Major changes are coming to Beaufort County high school athletics under a 2012-14 realignment proposal from the S.C. High School League, the governing body for high school sports in the state.
Bluffton High School will move up to Class 4-A after the realignment, which begins with fall sports in 2012 and lasts two school years.
Battery Creek, which has lost a large chunk of its attendance to the newly-formed Whale Branch High School, will move down to 2-A, while Whale Branch stays in 1-A.
Beaufort High School will remain in 4-A, and Hilton Head High will remain in 3-A, though both schools expect to see significant modifications to their regions.
The deadline for schools to appeal their classifications has already passed, said Dru Nix, associate commissioner for the SCHSL. No appeals were won because no schools wished to move up in classification, she added.
Bluffton athletics director Dave Adams said his school chose not to appeal its new status. It ranks as the 46th largest school in the SCHSL. For the first time, the top 52 -- rather than the top 48 -- were assigned to 4-A, the next 52 were placed in 3-A, the next in 2-A and the final 51 in 1-A.
"The problem we have is because of our school capacity, we can only hold 1,500, so the district will just keep changing the lines so we'll always be at 1,500," Adams said. "We won't be able to grow into that medium-sized 4-A school. We'll always be that bottom-sized 4-A school."
High schools are placed in their respective classifications based on their state rankings in the 135-day average daily memberships (ADM), which the S.C. Department of Education collected earlier this month.
Bluffton's 135-day ADM totaled 1,479, less than half the amount of the top two schools in the state: Wando (3,493) and Dorman (3,194).
Bobcats football coach Ken Cribb said the move to 4-A will be a challenge for his team and that he would have preferred to stay in 3-A. The Bobcats are coming off the most successful season in school history, in which they reached the 3-A Lower State championship game.
"It's funny that the timing works out this way, because we have a lot of talent coming back, we have six home games this year, and we're coming off a great season," Cribb said. "We hope to really maximize our efforts and build some momentum going into 4-A."
Schools will be assigned regions within the next couple of weeks, Nix said, after which they will have the chance to appeal their region assignments to their class' executive committee.
Battery Creek athletics director John Drafts said his school also chose to stay put in its new classification rather than file an appeal. Over the past two years, Battery Creek has fallen from the 71st largest school in the SCHSL to No. 111.
The Dolphins will field the ninth biggest team in 2-A in two years, its first year in school history playing in 2-A.
"The way it's broken down for us, we've had 2-A numbers for two years of playing in 3-A, if you include this year and next year," Drafts said. "... It will be nice to finally have a slight advantage there."
In Jasper County, Ridgeland High School will return to Class 2-A after the upcoming season, its second year in Class 1-A. Hardeeville High School is slated to remain in Class 1-A.
HOW THEY LINE UP
Battery Creek 822 (111) 1,280 (71)
Beaufort High 1,598 (33) 1,670 (31)
Bluffton 1,479 (46) 1,396 (58)
Hardeeville 292 (185) 306 (180)
Hilton Head High 1,174 (78) 1,150 (82)
Ridgeland 548 (148) 573 (147)
Whale Branch 396 (164) N/A