High school football in this area will have a different look and a definite new feel heading into the 2008 season.
Change is probably the best word to describe what's transpired since last year's state championships ended.
The biggest thing that changed -- the realignment in Class AAAA -- still has folks in York County wondering what happened.
Region 3-AAAA was broken up, but it's not just that. It's a case of trying to make sense of why it was done.
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For years there's been talk and strong anticipation about how good it would be having a region that included all the county's teams. Each game would be the hottest ticket in town. It would be a financial bonanza for all seven teams -- Clover, Fort Mill, Nation Ford, Northwestern, Rock Hill, South Pointe and York -- because the stands would be packed on Friday nights. It would cut down on travel and give fans ample time to get to games on time.
Not going to happen, at least not for two years.
The South Carolina High School League, as instructed by its member schools, handled the realignment for the 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years and split Rock Hill's three high schools.
"We were all shocked when we saw the realignment," Northwestern athletics director Bill Warren said. "Every proposal we had seen out there had the three schools together. I think it was an error that can be corrected in two years when realignment comes up again.
"We hope the classification bodies will take back realignment instead of the High School League doing it. If that is the case, Class AAAA will do its own realignment. Each member school will get to vote on which proposal to approve. With the league doing it, we didn't have a vote."
Nation Ford, which played an independent football schedule last year, becomes a full member of Region 3-AAAA this season and Gaffney was moved in from Region 2-AAAA. The four holdovers are Clover, Fort Mill, Northwestern and York.
Rock Hill and South Pointe, along with Lancaster, were moved out of Region 3-AAAA and into Columbia-based Region 4-AAAA. The other members are Blythewood, up from Class AAA this season, Ridge View and Spring Valley.
Warren was joined at the SCHSL office in Columbia by ADs Billy Parker of Rock Hill and Mike Drummond of South Pointe to appeal the changes. They presented a proposal to keep the Rock Hill schools together, but it was denied by the league's executive committee by a vote of 9-5.
The split means Rock Hill and Northwestern will not be in the same region for the first time since 1972 -- Northwestern played an independent football schedule its first season in 1971. They won't be playing in the final game of the regular season for the first time since Northwestern joined the old Region 2-AAAA in 1972.
During that time, they have shared the same football field -- District Three Stadium. Northwestern and Rock Hill have often had rematches in the playoffs, and the Bearcats hold a slight lead in the series, 23-20.
Rock Hill coach Joe Montgomery said the Bearcats and Trojans should have never been split, that his team will be bypassing schools to get to schools farther away.
"We've always look forward to playing Northwestern in the last game," Montgomery said. "If we are in the same region at the next realignment, I'd like to go back to playing Northwestern in the final game. It's a long rivalry, but when we play will be left up to the athletic directors."
Because they are split doesn't mean the rivalry is ending. Rock Hill will play Northwestern in a non-region game the third week of the season, but it will lack the buildup it has enjoyed for years. It's been a matchup that has decided the region championship many times and has had a direct bearing on the Class AAAA playoffs.
Rock Hill's schedule is heavy with Region 3-AAAA teams. Besides Northwestern, the Bearcats play Nation Ford, Clover, Fort Mill and York.
South Pointe, in its third year of varsity football, plays Clover, Northwestern, York and Fort Mill. The Clover game on Sept. 12 has much promise. Clover won the Class AAAA Division II state championship last season. South Pointe is already being mentioned as a favorite this year.
The Trojans and Bearcats end the regular season with attractive games. Rock Hill plays South Pointe. Northwestern plays Gaffney.
But nothing can replace Northwestern vs. Rock Hill.
Preseason practice starts Aug. 1 and is open to the public.