It’s been a minute since I’ve had time for one of these Sunday morning recaps, but there’s a lot to unpack after Week 10 of the high school football season.
We have one week of makeup games left for SCHSL teams, but the state’s private schools are set for the playoffs … just as soon as SCISA settles on a bracket. More on this below, but if you’re a fan of Hilton Head Christian Academy or John Paul II, be sure to take your blood pressure medication before reading any further.
Here are Five Things I Think I Know after Week 10:
1. SCISA backed itself into a corner. From the moment SCISA announced it would not extend the regular season or make up games postponed by Hurricane Florence — including region games — it was obvious the short-sighted decision would affect playoff seeding. Teams were suddenly playing unbalanced schedules (one team might lose a game against a winless team, while another avoided playing an undefeated team) which is inherently unfair. But it was determined that playoff seeding would be determined by region records based on the games played … or so we were led to believe. Somehow, SCISA arrived at the conclusion of awarding Hilton Head Prep (2-1 in region) the top seed over Hilton Head Christian Academy and John Paul II (each 3-1 in region). A you-know-what storm ensued, and now we’re still waiting on an official announcement, but SCISA has put itself in a no-win situation at this point. Maybe the Dolphins would have won that game against Orangeburg Prep. Who knows? But awarding them the No. 1 seed presumes that, and it’s far from a given. With that said …
2. What Hilton Head Prep has done is impressive. The criticism of SCISA’s handling of the playoff seeding fiasco is not intended to diminish what the Dolphins have done this season. The fight they showed against John Paul II, losing on the last play of the game, was promising, and they backed it up by winning their final three regular-season games, including a stunning 35-19 win over presumed region champion Hilton Head Christian. Stone McDonald is an absolute gamer, Hunter Hopman and Tommy Stauffer are playmakers, and the defense has made huge strides. The Dolphins won’t be an easy out in the playoffs.
3. Too many teams make the SCHSL playoffs. At least one Class 4A team will make the playoffs with one win, and four two-win teams will qualify in Class 3A. In most cases, those teams will travel at least three hours to play first-round games in which they will be hammered by 30+ points. It just doesn’t make sense. SCHSL should reduce the field from 32 teams to 24 and give the region champions a first-round bye. To do so, they should reduce the number of automatic qualifiers per region from four to two, putting more importance on each region game, and fill in the bracket with at-large teams — which allows the committee to consider the teams’ entire body of work rather than just their region record and accounts for a region that is stacked with multiple playoff-caliber teams while omitting the third- and fourth-place teams from weaker regions. With that said …
4. Hilton Head High should get in the playoffs. While too many teams make the Class 4A playoffs (seriously, 32 out of 40 is absurd) the Seahawks should be one of them under the current system. Because Class 4A is so small in the latest realignment, five at-large teams will fill out the bracket, and there’s no clear criteria for how they’ll be picked. Three of the at-larges are in the Lower State bracket, and there are only four candidates for those spots. One will certainly go to the odd team out in Region 6, which has four top-10 quality teams. The other three contenders are Hilton Head High (4-5, 0-3 in Region 7), Crestwood (1-8) and Aiken (1-8). Both Crestwood and Aiken have a region win, but they also played five region games compared to Hilton Head’s three. If the Seahawks are denied a playoff spot, something is wrong.
5. Buckle up for a long postseason. Last November was a disappointing one for area teams, as everyone in the LowcoSports coverage area was eliminated by the second round of the playoffs. Don’t expect such an early exit this time around. It’s conceivable we could have representatives in the SCISA 2A, SCISA 1A, and SCISA 8-man championship games three weekends from now, and several area public school teams are poised to make deep runs. Just how deep remains to be seen, but May River has proven it is one of the top teams in Class 3A (and that potential third-round matchup with fellow unbeaten Dillon looks like a doozy) while Bluffton and Beaufort High are battle-tested teams that are peaking at the right time. Let’s enjoy the ride as long as we can.
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