SCHSL’s five-class football plan may join Strand teams

A new proposal by the SCHSL to create five football classifications beginning in the 2014 season would form a Grand Strand “super-region” featuring Conway, Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach, Socastee and St. James.

The SCHSL outlined the plan as an alternative to the reclassification for the current four-class system for football only. Talks will be held in January and one of the two plans will be approved by the spring, the SCHSL said.

The five-class system would mean major changes to football in the Palmetto State. For starters, all schools would play an 11-game regular season. Currently only Class 4A teams play 11, while the smaller three play on 10.

But the biggest change would come in the postseason. With each class featuring eight five-team “divisions” rather than “regions,” only the top two teams from each division would advance to the playoffs as opposed to the current four.

That would mean only teams with winning records would make the postseason, and some teams over .500 would be left out in the cold. The current system allows three to four teams from each five- to six-team region to advance.

Most importantly, SC schools would compete for only five state championships, not the seven that the current plan calls for Class A, 2A and 4A split into two divisions for the playoffs; only Class 3A competes for one state title. Many argue seven state titles waters down the accomplishment in a state the size of SC.

Regardless of which plan passes, the Grand Strand stands to see sweeping changes to the current alignment. The five-class plan would send Conway, which ranks near the bottom of 4A schools in terms of enrollment, into the a division with local rivals Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach, Socastee and St. James.

Carolina Forest, one of the largest schools in the state, would be assigned to a 5A district with teams based as far away as Columbia. Under the plan, some schools, like Conway, would reap the benefits of less travel and higher gate receipts as a result of playing closer competition while schools like Carolina Forest, would see greater travel costs and decreased attendance.

However, if the SCHSL decides to stick to the current four-class system, Myrtle Beach would be the odd team out of the old Region 8-3A. Attendance splits would keep the Seahawks to Class 3A and face a new region lineup without chief rivals Socastee, NMB and St. James. Those three would move to Class 4A with Conway, and Carolina Forest rise to 5A.

Photo by Rancier Photography

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