High School Sports

August 28, 2013

Blog: Midlands independent sports history

Here is a look at the winding path taken by Columbia's four independent schools on the way to achieving athletic stability in SCISA.

With Hammond hitting the road this week to face Charlotte Christian, it seems a good time to review the interesting history in terms of athletic organizational membership by the four independent schools in Columbia.

For instance, did you know?

Cardinal Newman was a long-standing member of the High School League. Or that Heathwood Hall did not join up with SCISA until 1997. Or that Ben Lippen’s early history after moving to Columbia from North Carolina was in the High School League. Or that of the four schools in question, Hammond was the only one to be involved with SCISA from its nascent days in the early 1970s.

Hammond was a key early member of SCISA (SCISAA in those days) but by the mid-1980s its loyalty to the organization was on the wane. Hammond and SCISA mates Cardinal Newman, Wilson Hall, Hilton Head Prep and Thomas Sumter joined forces with unaffiliated Heathwood Hall in 1986 to form the new Palmetto Association of Independent Schools (PAIS). Heathwood Hall was the first champion, defeating Wilson Hall 11-0 in the title game.

This group of six teams stayed together for two school years. Porter-Gaud left the High School League to join in 1988 in place of Cardinal Newman, which returned briefly to the HSL fold. The organization changed its name to Palmetto Athletic Conference (PAC).

The PAC stayed in place in various forms for six years. The membership stayed constant with six schools. Cardinal Newman replaced Wilson Hall in 1990 when the Barons returned to SCISA.

The PAC crumbled by the end of the 1993-94 school year. Cardinal Newman, Porter-Gaud, Thomas Sumter and Hilton Head Prep headed back to SCISA.

Hammond and Heathwood Hall continued to resist SCISA affiliation, and joined with the North Carolina independent schools based in Charlotte to create the Carolinas Independent Schools Athletic Association (CISAA). Ironically, the PAC and the Charlotte schools had a playoff system to crown a Carolinas independent football champion between 1991 between 1993.

At long last, Hammond and Heathwood Hall opted to join SCISA in 1997.

Spring Valley marked the 25th anniversary season of its last state championship team at halftime of its season-opening game against Lower Richland. Among the former players and coach on hand were head coach Dr. Jerry Brown and Marty Simpson who kicked the title-winning field goal in the 3-0 win over Gaffney in the Big 16 finale at Williams-Brice Stadium.

Brown is now the head coach at Batesburg-Leesville, while Simpson, who once served as the head coach at Ben Lippen for a few years, is trying his hand as a stand-up comic.

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