A new rule narrowing the field for the Class 2-A football playoffs would not have affected Battery Creek High School the past two years, but Dolphins coach Jim Shuman approves of its premise.
The past three seasons, all but four teams in Class 2-A made the playoffs -- every team from six-team regions and six from the two regions with eight teams. Now the playoffs will be limited to the top four from each region, and first-round byes are eliminated.
The playoffs are shortened from five games to four games and end Thanksgiving weekend.
"It makes it more competitive; it makes it more realistic," said Shuman, whose teams finished third and fourth in Region 6-AA during Battery Creek's past two seasons in Class 2-A. "It rewards teams for hard work."
The new rule was proposed about a year ago and approved at the athletics directors meeting in March. Under the previous rule, some teams that finished 0-10 reached the playoffs from six-team leagues.
Higher seeds that enjoyed a week off after the regular season will now compete right away.
"We could face Dillon or Timberland or some of the traditional 2-A powerhouses as early as the first round, whereas in the past it would be second or third round," Shuman said.
Playoff-bound teams will be placed in two divisions based on the prior year's enrollment.
The eight largest schools in Regions I-IV will compose Upper State for Division I and the eight smallest will be placed in Upper State for Division II. The eight largest schools in Regions V-VIII will compete in Division I Lower State. The eight smallest from those regions will play Division II Lower State.
Seeds will then be assigned based on region finish, not points. Battery Creek, which in recent years competed in one of the classification's two eight-team regions, will compete in Region 6 with Academic Magnet, Garrett Academy Tech, Bishop England, North Charleston and Whale Branch, which is playing its first season in Class 2-A.
The Class 2-A state championship games will be played at River Bluff High School in Lexington on Nov. 28.
Dillon coach Jackie Hayes, whose teams have won consecutive Class 2-A Division I titles, told the Florence Morning News he was fine with the change after proposing the move to allow more teams three years ago.
"I'm fine with how ever they want do it and wherever they want to play," Hayes told the Florence newspaper. "As long as we are playing in it, it doesn't matter where we play."
Follow assistant sports editor Stephen Fastenau at twitter.com/IPBG_Stephen.