Richland Northeast will move from Class 4A to Class 3A for the first-time in school history when the South Carolina High School League’s next realignment takes effect starting with the 2014 school year.
That was the biggest shake-up among the Midlands schools in the plan that was proposed in May and formally finalized late last week.
The Cavaliers will leave the region that features Richland District Two and long-standing rivals Blythewood, Ridge View, Spring Valley and Westwood. Westwood is making the jump to 4A two years after opening. The RedHawks will compete in 3A this year.
Richland Northeast opened in 1978 and has been a 4A school from the beginning. There were two schools in Richland District Two then, and now its home to five schools, four being in 4A, the highest classification in South Carolina.
“We’re satisfied moving to 3A,” RNE athletics director Gary Fulmer said. “With the addition of the new schools, we’ve lost roughly 300 to 400 students over the past decade. We’ll still play a lot of the same schools, but I think this will be a better fit for our athletic teams across the board. We might only play two or three of the district schools in football, but I think we’ll try and keep those rivalries going in the other sports. I think it’s better to be the big fish in a small pond instead of a little fish in a large pond.”
The Cavaliers will be one of larger 3A schools in the state with their enrollment expected to be a little less than 1,400 at the start of the 2014 school year. The realignment is re-evaluated every two years and RNE could move back to 4A at that time.
The Cavaliers will be in Region 4-3A with A.C. Flora, Camden, Chapin, Dreher, and Lower Richland. As far as travel goes, the new region suits Fulmer fine.
“These schools are in town and Chapin is not a bad trip for us at all,” he said. “We’re planning on staying where we’re at without any appeals. We hope it helps us out a little bit.”
Dutch Fork and Irmo will flip-flop regions in 4A. The Silver Foxes will join Lugoff-Elgin in Region 4-4A with the other four Richland District Two schools. The Yellow Jackets will join Region 5-4A with Lexington, North Augusta, River Bluff, South Aiken and White Knoll.
River Bluff will make its varsity debut in football next season after playing an abbreviated junior varsity schedule this season. The Gators will play a varsity schedule in all other sports when they open their doors for the first-time in a couple of weeks.
Region 5-3A will consistent of current members Airport, Brookland-Cayce, Gilbert, Midland Valley and Swansea. The only newcomer is Aiken, which is moving down from 4A. Strom Thurmond moved out and down to Region 2-2A.
Columbia, Eau Claire, Fairfield Central, Keenan and Pelion will remain in Region 3-2A and will be joined by Mid-Carolina and Newberry, two schools moving from Region 2-2A. Batesburg-Leesville will again be in Region 2-2A along with Abbeville, Crecent, Ninety Six, Saluda and Strom Thurmond.
C.A. Johnson remains the only Midlands school in Class A.