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Lakewood looking forward to everything with new region

By DENNIS BRUNSON
dennis@theitem.com
Posted 4/22/20

Editor's note: The South Carolina High School League recently finalized its realignment for the 2020-21 and the 2021-22 school years. The Sumter Item will talk to the athletic directors at each of the seven local SCHSL schools over the next several …

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Lakewood looking forward to everything with new region

Posted

Editor's note: The South Carolina High School League recently finalized its realignment for the 2020-21 and the 2021-22 school years. The Sumter Item will talk to the athletic directors at each of the seven local SCHSL schools over the next several editions about what the new regions - and classifications for some - mean to their respective athletic programs.

When the South Carolina High School League came up with its final regions for its 2020-21 and '21-22 realignment, it would probably be hard to find an athletic director any happier than Lakewood High School's Frankie Ward.

"I think it's going to help us in so many ways," Ward said of the move to Region VI-3A. "It's going to help from the sports side of it and the financial side of it. There will be shorter trips on the buses, better gates. I think it's a win-win all around."

Lakewood will be sharing Region VI with Sumter School District rival Crestwood, Manning, Camden, Lake City and Marlboro County.

Lakewood is not only switching regions, it is switching classifications as well. After two years as a 4A school, Lakewood will be going down to 3A.

"It was kind of up in the air," Ward said when asked if he thought Lakewood would become a 3A school. "I thought were on the bubble, that we could be 3A or go back to 4A.

"I thought they (the SCHSL) did a very good job in putting our region together.

The drop to 3A came about when the SCHSL decided to make 5A and 4A 40-school classes when each had been 48-school classes the past two years. The contraction caused Lakewood to drop down to 3A, moving it from one of the smaller 4As to one of the larger 3As, and that will help Lakewood from a competitive advantage.

"Dropping down to 3A is good," Ward said. "We'll be going against schools that have the same number of athletes we do."

The proximity of the other teams in the region to Lakewood is another big advantage, according to Ward.

"I think it's good because geographically everything is close," he said. "I think it's closer for us to go to Manning than Crestwood. I think it will help from a gate standpoint. With the schools being so close, it will be easier to (travel and) watch games during midweek."

The fact that Lakewood already had established scheduling relationships with Manning and Lake City will help the transition as well.

Lakewood had been part of Region IV-4A with Crestwood, Richland County schools A.C. Flora, Lower Richland and Dreher and Orangeburg-Wilkinson. Along with the longer travel, Region IV was a hybrid region, meaning its playoff teams competed in both the upper state and lower state. For example, the Lakewood football team played in the lower state playoffs and played at Myrtle Beach, while the boys basketball team played Daniel, which is located in Central just outside of Clemson, in the upper state playoffs.

"There will be consistency there now," Ward said. "It kind of geographically helps everything."

Ward thinks the region will be a strong football region.

"Football-wise, I think it's going to be as tough or tougher as what we had," said Ward, who saw Lakewood make the state playoffs last season for the first time in head coach Larry Cornelius' 3-year tenure. "I think even the fourth-place team in the region (the final one to qualify for the playoffs) will be able to make some noise in the playoffs."

Along with its region schedule, Lakewood will play host to 5A Sumter School District rival Sumter in its season opener on Aug. 21. It will also play at home against 4A Richland Northeast and 4A Indian Land and travel to 4A Colleton County and 1A Lamar

OUT WITH THE OLD

Region IV-4A: A.C. Flora, Crestwood, Dreher, Lower Richland, Orangeburg-Wilkinson

IN WITH THE NEW

Region VI-3A: Camden, Crestwood, Lake City, Manning, Marlboro County

2020 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE

Aug. 21 Sumter

Aug. 28 Richland Northeast

Sept. 4 at Lamar

Sept. 11 at Colleton County

Sept. 18 Indian Land

Oct. 2 at Camden

Oct. 9 at Lake City

Oct. 16 Marlboro County

Oct. 23 at Manning

Oct. 30 Crestwood