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.
After two years in a hybrid 5A region that split its playoff teams between the upper state and the lower state, Sumter High School will be back in the lower state beginning with the 2020-21 school year. Sumter will be an island unto itself to a degree in Region VI.
Sumter will be the only school in the new 5-school region that isn't located in Horry County. The others are Conway, Carolina Forest, Socastee and St. James.
While it could make for some long trips for its athletic teams, SHS athletic director Curtis Johnson has no problem with the region
"It's really about being in the lower state, knowing where we are," Johnson said. "In our old region, we were in the upper state (a lot of the time) for the playoffs. It also hurt us with all-stars (teams for all of the sports) because we were upper state all-stars, and the coaches don't know our players as well as the lower state players do. Also, it will help us with traveling in the playoffs and allowing our fans to come see us."
Sumter was in Region IV the past two years with Columbia area schools Irmo, Blythewood and Spring Valley and Kershaw County school Lugoff-Elgin. With just seven 5A regions though, the region playoff teams played in both the upper state and lower state, depending on how they finished in the region.
The new realignment has dropped 5A teams from 48 to 40, meaning there will be eight 5-team regions. Johnson said being in the region with the four Horry County schools was the best fit for the Gamecocks.
Two of the other three lower state regions are made up of 10 Charleston area schools and the other one is made up of Lexington County schools.
"We're kind of stuck," Johnson said. "There's really not anywhere else for us to go. There's just not a whole lot (of 5A schools) around us."
Sumter was in the region with Conway, Carolina Forest and Socastee prior to the last two years. However, there was the buffer of South Florence and West Florence also being in the region. Those two schools will be 4A schools beginning this year.
While football teams obviously play region foes just once, all of the other sports play home-and-away games. That means Sumter teams will be making four trips to Horry County.
Johnson said the other region ADs have been working with him to make it practical as possible for Sumter.
"The way we've done the scheduling is we've worked together in the region where there will be two times we travel on Friday and two times on Tuesday," Johnson said. "That's kind of similar with football (traveling twice on Friday). Obviously it's not the best, but it's not the worst either."
Johnson said Conway isn't a bad drive, but the traffic to the other three schools is more of a problem.
Sumter has already set its 2020 football schedule. The Gamecocks will play at Socastee and St. James while being at home against Carolina Forest and Conway.
Sumter is scheduled to open its season with its Sumter School District foes -- at Lakewood on Sept. 21 and at home against Crestwood the following week. It will then play four 5A teams - at home against Ridge View, at Blythewood, at Dorman and at home against Berkeley.
Ridge View is coached by former Sumter High School player and Lakewood head coach Perry Parks. Ridge View will be in 5A after playing for the 4A upper state title last season. Dorman played for the 5A title last season, losing to Dutch Fork on the last play of the game in a battle of unbeatens.
"I think we've put together a pretty good football schedule," Johnson said.
SUMTER HIGH SCHOOL REGION CHANGES
OUT WITH THE OLD
Region IV-5A: Blythewood, Irmo, Lugoff-Elgin, Spring Valley
IN WITH THE NEW
Region VI-5A: Carolina Forest, Conway, St. James, Socastee
2020 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
Aug. 21 at Lakewood
Aug. 28 Crestwood
Sept. 4 Ridge View
Sept. 11 at Blythewood
Sept. 18 at Dorman
Sept. 25 Berkeley
Oct. 2 at Socastee
Oct. 16 Carolina Forest
Oct. 23 at St. James
Oct. 30 Conway
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