With the dawn of a new high school football season, a few local teams are gearing up for competition in new leagues.
A stalwart competitor in Class 4A for years, Richland Northeast moves to Class 3A this season, while newer schools Westwood and River Bluff move from Class 3A to 4A. The changes are part of the S.C. High School League’s bi-annual realignment based on student enrollment figures.
“The training wheels are off and it’s a big boy bike now,” said River Bluff coach David Bennett. His Gators will undergo the biggest transition, as the one-year-old program goes varsity after playing a mostly junior varsity schedule in 2013.
“Our boys have grown a lot in a year’s time, and we’ve come together as a family, and that’s going to be important because I’m sure it’s not going to be all good times as we go through this inaugural varsity season,” Bennett said.
The Gators were 5-1 in their junior varsity games, 2-2 against small school varsity programs and, Bennett said, are eager to test themselves on another level.
“They’d just as soon try to play Carolina or Clemson, they are just so excited to play and compete, they don’t see the difference,” Bennett said.
The Gators move into Region 5-4A, facing Irmo, Lexington, North Augusta, South Aiken and White Knoll, as Richland Northeast moves out.
The Cavaliers, among the smaller programs in 4A over the past few years, might have a bit of a size advantage in Class 3A, but coach Jay Frye said his team is not relying on that.
“We’ve still got to be a lot better than we were last year to be competitive in 3A,” Frye said.
Moving into a loaded Region 4-3A with A.C. Flora, Camden, Chapin, Dreher and Lower Richland, Frye’s Cavaliers know the move does not amount to a break.
“We’ve played in a tough region in 4A for years, but there’s certainly some great competition in 3A and in our new region. We’re still working very hard,” Frye said.
The Cavaliers are scrimmaging 4A squads Ridge View, Blythewood and Irmo in preparation. In the season-opener against Westwood, Richland Northeast will see just how much it has improved over the 2013 season, when it finished 1-10.
Westwood, which finished 7-5 and second in Region 4-3A in 2013, is also in for staunch competition after the move.
Coach Rodney Summers and the Redhawks take on Spring Valley, Dutch Fork, Lugoff-Elgin, Blythewood and Ridge View in Region 4-4A.