Less than 20 years ago, Chapin High School was playing in one of the smallest sports classifications in South Carolina.
When the Eagles’ football season begins later this month, they will be in Class 5A, the state’s largest, in the same region with Dutch Fork, White Knoll, Lexington and River Bluff. Chapin also added 5A schools Spring Valley and Lugoff-Elgin to its non-region schedule.
Chapin is believed to be the first school to play in all five classifications since the South Carolina High School League split into four classes in the 1960s. The Eagles were a Class 2A school in 2002, but the growth in the area has exploded and likely will keep the school in 5A for the next few years.
Chapin’s 135-day enrollment figure last year was 1,645, which makes it the 40th largest school in the state.
“It is another hurdle that we are going to face,” Chapin football coach Justin Gentry said. “Our guys are going to handle it like I expected them to. It is no skin off our back. It is part of where we are going and what we are going to be doing here at Chapin.”
Gentry compares the move up and new region to one when he was coaching at Lake City and had to play likes of Marlboro County, Wilson and Myrtle Beach each year.
With 16 starters back, the Eagles should be in the thick of the playoff hunt in the region as everyone tries to catch defending state champion Dutch Fork.
The strength of Eagles’ might be up front on their offensive with four returners. The only one not back is Under Armour All-American Hank Manos, who is a freshman at South Carolina.
“They had a good one to mentor them under Hank,” Gentry said. “They are still young. We’ve got some good size and athletic ability and should help the rest of our offense.”
For the first time in three seasons, Chapin shouldn’t have to rotate quarterbacks with senior Roger Pedroni returning. The senior accounted for almost 1,300 yards of offense and 10 touchdowns last season. Taison Thomas, the team’s leading rusher, is back. The Eagles must replace Xzavion Gordon at receiver, but Gentry feels the group should be strong at the end of the year.
Defensively, James Wells and Conner Lehman, two of the team’s top tacklers from last season, are back this season.
Coach: Justin Gentry (8th year, 114-76 overall)
Last year’s record: 7-4
Number of starters returning: 16
Key returning players: DL Jacob Drag, WR Jason Graves, DB Taylor Lehmann, WR Gio Macaluso, K Alex Nelson, RB Taison Thomas, OLB Jake Watson, LB James Wells, DL Garrett Huyck, OL John Michael Jenny, QB Roger Pedroni, OL Joshua Taylor, LB Jarrett Whitley, OL Thornton Gentry, DB Conner Lehmann, DB Will Stogner
Aug. 24: at Mid-Carolina
Aug. 31: at Lugoff-Elgin
Sept. 7: vs. Newberry
Sept. 14: at Spring Valley
Sept. 21: vs. A.C. Flora
Sept. 28: at Dutch Fork
Oct. 5: vs. White Knoll
Oct. 12: at River Bluff
Oct. 19: vs. Lexington
Oct. 26: vs. Nation Ford