The South Carolina High School League's sanction on Hilton Head Island High holding preseason football scrimmages was partially lifted on Monday, SCHSL commissioner Jerome Singleton confirmed.
Hilton Head High initially had been barred from holding four scrimmages -- the maximum number allowed -- after it was discovered that nine transfer students participated in scrimmages last season under former coach Tim Singleton before being cleared to play by the league. One of those players had not yet enrolled at the school and therefore was not covered by the district's liability insurance.
But principal Amanda O'Nan, athletics director Mark Karen and new football coach B.J. Payne traveled to Columbia on Monday to appeal that decision to the league's executive committee. O'Nan said the school cited the lack of scrimmages as a safety concern as its primary argument.
"For me, as a head coach, that was the most important thing, was the safety aspect of it," Payne said. "For the safety of our players and their players, that the first contact of our team was in a scrimmage setting and not in a week one game situation."
The league opted to grant the Seahawks the ability to participate in two scrimmages, but the team is still unable to compete in the annual Beaufort County jamboree. O'Nan said the school requested to receive all four scrimmages back but that they were grateful to receive the pair.
"We're thankful we got what we got," she said.
Jerome Singleton said he thought Hilton Head High was forthcoming with the infractions committed and that it made an effort to fix them. The school fired Tim Singleton last November after nine seasons before hiring Payne in January.
"We felt like the changes that we made in our program gave us an opportunity to appeal the sanction," Karen said.
Added O'Nan: "We just felt that we had put some things in place to prevent those type of sanctions from occurring in the future. We hope to move forward in a positive direction."
Payne, who will hold his first spring practice May 1, said he began contacting teams Tuesday afternoon but that he had not yet been able to set scrimmages. He hopes to have dates confirmed by early next week.
"With the way that ruling was handed down, I had to assume we weren't going to have any. So I didn't even explore those avenues," he said. "So now we have to find some people that are still open or find a way to get into a three-way or four-way scrimmage just so we can find something."