High School Football

Multimedia: Examining new football regions created by SCHSL’s 2016-18 realignment

Three of the top returning players in The Herald’s coverage area: (from left to right) York’s Wally Wilmore, Northwestern’s Jerry Howard and Chester’s Malik Williams.
Three of the top returning players in The Herald’s coverage area: (from left to right) York’s Wally Wilmore, Northwestern’s Jerry Howard and Chester’s Malik Williams. Photo illustration

South Carolina high school athletics will have five classifications for the first time beginning this August.

As with any realignment, drastic change and historic consistency are plopped right alongside each other. The Herald coverage area’s first 5A region includes five schools that are incredibly familiar with each other - Nation Ford, Fort Mill, Northwestern, Rock Hill and Clover. These five will have the shortest average region trip in the state, a sure boon to their coffers when combined with the ease of travel for fans.

Meanwhile, Indian Land - a school built in 1928- has played just four games (since schools were desegregated in 1971) against its new region rivals, the closest of which, Chester, is 39 miles away.

A few others changes include the abolition of the points system for determining playoff teams. Set numbers of schools from each region will go to the postseason, taking the end of season, midnight arithmetic out of the picture. And each school will play 10 regular season games regardless of classification.

Scroll through this multimedia project to learn more about the new regions created in the 2016-18 realignment:

Region 4-5A

Clover, Fort Mill, Nation Ford, Northwestern, Rock Hill

Which school is most likely to win the region this fall?

▪ Clover

Know this: The Blue Eagles’ first three games this fall - and first four in 2017 - will be against teams from nearby Gastonia.

Coach Chad Smith: “A team like (Belmont) South Point will bring just a big a gate as York will. It was a huge deal for Clover when they dropped the points system because we can now pick up those Gastonia schools again and make those natural rivalries.”

Chad Smith talks about the Blue Eagles’ 2016 schedule in this video.


August: 19 Ashbrook (N.C.); 26 at Forestview (N.C.)

September: 2 Open; 9 South Point (N.C); 16 Franklin Christian; 23 at York; 30 Nation Ford

October: 7 Fort Mill; 14 at Northwestern; 21 at Rock Hill, 28 Boiling Springs

▪ Fort Mill

Know this: The Yellow Jackets have had two straight seasons without a losing record. The last time they did that three years in a row (four, actually) was 1990 to 1993, when York AD Steve Boyd was the coach at Fort Mill.

Coach Ed Susi: “I'm used to it and it took me a while to figure it out. It's helped us the last couple of years, especially last year, by playing who we played it got us in the playoffs. I don't know, it's something new, we'll go with it and see what happens.”

Ed Susi talks about the Yellow Jackets’ new-look 2016 schedule in this video.


August: 19 at Spring Valley; 26 at West Florence

September: 2 at Lancaster; 9 Orangeburg- Wilkinson

16 York; 23 Open; 30 Northwestern

October: 7 at Clover; 14 Rock Hill; 21 Dorman; 28 Nation Ford

▪ Nation Ford

Know this: All three of Nation Ford’s winning football seasons have come in the last four years.

Coach Michael Allen on which school Nation Ford drew in the cross-scheduling with Region 3-5A: “We had to draw it out of a hat and one of my assistant coaches went up and drew and of course he picked Byrnes. He wasn’t real happy about that but we’re gonna embrace that challenge.”

What else does Michael Allen think about Nation Ford’s 2016 schedule? Find out in this video.


August: 19 Irmo; 26 at South Pointe

September: 2 Open; 9 at York; 16 Lancaster; 23 Indian Land; 30 at Clover

October: 7 at Rock Hill; 14 at Byrnes; 21 Northwestern; 28 Fort Mill

▪ Northwestern

Know this: The Trojans might have the hardest non-region schedule in the state. All six of their 2016 non-region foes made the playoffs last season; the four that won playoff games - South Pointe, Dorman, Byrnes and Spartanburg - also reached the state semifinals in their respective classification. Two played in state championship games, South Pointe winning and Dorman losing.

Coach David Pierce: “The realignment was done to save money on travel, when in actuality, Northwestern is gonna travel more.”

Find out what Northwestern’s new coach thinks about the Trojans’ difficult 2016 schedule in this video.


August: 19 South Pointe; 26 at Dorman

September: 2 South Meck; 9 at Byrnes; 16 Spartanburg; 23 at Gaffney; 30 at Fort Mill

October: 7 Open; 14 Clover; 21 at Nation Ford; 28 Rock Hill

▪ Rock Hill

Know this: The Rock Hill-Northwestern rivalry returns to the final week of the season this fall.

Coach Bubba Pittman: “We definitely have a tough schedule. We focused on the possibility of maybe having to deal with points for playoffs.”

How did Rock Hill end up with such a difficult schedule? Bubba Pittman explains in this video.


