Carolina Forest knows its final game of 2012 won’t mean anything in terms of the Panthers’ playoff scenario.
Coach Drew Hummel’s team will finish in fifth place in the five-team Region VI-AAAA, and the Panthers will be at home for the fifth straight season come playoff time. Still, Carolina Forest can play the spoiler role to a degree when it takes on Conway at home this Friday.
Conway is already assured itself of a playoff bid. With a victory over the Panthers, the Tigers (5-5, 2-1) will assure themselves a top-two finish in the region and likely a home playoff game. If that happens and if West Florence beats South Florence, Conway would then win the region outright.
Carolina Forest has won just one time in this series, and while the Panthers wished they were doing more than simply hurting their biggest rival’s playoff possibilities, a tough season has left Hummel and a team with plenty of promise knowing that is about the extent of the meaning behind this game.
“We’re out of the playoff race. But it’s like anything – you’re going to coach it the same was as if it was Week 1,” Hummel said. “You expect your team to play as hard as they can and perform as well as they can.
“It is the Conway game. It is the rivalry game. It is senior night for the kids. We’re going to go out there and try to win a football game.”
That has happened just once so far this season. The Panthers (1-9, 0-3 Region VI-AAAA) took on a brutal non-region schedule with 16 sophomores on the varsity roster. Hummel hoped it would better prepare his team for the region slate.
However, things haven’t gone Carolina Forest’s way there, either.
The Panthers lost their first three region games by an average of four touchdowns. That includes last Friday’s 44-0 loss to West Florence.
That loss eliminated the Panthers from playoff contention, something that has been said at some point during each of Carolina Forest’s first five seasons in Class AAAA. Since moving up to the state’s largest class in 2008, it has lost twice as many games as it has won (18-36) entering Friday’s game.
Hummel is not immune to the fact that for a football coach, that often doesn’t lead to a vote of confidence.
“Nobody likes losing, and nobody likes the season that we’re having,” Hummel said. “I understand the cat calls. And that’s for someone higher than me to decide.”
Carolina Forest Athletics Director Boe Rainbow did not immediately return a phone message Monday. However, Hummel said that there has been no indication that Friday will be his last game.
He said regardless of what happens in the next several weeks, he wants to be back on the Carolina Forest sidelines next season.
“We’ve got unfinished business,” he said. “We knew coming into this thing that this team was young and some things had to go right for us. The future is good, and we want to see it through.
“I think we can get this thing the way we can get it. It’s almost like a new adventure for us. We had some chances to win some of those games. But when you’re playing as many sophomores as we had to play against some of the people we had to play, that was a disadvantage right off the bat.”
Sullivan ready for year two
Green Sea Floyds coach Tony Sullivan’s initial season at the school has come to a close, and already, he’s starting to prepare for the next step.
The Trojans finished a disappointing 3-7. Sullivan won’t make excuses, but his team took a number of blows even before the first game.
Expected starters – quarterback Holden Clark and tight end/defensive end Hunter Floyd – transferred out of the school. Then, starting running back Rashad Bessant went down with a knee injury in the preseason.
With the normally small roster, finding replacements was anything but easy, and as a result, Green Sea Floyds missed the playoffs.
“We kind of let a couple games get away from us,” Sullivan said. “The Waccamaw game, we had a chance to win that thing. We had Hannah-Pamplico here a couple weeks ago. Those two games right there, those points possibly at the end, those points really hurt you. We really had a chance to be sitting here [qualified for the Class A, Division I postseason].
“It’s one of those deals that when we would make big plays, we’d find a way to shoot ourselves in the foot. … Our biggest opponent this year was ourselves.”
Sullivan said his players need to put in some quality time in the weight room during the offseason, but he said that is almost minor compared with the mental block holding up his team. The coach said lack of interest in the program and what seemed like a swirl of coaching changes hasn’t helped in years past.
Considering one-quarter of the 36-man roster was seniors, an influx of players will be welcome. At the same time, there were only four juniors this season.
“We’ve got potential athletes walking the hall,” Sullivan said. “Either they didn’t come out or they came out and they quit. We’ve got to get some savvy and get some guys learning the system.
“We’ve got to get the numbers up and get the kids out and believing. I think they do believe I’m not going to leave them high and dry like some of the other coaches they’ve had. With my commitment to them, and they see that, I think they’re going to do more.”
Sullivan added that his team’s schedule in 2013 will look similar to that of 2012. However, North Carolina rules state scheduled Week 0 opponent West Columbus cannot play that early. Sullivan said his team will likely use Week 0 as an off week and then likely try to find another opponent from North Carolina in Week 7.
Most South Carolina schools will be in the second year of the regular two-year blocks for schedules.