With region play set to begin this week for the majority of area high school football teams, St. James coach Billy Hurston is realistic in how his region shapes up.
"You're talking about one of the premier teams in the state of South Carolina," the Sharks coach said of Myrtle Beach, the favorite in the six-team Region VIII-AAA. "I don't know if they'll lose a region game.
"They're the cream of the crop. They're probably going to go undefeated in the region."
It's the other five teams in the region, though, that leave a load of uncertainty this week, the start of contention for a playoff berth for four teams in the division.
Most coaches believe - like Hurston - that Myrtle Beach is a lock to not only earn a playoff spot, but also to win the league. If that's the case, Georgetown, St. James, North Myrtle Beach, Socastee and Wilson will be competing for the final three postseason bids.
Myrtle Beach opens region play tonight against Wilson; the other four teams begin Friday, with North Myrtle Beach playing at Socastee and St. James traveling to Georgetown.
For most, breaking down the region beyond Myrtle Beach is a waste of time.
"We have North Myrtle Beach this week, and we have to worry about going 1-0," Socastee coach Tim Renfrow said. "I really don't [make predictions]. There's a lot that can happen, even two weeks ahead."
If the region schedule pans out like the non-conference did, Myrtle Beach, Georgetown, Wilson and Socastee will grab the four postseason berths. St. James and North Myrtle Beach both enter region play 0-5, and averaged fewer than eight points per game, helping several of their respective losses become complete blowouts.
There's only one problem with projecting one into the other; region games, at least in Class AA and AAA, are the only thing that matter come playoff seeding time. Several teams have been playing schedules above or below the level they will face in the next five weeks.
There's also the factor that several region teams have been adapting to new schemes (North Myrtle Beach), new players (Socastee) or injuries (St. James). It's hard to determine if or when any of those three teams - none of which has defeated an in-state team - will snap out of their current funk.
Whichever does first will increase it's chances for a playoff spot immediately.
That points to games like Friday's North Myrtle Beach-Socastee matchup. A win puts either team in great position, while the losing team faces an extreme uphill battle to the postseason.
Regardless, the fight for the playoffs won't end this week, but it does begin.