August: 19 at Blythewood; 26 York

September: 2 at South Pointe; 9 Boiling Springs; 16 at Dorman; 23 Open; 30 Gaffney

October: 7 Nation Ford; 14 at Fort Mill; 21 Clover; 28 at Northwestern

Region 3-4A

Lancaster, Richland Northeast, Ridge View, South Pointe, Westwood, York

Which school is most likely to win the region this fall?

▪ Lancaster

Know this: Lancaster’s non-region schedule in 2016 included a 1A, two 2As and two 3As; the 2016 slate consists of two 3As, two 4As and two 5As.

Coach Bobby Collins: “If you want to slay the lion you’ve got to be able to play with the big boys... I think we’re in the SEC of 4A football. I’ve said it for the last few years, that somebody out of our region will be playing for the state championship.”

Bobby Collins discusses his team’s shot in a loaded Region 3-4A in this video.


August: 19 at Indian Land; 26 Open

September: 9 at Chester; 16 at Nation Ford; 23 Lugoff-Elgin; 30 at Westwood

October: 7 at Richland Northeast; 14 at South Pointe; 21 York; 28 Ridge View

▪ Richland Northeast

Know this: Richland Northeast appealed to be removed from the new Region 3-4A, but failed in that effort.


August: 26 Swansea

September: 2 at Spring Valley; 9 Lower Richland; 16 at AC Flora; 23 Airport; 30 at York

October: 7 Lancaster; 14 at Ridge View; 21 at South Pointe; 28 Westwood

▪ Ridge View

Know this: Last fall, the Blazers beat Goose Creek and Dutch Fork during a 5-6 season; they could be a region title threat this year with more consistency.


August: 19 at Sumter; 26 Blythewood

September: 2 Ninety-Six; 9 Fairfield Central; 16 at Union County; 23 Open; 30 at South Pointe

October: 7 York; 14 Richland Northeast; 21 at Westwood; 28 at Lancaster

▪ South Pointe

Know this: The Stallions have played 25 games all-time against their future region opponents, winning 21 (84 percent).

Coach Strait Herron on non-region scheduling difficulties: “This year, with all the regions changing, the new classifications changing, we don’t have to worry about points so I thought it would be a little easier, but it hasn’t worked that way. We’ve had to find teams, anybody that we can play and hope that they’re good competition and a good gate.”

Strait Herron explains why South Pointe’s 2016 football schedule still isn’t completely nailed down in this video.


August: 19 at Northwestern; 26 Nation Ford

September: 2 Rock Hill; 9 at St. Frances Academy (Towson University); 15 Mallard Creek (Thursday); 23 Open; 30 Ridge View

October: 7 Westwood; 14 at Lancaster; 21 Richland Northeast; 28 at York

▪ Westwood

Know this: Understandable for a school that only began playing football in 2012, Westwood faces six new opponents (out of 10) this fall.


August: 19 Chester; 26 Westside

September: 2 at South Florence; 9 at Blythewood; 16 Open; 23 at Dutch Fork; 30 Lancaster

October: 7 at South Pointe; 14 York; 21 Ridge View; 28 at Richland Northeast

▪ York

Know this: York doesn’t play Northwestern for the first time since 2003, but does face Union County for the first time since 2005.

Coach Bobby Carroll: “I was on a committee that tried to get it where they were gonna mix 4A and 5A would be in the same region. They were gonna be these super regions with 10 teams... it didn’t pass.”

See what Bobby Carroll thinks about York’s new region in this video interview.


August: 26 at Rock Hill

September: 2 Union; 9 Nation Ford; 16 at Fort Mill; 23 Clover; 30 Richland Northeast

October: 7 at Ridge View; 14 at Westwood; 21 at Lancaster; 28 South Pointe

Region 4-3A

Camden, Chester, Columbia, Fairfield Central, Indian Land

Which school is most likely to win the region this fall?

▪ Camden

Know this: Jimmy Neal is just the third football coach Camden High School has had since 1963. Neal has been in charge of the Bulldogs since 1998.


August: 19: at Lugoff-Elgin; 26 at North Central;

September: 2 Hartsville; 9 at Cheraw; 16 West Florence; 23 North Myrtle Beach; 30 Open

October: 7 Fairfield Central; 14 at Chester; 21 Indian Land; 28 at Columbia

▪ Chester

Know this: Chester is in a classification that truly fits its current student enrollment. The Cyclones played region opponents like Lancaster and South Pointe the last two seasons that had 500 and 600-student advantages in enrollment.

Coach Victor Floyd on the difficulty schools from five-team regions had filling out non-region schedule: “It was really tough because you’re talking about basically a Week 6 or a Week 5, which is tough to fill that late in the season. So we kind of had to grab whoever we could grab, and ended up getting a private school out of Charlotte.”

