Undefeated Oceanside will enter the postseason on the road as a No. 4 seed following punishment handed down by the S.C. High School League on Monday.
The Landsharks, who went 9-0 and won the Region 6-AA championship this season, have been forced to forfeit four games, two region and two non-region, in which it was determined that a junior varsity player either played or dressed for a varsity game in sequential nights. The school will also be fined $16,500.
"It's a relief to finally have this over with. It's been a rough couple of weeks waiting," Oceanside head football coach and athletics director Chad Grier said. "Whatever came of this, we wanted to be sure that we handled it in a way that was consistent with the ideals we preach. I'm incredibly proud of the way our players have handled everything."
With the penalty, Oceanside drops from the No. 1 seed out of Region 6 to the No. 4 seed and will travel to top-seeded Andrews in the opening round of the AA state playoffs. Timberland takes over the top seed from Region 6 and will host sixth-seeded Latta in its playoff opener. Philip Simmons and Burke both moved up a seed, gaining wins from the Oceanside penalty. Philip Simmons moves into the No. 2 seed and will host fourth-seeded Whale Branch, while Burke receives the third seed and will host Eau Claire.
Oceanside principal Brenda Corley said Monday afternoon that the school would appeal three of the forfeits — against Gray, Legion and Burke, the games in which junior varsity players dressed with the varsity but did not actually play — as well as the fine. The appeal, win or lose, will not affect playoff seeding, however, as Corley explained "the school is willing, for the benefit and convenience of all student-athletes, coaches, teams, and schools in the AA classification, to be seeded as the No. 4 seed in Region 6, regardless of the outcome of our appeal as it relates to the forfeiture of the three games listed above."
Philip Simmons reported Oceanside for using players in both the junior varsity and varsity games between the two schools two weeks ago. Oceanside won the junior varsity game 39-6 and the varsity game 70-0.
The S.C. High School League, ahead of the 2015 season, abolished what is known as the eight-quarter rule, a longtime provision in the state that allowed football players eight quarters of play per week, meaning players could participate in the junior varsity game on Thursday and still dress out, often times serving in back-up roles to fill depth for the varsity on Friday.
The league's rule book currently states that “a team may not schedule more than one game in any week nor participate in more than one game in any four-day period.” The same rule book also explains that “a player has the same restrictions as a team on number of games played.”
"This is 100 percent my fault, nobody else's," Grier said. "Did I ever once intend to break a rule or gain an advantage? No. It's pretty obvious, if you understand the situation, that we actually did the opposite.
"But at the end of the day, the kids get to play football on Friday night. That's all that matters."
Should Oceanside and Philip Simmons both win their opening-round games, Philip Simmons would host Oceanside in the second round.
The reshuffling of the AA bracket has aligned Timberland, Barnwell, Mullins and Bamberg-Ehrhardt to the top half of the Class AA Lower State bracket. Oceanside would not face any of them until the state semifinals now.