Next year can't come soon enough at Battery Creek High School.
That's not to say the Dolphins have given up on 2011. Quite the opposite, in fact. Despite a four-game losing streak, first-year coach Jim Shuman says he's proud of his team's progress and likes the Dolphins' mind-set going into Region 7-AAA play.
But the hard truth is Battery Creek essentially is a Class 2-A team playing a Class 3-A schedule, and the Dolphins are overmatched.
They hope that changes next season, when the S.C. High School League's latest realignment plan puts Battery Creek in Class 2-A. The Dolphins will play in an eight-team region with non-region games against Class 3-A Hilton Head High and Class 1-A Estill and Whale Branch.
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"Our schedule top to bottom next year is very favorable," Shuman said. "It would be nice if we were there now, but we're not."
That has been painfully evident.
Since a season-opening 21-16 win against Estill, the Dolphins have been outscored 191-25 in losses to Class 4-A teams Beaufort High and Carolina Forest and Class 2-A squads Edisto and Wade Hampton.
Those last two results indicate it won't be a cakewalk in Class 2-A, but at least the Dolphins should be able to compete more often than not, and it's remarkable what a couple of wins can do for a high school team's confidence -- something the Dolphins haven't had a lot of in recent years.
"We still fight what we call the ghosts of Creek -- the fumbles and the penalties and this and that," Shuman said. "We're not just fighting a game every night, we're fighting the past sometimes."
If this all sounds familiar, that's because it is.
After years of getting beaten up in Class 4-A -- including winless seasons in 2006 and 2007 -- the Dolphins were grateful for a move to Class 3-A for the 2008 season. The move paid immediate dividends, and Battery Creek won four games in 2008 and three in 2009, reaching the playoffs both years.
Then came the opening of Whale Branch High, which siphoned a large number of Battery Creek's students -- and several of its best football players. The Dolphins didn't win a game last year under Carlos Cave, who left to become the athletics director at Whale Branch.
"This year's kind of that equalizing year where we know what we have," Shuman said. "Those guys have been gone a year now, and what we have now is our future."
And Shuman likes what he sees in that future. The Dolphins dress 55 varsity players this year with another 20 players who only dress for junior varsity games. Their feeder program at Robert Smalls Middle School is strong, and Shuman is pleased with the level of commitment he has seen in his first year, even in spite of the rocky history and uphill battle Battery Creek football faces.
"What we're building is coming along," Shuman said. "And I truly believe the future is bright for Creek football."