Follow this link to video of Victor Floyd discussing the Cyclones’ 2016 schedule.


August: 20 at Westwood; 26 Franklin Christian

September: 2 Keenan; 9 Lancaster; 16 at Lower Richland; 23 Carolina Pride; 30 Indian Land

October: 7 at Columbia; 14 Camden; 21 at Fairfield Central; 28 Open

▪ Columbia

Know this: The Capitals’ non-region opponents in 2015 averaged seven wins per team; this coming fall’s non-region opponents average just three wins, which should help second-year head coach Jason Bush churn up some positive momentum headed into region.


August: 26 at Dreher

September: 2 at C.A. Johnson; 9 Lee Central; 16 at Keenan; 23 at Pelion; 30 at Fairfield Central

October: 6 Chester; 14 at Indian Land; 21 McCormick; 27 Camden (Thursday)

▪ Fairfield Central

Know this: Since 1994, the Griffins football program has won 10 or more games 12 times, with just one losing season. Even with seven different coaches in that time period, Fairfield Central has been one of the most consistently successful football programs in the state.


August: 19 Hunter-Kinard-Tyler; 26 Keenan

September: 2 Blythewood; 9 at Ridge View; 16 at Newberry; 23 at A.C. Flora; 30 Columbia

October: 7 at Camden; 14 Open; 21 Chester; 28 at Indian Land

▪ Indian Land

Know this: Indian Land has jumped from 1A to 3A in just six years, and football coach - and athletics director - Michael Mayer thinks the school could be in 4A when the next realignment rolls around in a couple of years.

Coach Michael Mayer: “Used to be five or 10 years ago we used to worry about having enough kids to have a JV team or a middle school team - not only with football but with other sports - but now numbers aren’t a problem. We’re moving up with the big boys.”

In the video at this link, Michael Mayer talks about Indian Land’s explosive growth and 2016 schedule.


August: 19 Lancaster; 26 Buford

September: 2 at Blacksburg; 9 Broome; 16 at Chesterfield; 23 at Nation Ford, 30 at Chester

October: 7 Open; 14 Columbia; 21 at Camden; 28 Fairfield Central

Region 2-A

Great Falls, Lamar, Lewisville, McBee, Timmonsville

Which school is most likely to win the region this fall?

▪ Great Falls

Know this: Great Falls may be struggling with depth, but the Red Devils play a pair of schools - Blackville-Hilda and Whitmire - that have lower student enrollments, according to the numbers used by the SCHSL when making the 2016-18 realignment.


August: 19 New Covenant; 26 Whitmire

September: 2 at Blackville-Hilda; 9 Ware Shoals; 16 at Carolina Wildcats; 23 at North Central; 30 Timmonsville

October: 7 Open; 14 McBee; 21 at Lamar; 28 Lewisville

▪ Lamar

Know this: The defending 1A Division II state champs play two 3A schools - Crestwood and Darlington - and 2A powerhouse, Central this fall.


August: 19 Hannah-Pamplico; 26 at Central

September: 2 at Darlington; 9 at Eau Claire; 16 East Clarendon; 23 Crestwood; 30 Open

October: 7 at Lewisville; 14 at Timmonsville; 21 Great Falls; 28 McBee

▪ Lewisville

Know this: Under the new realignment, Lewisville is the biggest school in 1A with an enrollment around 360.

Coach Will Mitchell: “Confidence is gonna be big for us. We’ve got 19 kids that started back, and at least 11 seniors and 11 juniors right now. This should be a year where, quite frankly, the expectations are quite high.”

Will Mitchell talks about the Lions’ 2016 schedule in this video.


August: 19 at Andrew Jackson; 26 Blacksburg

September: 2 Buford; 9 at Whitmire; 16 at Eau Claire; 23 C.A. Johnson; 30 at McBee

October: 7 Lamar; 14 Open; 21 Timmonsville; 28 at Great Falls

▪ McBee

Know this: McBee won 10 or more games once in the 50 years before coach Charlie Poole showed up at the school. The Panthers have won 11 twice in the last three seasons.


August: 19 at Lakewood; 26 Chesterfield

September: 2 at Cheraw; 9 Central Pageland; 16 Open; 23 Mullins; 30 Lewisville

October: 7 at Timmonsville; 14 at Great Falls; 21 Camden Military; 28 at Lamar

▪ Timmonsville

Know this: According to the SCHSL - which doesn’t always update its record books - Timmonsville coach Bill Tate is the fourth winningest high school football coach in state history.

Schedule (incomplete)

August: 26 at East Clarendon

September: 2 at Lee Central; 9 at North Central; 16 at Hannah-Pamplico; 23 N/A; 30 at Great Falls

October: 7 McBee; 14 Lamar; 21 at Lewisville; 28 N/A