IT'S GOOD THAT region standings play the major role in who makes the SCHSL playoffs and whether or not they play at home.
The three smallest classifications have done it that way for years. The teams that finish first and second in their regions get first-round home games while the third- and fourth-place teams hit the road.
Class 4A's two divisions got in on the act a couple of years back, ending the system where every Big 16 team made the postseason regardless of record.
Now, all that said, it does not change the fact that some teams have a tougher road to the playoffs and home games than others.
The subject of today's exercise is a look at the state's toughest regions, places where the teams that place third or fourth are likely to come back from their first-round playoff games with wins.
Let's start in Class 4A, where the Upstate's Region 2 takes top honor.
That six-team league has four 5-0 teams and another that's 4-1. The unbeaten teams are all over the state rankings, with Byrnes rated No. 1, Dorman No. 3 and Boiling Springs No. 6.
Mauldin, 5-0, received votes but didn't crack the top 10 this week. Hillcrest checks in at 4-1. Even Spartanburg, at 2-3, has scored more points that its opponents this season.
Boiling Springs is on probation for a spring practice violation, so the Bulldogs don't figure into the playoff picture. But the playoff qualifiers from among five remaining teams in the league will be tough in November.
The honorable mention for Class 4A goes to Region 4, home of second-ranked Rock Hill (5-0) and No. 10 South Pointe (3-2). Blythewood (4-1) received a vote toward a top-10 ranking this week. Even the two league teams with losing records, Spring Valley (2-3) and Ridge View (2-3), own victories against Class 4A teams.
In Class 3A, Region 4, home to three of the state's top-10 teams this week, looks the most daunting.
The first Friday of region play features No. 7 Chapin (5-0) against a No. 9 Lugoff-Elgin (4-1) team whose lone loss came to No. 6 Airport in overtime. Top-ranked Chester (5-0) remains the Region 4 favorite.
One of those top three teams is certain to be playing on the road when the playoffs begin. The region's other three teams are Fairfield Central (3-2), A.C. Flora (3-2) and Lower Richland (1-4).
Region 6 is Class 3A's second-toughest region. Only No. 2 Marlboro County (5-0) is ranked but Crestwood (3-2), Camden (3-2) and Wilson (3-1) have all been in the top-10 at least one week this season. But also watch out for Darlington (2-3), which has outscored its opponents 158-120. And the Falcons just got superstar cornerback Vic Hampton, a transfer from Charlotte's Independence High, eligible last week.
In Class 2A, look to the Pee Dee's Region 8, where five schools are capable of winning the region title but one won't even qualify for the playoffs.
Defending state champion Dillon (3-2) is ranked No. 4 but Loris (4-1), Marion (3-2) and Mullins (3-2) also are above .500 in non-league play. Cheraw (2-3) isn't, but the Braves have won two in a row, including a victory against Central when the Eagles were ranked No. 1.
Region 3 also is rugged. Five of the six teams are above .500, with No. 8 Strom Thurmond (3-2) and No. 10 Batesburg-Leesville (3-2) ranked. The team entering region play below .500 (2-3 Saluda) has outscored its foes.
In Class A, it's hard to get past Region 5, even though two winless teams are among its seven teams. That's because No. 2 Calhoun County (5-0), No. 3 Bamberg-Ehrhardt (5-0) and No. 5 Allendale-Fairfax (4-1) are battling for the league crown.
Calhoun County defeated Allendale-Fairfax last week. A win against Bamberg-Ehrhardt this week pretty much would give the Saints the region championship.
Region 8 has two teams in the top 10 (No. 6 Carvers Bay and No. 9 Lake View), while Hemingway and Johnsonville also received votes this week.