Carolina Forest’s travel budget was at the mercy of the South Carolina High School League.
At least in terms of the initial realignment proposal sent to schools Monday, the Panthers have got to feel like they were pardoned.
The SCHSL – moving to a five-class system for the first time in state history beginning next year – plans to keep Carolina Forest’s current region intact for the subsequent two-year block. That means the Panthers will continue to share a region with Conway, Socastee, West Florence, South Florence and Sumter. Considering some of the alternatives, primarily those pairing Carolina Forest with teams in Charleston or Columbia, this proposal worked out in the Panthers’ favor.
“With regards to what some other options could have been, logistically, I like this,” Carolina Forest Athletics Director Tripp Satterwhite said. “There are some size differentials, but you’re going to see that everywhere.”
Schools have until Sept. 16 to formally appeal any portion of Monday’s proposal, one that includes new region assignments as well as new class standards. The appeals process, though, is not an easy one. Schools are requested to receive letters of support from any other program that would be affected by a shift.
Many schools probably also lost grounds for an appeal simply because of how the SCHSL separated the classes. Some around the state believed the organization would reduce the number of teams in Class AAAAA and Class A to keep the biggest and smallest schools together.
Instead, the SCHSL placed approximately the same number of teams (42) in each class. That number is important, if for no other reason that Conway, according to the average daily membership numbers the SCHSL is using for this realignment, is the 42nd-largest school in the state with 1,618 students.
“Knowing what our numbers were, I expected to see us in AAAA,” Conway Interim Athletics Director Marion Shaw said. “I pulled it up and ‘Whoa, AAAAA?’ I’m not ever shocked by the High School League. But I was surprised. I never wanted to be the biggest. But I didn’t want to be the smallest. It puts us in a tough situation.”
Shaw, who served in the same position at Carolina Forest for a portion of last year, went into realignment talks with nearly as much concern for his former school as his current one.
While the pairings for that local Class AAAAA region allow all involved to continue their regular-season scheduling practices without increased costs, Shaw pointed out that the difference will be felt in the playoffs. That may be unavoidable based on the size of the three largest schools in the state.
Wando (4,065 students), Dorman (3,219) and Summerville (2,878) are all significantly bigger than Sumter (fifth in South Carolina with 2,310 students) or seventh-ranked Carolina Forest (2,239).
“Those three are always going to cause a problem,” Shaw said. “Well, maybe not cause a problem, but if I’m going to battle, I’d rather have 4,065 than 1,618 guys on the battle field.”
Placing Conway and Socastee, which is one spot ahead of the Tigers, in Class AAAAA eliminated the possibility of what Shaw called a “super region” involving five Horry County schools. However, Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach and St. James were placed in a Region VII-AAAA with current mate Wilson and newcomer Marlboro County. Aynor, Georgetown, Loris and Waccamaw will be in Class AAA, with Georgetown paired with teams from farther south; Carvers Bay will move to Class AA and Green Sea-Floyds will remain in Class A.
That’s assuming no major appeals change positioning.
SCHSL proposed realignment for 2016-2018
Where local teams landed
Region VI-AAAAA: Carolina Forest, Conway, Socastee, South Florence, Sumter, West Florence
Region VII-AAAA: Marlboro County, Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach, St. James, Wilson
Region VI-AAA: Aynor, Dillon, Lake City, Loris, Waccamaw
Region VII-AAA: Bishop England, Georgetown, Hanahan, Lake Marion, Manning, Timberland
Region VII-AA: Andrews, Carvers Bay, Johnsonville, Kingstree, Latta, Marion, Mullins
Region VI-A: Creek Bridge, East Clarendon, Green Sea-Floyds, Hannah-Pamplico, Hemingway, Lake View