High School Football

Conway awaits Wednesday appeal that will decide football playoff fate

Conway football coach Chuck Jordan believed his team’s season was over.

The staff had already collected pads and helmets and had come to grips with a 5-7 season and a first-round playoff loss to Goose Creek. It was the end of an era for the Tigers, who were seemingly done playing with star quarterback Mykal Moody.

By fourth period Tuesday, Jordan was handing gear back out to his players.

Goose Creek was disqualified from the playoffs earlier in the day for the use of an ineligible player, South Carolina High School League Associate Commissioner Dru Nix confirmed. It means that Conway – at least for the time being – was awarded a 1-0 victory in its game against Goose Creek and was re-inserted into the Class AAAA, Division II bracket.

Goose Creek will have an appeal with the SCHSL at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. The 18-member executive committee will decide if the Gators or Conway are playing football this week.

“We didn’t deserve to be in the playoffs because we got beat,” Jordan said. “[But] we’re going to go play, and we’re going to compete.

“We’re going to practice as long as they let us. It’s one of those things that we can’t control.”

Should Goose Creek’s appeal be denied, Conway would then travel to No. 9 seed Bluffton (11-1) for Friday’s second-round game. The Bobcats spent the majority of the season ranked in the top five of the Class AAAA statewide poll before falling to Summerville in the regular-season finale. Bluffton soundly defeated South Florence in the first round last week.

If Goose Creek is allowed to remain in the postseason, Bluffton will head to Goose Creek. Gators coach Chuck Reedy did not immediately return a message from The Sun News.

Jordan, who is the chair of the Class AAAA football committee, will have nothing to do with Wednesday’s appeal process, a customary practice by the SCHSL to limit conflicts of interest.

That doesn’t mean the Tigers won’t be hoping for the best.

In this case, that means not only playing, but doing so with Moody behind center. The Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas selection and a finalist for South Carolina’s Mr. Football award, Moody has not played since the team’s Oct. 19 loss at South Florence.

He played a handful of snaps as a decoy the following week against Sumter before sitting out the regular-season finale against Carolina Forest and the now in-doubt game against Goose Creek.

Jordan said until Moody gets into the flow of practice, the coach won’t know the quarterback’s availability for a potential game Friday.

“We’re going to see what he can do,” Jordan said. “All he has done since the season has ended has ride a stationary bike. I’m not going to put him in harm’s way. … He’s got to convince me that he can play. He wants to play. He’s wanted to play all along. But I’m not going to put him out there if he can’t protect himself.”

Again, that option is still a SCHSL ruling away from even coming up.

If Goose Creek’s appeal is denied, it would be a huge blow for Gators’ coaches, players and fans. Goose Creek was ranked No. 1 in the state, as high as No. 11 in one of the national polls and had won 25 consecutive games. That stretch of victories included last year’s Class AAAA, Division II state championship win over Greenwood.

Goose Creek was the unanimous favorite to win the title again this season.

As disappointed as the immediate decision and potential ultimate one is for the Gators, it’s not the only time this year a South Carolina program has faced discipline that affected the playoff races. Lower Richland was booted from the Class AAA playoff bracket a day before the second round for using an ineligible player. Then, hours before the start of the Class AAAA playoffs were set to begin it was discovered that Byrnes was also facing potential issues.

It was later discovered that Byrnes’ problems were associated with a junior varsity player that had no role in the varsity program, thus leaving the Rebels in the postseason.

However, the fact that at least three teams were facing disqualification in one year was a concern for Nix and the SCHSL.

“As always, we educate. It’s up to the schools to follow the rules,” she said. “They have to abide by them.”