It didn’t hit Eau Claire’s Brandon Carlos until he got home last Friday night after the win over Columbia High School.
Carlos admitted he got a little emotional after the Shamrocks’ 20-14 victory over Columbia. It was Eau Claire’s first win of the year — and it guaranteed them a spot in the playoffs.
The Shamrocks (1-9, 1-3 region) finished fourth in five-team Region 3-2A, where the top four teams make the postseason. Eau Claire heads to Burke on Friday for a first-round game and the school’s first playoff appearance since 2013.
“When I got home, I did start to cry because going to the playoffs is an experience I never had before,” Carlos said. “To be honest I thought the season was over. But once (quarterback) Shytrell O’neil started scoring and we started winning, I was like, ‘We are going to go to the playoffs.’ It is a blessing to be able to go.”
Forty-one of the 150 teams to make the playoffs in South Carolina this year have a losing overall record, which raises the question of whether too many teams are allowed in the postseason — or if the entire system needs to change.
Eau Claire missed out on the playoffs last year despite a 4-6 overall record. They were winless a year ago in region play, and a team’s region finish determines their postseason fate.
The Shamrocks this year are looking at the playoffs as an opportunity.
“We had a rough season and we played a lot of good teams,” Eau Claire coach Michael Kelly said. “Our guys gave it everything they had (last week). Now, everyone is 0-0.”
Eau Claire is one of two 1-9 teams in this year’s South Carolina High School League playoffs. Dixie also is 1-9 in Class A, but that’s not even the worst record entering the postseason. In Class A, Hemingway went 0-10 in the regular season and hosted first-round game against Scott’s Branch on Thursday night.
Scott’s Branch defeated Hemingway, 36-7.
The Tigers were part of four-team Region 6-A, and the top three teams were guaranteed a spot in the playoffs based on the brackets formed from the 2018-20 realignment. But Creek Bridge High School, one of the teams in the region, closed after last year and merged with Mullins High. Because of that, Lake View, Green Sea Floyds and Hemingway all got into the playoffs from Region 6-A.
This is a rare down year for Hemingway, which played for Lower State title last year and won 12 games last year.
“We’ve pretty much look at it as another opportunity, new season,” first-year Hemingway coach Charlie Richards said this week. “My guys are still fighting. We’re a young inexperienced group. It’s definitely not an ideal year for the playoffs. We had a team in our region close its school down in the middle of a cycle so we only had three teams.”
SCHSL assistant commissioner Charlie Wentzky called the Hemingway situation an “anomaly” that likely would have been avoided had Creek Bridge not closed.
“We are concerned about the image of it,” Wentzy said, “but that is how the bracket was set up.”
It isn’t the first time a winless or one-win team has gotten into the playoffs. Under the old Big 16 system, which was made up of 16 largest schools in the state by enrollment, all teams were guaranteed a playoff spot no matter their record.
Playoff spots nowadays are determined by region finish, so a team could go winless in non-region play and then win all of its region games to make the playoffs. Beaufort, which competes in four-team Region 7-4A, went 1-5 outside of their region before going 3-0 and winning the region.
So what are some possible solutions?
Some coaches and fans have said they would be in favor of eliminating a round of the playoffs, which would reward the teams with better regular-season records and reduce the amount of teams that qualify for the playoffs.
“It would be nice to possibly see a change, maybe a points system and/or the top two in the region,” said Richards, a former Keenan head coach who was an assistant at Irmo last year.
SC Varsity publisher Jim Baxter proposed that the playoffs just allow region champions and second-place finishers plus with the rest by eight at-large berths — or simply just take the region champion and the region’s second-place team.
Any changes would have to be decided by each of South Carolina’s five classifications. The number of the teams making the playoffs and the playoff bracket are decided on by each class and ultimately approved by the SCHSL executive committee.
Change could come with realignment for the 2020-22 seasons. There are likely going to be more teams in Class A, which should greatly decrease the possibility of a winless or one-win team making the postseason. Until then, teams like Eau Claire and Hemingway will get a shot to have that postseason experience.
“We are just ecstatic we can go to the playoffs. It is going to be an experience for us,” EC quarterback Shytrell O’neil said.
SCHSL Playoff Schedule
Blythewood at Laurens
Nation Ford at Byrnes
Woodmont at Sumter
Gaffney at Rock Hill
Greenwood at Dorman
Westside at Spring Valley
Boiling Springs at Clover
Mauldin at TL Hanna
Chapin at Dutch Fork
Wando at Conway
Lexington at Fort Dorchester
West Florence at Berkeley
Carolina Forest 42, Cane Bay 7 (Thursday)
West Ashley at River Bluff
South Florence at Goose Creek
Lugoff-Elgin at Summerville
Palmetto at Greenville
York at Belton Honea Path
Greer at South Pointe
Orangeburg-Wilkinson at Wren
Lancaster at Daniel
Westwood at Eastside
Walhalla at AC Flora
Travelers Rest at Ridge View
Marlboro County at Lower Richland
Colleton County at Airport
Lakewood at Myrtle Beach
North Myrtle Beach at North Augusta
Wilson at Hilton Head Island
South Aiken at Hartsville
Southside at Pendleton
Indian Land at Woodruff
Liberty at Chapman
Newberry at Chester
Fairfield Central at Union County
Chesnee at Seneca
Clinton at Camden
Powdersville at Broome
Cheraw at Manning
Battery Creek at Strom Thurmond
Georgetown at Aynor
Swansea at May River
Ridgeland-Hardeeville at Gilbert
Lake City at Bishop England
Edisto at Wade Hampton
Waccamaw at Dillon
Ninety-Six at Southside Christian
Central at Batesburg-Leesville
CA Johnson at Buford
Blacksburg at Saluda
Lewisville at Abbeville
Christ Church at Andrew Jackson
Fox Creek at Gray Collegiate (Midlands Sports Complex)
Lee Central at St. Joseph’s
Latta at Timberland
Bamberg-Ehrhardt at Mullins
Hanah-Pamplico at Barnwell
Eau Claire at Burke
Johnsonville at Calhoun County
East Clarendon at Woodland
Oceanside Collegiate at Andrews
Whale Branch at Phillip Simmons
Great Falls at Ridge Spring Monetta
Dixie at McBee
Hunter Kinard Tyler at Ware Shoals
Williston-Elko at McCormick
Byes: Whitmire, Lamar, Wagener-Salley, Blackville-Hilda
Cross at Military Magnet
Denmark-Olar at Lake View
Scott’s Branch 36, Hemingway 7 (Thursday)
Bethune Bowman at St. John’s
Byes: Branchville, CE Murray, Baptist Hill, Green Sea Floyds
Augusta Christian at Hammond
Cardinal Newman at Heathwood Hall
Porter-Gaud at Laurence Manning
Ben Lippen at First Baptist
Northwood at Trinity Byrnes
Robert E. Lee at Orangeburg Prep
Greenwood Christian at Hilton Head Christian
Hilton Head Prep at Florence Christian
Dorchester at Pee Dee Academy
Dillon Christian at Thomas Heyward
The King’s Academy at Bethesda Academy
Colleton Prep at Carolina Academy
Calhoun Academy at Andrew Jackson
Palmetto Christian at Wardlaw
Holly Hill at Richard Winn
Clarendon Hall at St. John’s Christian