - including three straight by at least 25 points - and then turned around last week and beat Hemingway, a perennial Class A power. Find it hard to believe that Marion has it all straightened out, and Loris has lost just once at home in coach Jamie Snider's first season and a half. Prediction: Loris 17, Marion 13
DILLON (4-1) AT AYNOR (4-1): As we said this week on the Weekly Web Chat, Aynor is having one heck of a season and it is proving to itself that winning isn't impossible at the small Class A school. There's a big difference between winning and beating Dillon. The Wildcats lost last week to a very athletic Marlboro County team. So not only is Dillon very talented and had another week to get healthy, it's angry. Prediction: Dillon 41, Aynor 14
ST. JAMES (1-4) AT GEORGETOWN (3-2): How many close games can St. James lose this year? The Sharks have played everyone close, only to have that one miscue in the fourth quarter cost them. St. James' running game has the ability to frustrate opponents with smaller defensive lines. Georgetown isn't one of those teams. The Bulldogs have a pair of defensive linemen who are playing high-quality football, and their size advantage could be the difference. Prediction: Georgetown 23, St. James 19
MYRTLE BEACH (5-0) AT WILSON (2-3): This may be the most diverse Myrtle Beach team Mickey Wilson has had. It's also the most inconsistent. The Seahawks have won games with special teams, offense and defense. But they've yet to have anything that could be consider a near-complete game. Here's the thing: The next five games may equate to some of the easiest on Myrtle Beach's schedule until the postseason. This is when the Seahawks start to fine-tune all that raw talent they've displayed during the first five games. Prediction: Myrtle Beach 38, Wilson 15
NORTH MYRTLE BEACH (4-1) AT SOCASTEE (5-0): If North Myrtle Beach tailback Delonzo Willams doesn't play Friday - which, I believe he will - Socastee may be able to turn this into a laugher. Williams is the glue to the Chiefs offense and he gives them the type of offensive weapon that can give the North Myrtle Beach defense necessary breathers throughout the game. Otherwise, Socastee's triple-option may simply wear down the Chiefs. Still, it may not matter. The Braves are averaging 40 points per game, and for the most part, they've done it against some teams with bigger defenses. Prediction: Socastee 38, North Myrtle Beach 28
Last week: 6-2