Automatic qualifiers and at-large teams have swamped the lower state field and won at least nine postseason games in each of the last three years. Even with the craziness of an abbreviated playoff system, the region is going to have every opportunity to have several teams make a deep push again.
Region VI-4A, like every other region in the class, will get two automatic qualifiers for the postseason (instead of the typical four given during a normal year). We already know North Myrtle Beach will be one of them, with Myrtle Beach, West Florence and Wilson all still alive for the No. 2 seed. Additionally, the third-place team is all-but-guaranteed to pull in one of the two lower state at-large berths, which are based upon team record, strength of schedule and key performances against other playoff-bound teams.
In a normal five-round playoff bracket, it was the fifth-place teams from six- and seven-team regions who were given priority.
Then or now, though, there is nothing that formally states the second-team out from a particular region can’t apply for an at-large bid. Multiple athletics directors and coaches who have seen the paperwork or have served on the small selection committee told MyHorryNews.com that the board was initially given leniency so they could handle oddities, such as not enough quality teams applying for the spots.
There’s no way they could have foreseen this season’s events, but that leniency could be utilized unlike ever before this year. The strength of Region VI-4A could be a driving force.
As it stands, Region V-4A’s third-place team (Airport) appears headed for three wins — against teams who may very well combine for one total victory on the season. On paper, Airport likely doesn’t stack up against Wilson or West Florence, the two likeliest contenders to finish fourth in Region VI-4A. Measuring those two regions against each other is the easy part.
Region VII-4A being in absolute flux is a bit more challenging.
The Lowcountry region has had a high number of game cancellations and postponements due to team quarantines. The athletics directors from that region are expected to meet this week to determine how they will declare the final standings behind first-place Beaufort since several of the teams will have not played all of their originally scheduled region games.
Hilton Head very well could finish third in the standings. However, the Seahawks have already been put on the quarantine shelf on two different occasions this season and may turn toward an optional bowl-style game instead of the playoffs.
Given all of that, there is no reason to suspect that multiple Region VI-4A teams won’t take advantage of the option to apply. While two at-larges from the same region never happened in the past, it was considered one year when not enough teams applied and several needed to be petitioned from the committee to do so.
That’s because teams who struggle during the regular season frequently don’t want to go play one of the best teams in the state in the opening round. That second part will be the case this year, as well, with Beaufort and the Region VI-4A champion suiting up in the opening round against the at-large berths.
The applications for those two spots are due Nov. 4, two days prior to the final regular-season games.
IN THE THICK OF IT
After a relatively quiet first four weeks of football during the shortened 2020 campaign, Horry County is certainly feeling the effects now.
Only two of the local teams scheduled to take this field this Friday are playing region contests, meaning despite the lateness of the calendar, these games don’t mean much of anything in terms of playoff hopes or lack thereof.
Five teams are playing games that were formally agreed upon inside of the last four days.
And, biggest of all, Socastee had to cancel back-to-back games after a junior varsity player tested positive after practicing with the varsity squad.
Following all those moving pieces has been as eventful.
Loris’s Week 1 game against Dillon was postponed (twice) due to weather back on Sept. 25. That prevented the Lions from playing Green Sea Floyds this Friday.
Then, Westwood had a postponement between Weeks 2 and 3 that cost Carolina Forest that matchup this week. Two days later, before Week 3 games began, Blythewood did the same with its game against Conway, originally set for this Friday.
Then, North Myrtle Beach’s trek down S.C. 31 to St. James for this week was scrapped. The Sharks replaced that home game with Conway (which will be played as a non-region game despite their normal region ties). Carolina Forest then added a home game against Beaufort, replacing the previously lost Westwood game. Aynor, following the Socastee cancellation, shifted its previously scheduled Week 7 opponent (Green Sea Floyds) to this week and intends to leave the final week of the regular season as an open date prior to the playoffs — which appear likely heading into this Friday’s games.
More movement for next week could happen, as well. And if the last two weeks have proven anything, it’s that it could happen at a moment’s notice.
AROUND THE AREA
Loris (2-1 overall and in Region VII-3A) has to win Friday’s game against Dillon in order to even be in consideration for the playoffs. But even pushing itself into a three-way tie for first place with Dillon and Aynor with no more region games to go doesn’t seal the deal. The tie-breaker for that scenario (defensive points allowed) means the Lions would have to beat Dillon by at least 12 points or defeat the Wildcats while also allowing fewer than 22 to edge out one of those two aforementioned teams for one of the region’s playoff berths. … The 70 points Carolina Forest dropped on St. James last Friday was the most the Panthers scored in a single game in program history. It topped a 68-0 win over Kingstree in 2011. In last week's win, Marc Morris’s offense produced three 100-yard rushers (Kyle Watkins, Luke Janack and Savion Pinckney). It was the first time this season any Horry County team had three 100-yard rushers in the same game.