Next phase: Former Catawba County prep football players have high hopes for future

New Myrtle Beach Prep football players (from L-R): Kentrell Williams (Maiden, Class of 2018), Montrell Stinson (Maiden, Class of 2019) and Aushawn Mull (Maiden, Class of 2019).In this O-N-E file photo, former Red Devils' running back, Tylor Stinson (24) attempts to break away from a Bandys' defender during the blowout road win, 55-7, on September 29, 2017.
Marcus Smith
Sports Editor

Trials and tribulations affect everyone at some point in time and may falter one’s progress in life. Student-athletes are no exception, especially as an individual travels from the high school stage to the next phase of an athletic career.

Several local talents at the high school level dealt with the factors of turmoil -- whether it be academically, personally and/or lack of recruitment by collegiate coaches -- over the course of the past year.

Myrtle Beach Prep Academy displayed itself to football players from Catawba County during this span which include: Montrell Stinson (Maiden), Aushawn Mull (Maiden), Kentrell Williams (Maiden) and Tylor Stinson (Newton-Conover).

The Panthers’ football organization is there for these athletes on the post-high school level as a way for the players to showcase their talents once again in hopes of gaining a spot on a D1 or D2 collegiate program or at the very least get the recruiters to notice them.

Myrtle Beach Prep is a post-grad/junior college program based out of Myrtle Beach, S.C that has been in existence since 2016. Founded as ‘Southern Sports Academy’ and then changed to its current name, the program helps student-athletes earn academic credit and scores they need to earn scholarships at four-year institutions. That, in addition to the on-the-field experience, is how the Panthers look to assist its attendees with a ‘Trust the Process’ motto.

Montrell Stinson was the first of this bunch from the area to hear about the opportunity to play with the Panthers from offensive coordinator, Brandon Ikard. Ikard was formerly an assistant coach for the Blue Devils the last several seasons before taking his current position at Myrtle Beach Prep Academy earlier this year. Stinson went to a practice during his senior year in 2019 and liked what he saw from the organization and what it could do for him.

“During the Spring, I went down there and did a little practicing and doing my thing, and it just felt like home,” said Stinson.

Stinson wouldn’t come alone though, as he spoke to Williams, Mull and his cousin Tylor about the opportunity they could have to find retribution in hopes of living their dream by competing for the Panthers.

Williams began his high school career at Newton-Conover High School before leaving for Maiden during the 2017 season. As a senior running back, Williams amassed 1,031 yards on the ground while obtaining 10 rushing touchdowns on 114 carries. He would average nine yards per carry and 103.1 yards per game.

Athletically, he had the tools in high school. Williams said that his grades weren’t quite up to standard for the recruits. That’s an area he is adamant about correcting once at Myrtle Beach Prep.

“They didn’t really have a lot of film (on me at Maiden or Newton-Conover), so I didn’t really get to send enough to a lot of coaches,” said Williams. “So, then I took a year off and went to CVCC and got some college credit. Then I found out about this (opportunity), so I’m just glad to get back...I want to prove that I got the ability to do good in school and hopefully prove (myself) to a lot of people that didn’t think that I could do it.”

For Tylor Stinson, he had everything one could ask for on the gridiron as the feature running back for Newton-Conover -- South Fork 2A All-Conference honors, etc. Stinson played varsity all four years of high school (2014-18) and garnered nearly 4,000 career rushing yards (3,750) and 55 rushing TDs on 467 carries as apart of the Red Devils.

However, his great play became tampered with in his senior season during the 2017-18 year.

Stinson would go through some tragic personal turmoil that season beginning with the loss of his grandfather whom he loved dearly.

“He didn’t get to see me play, and that hurt me,” he said.

Also during that final year, he dealt with legal issues which involved a drug possession/charge that hindered his chances of getting recruited. Having to put all of that behind him, Stinson is ready to prove that he can still play the game he loves.

“I want to make a 360 (turnaround) and take it as far as I can take it for my community and family,” said Stinson. “(I’m) just blessed my dream is back.”

As far as his little cousin, Montrell, he played at the wide receiver and defensive back positions for Maiden. In his junior and senior years on the Blue Devils’ varsity squad, Stinson had a collective 43 receptions leading to 883 total receiving yards. He also accumulated eight receiving TDs while averaging 20.5 yards per reception.

Stinson feels that he was overlooked by recruiters with the Blue Devils and looks to improve in order to get noticed.

“I really want to improve my speed, footwork and agility (at the next level) and hopefully get a D1 offer,” he said.

In terms of former Maiden Blue Devils’ nose guard, Aushawn Mull, there isn’t a lot of stats to go on via MaxPreps, but he is ready to get in there for the Panthers’ and earn his opportunity.

“I missed my junior year,” said Mull. “I started my sophomore year, but I missed it (junior season) because of grades and all that. That kind of held me back from learning and doing all of the stuff I needed to learn, so my senior year I didn’t get to show what I got that much.

“I’m trying to get a second chance, go down here (Myrtle Beach) and stay there, and give whatever I got to show if I can go to a D1/D2 school.”

Mull said he needs to work on his defense, as well as his stance on what direction he’s supposed to go in so he can be a leader instead of being one of the people that holds everybody back.

Mull and the other three former Catawba County players will get their chance to begin anew when it competes in its first game with the Panthers on August 31 in a home opener against Louisburg College.