The South Carolina High School League’s realignment plan for 2016 through 2018 has Mauldin and Hillcrest back together again in Region 2 of Class AAAAA.
The schools have already discussed playing twice each season in football as they had when they were region rivals previously, beginning in 2016.
In the meantime, the schools suddenly have a second game scheduled for this season. The Mavericks (5-6) and the defending state champion Rams (9-2) have been paired for a Class AAAA Division I first-round playoff game at 7:30 p.m. Friday night at Hillcrest’s Chandler Stadium.
“It’s always good, No. 1, to have a playoff game close to home and, No. 2, to play somebody that you’re familiar with, even though they put it to us pretty good the first game of the season,” said Mauldin coach Lee Taylor, whose Mavericks lost the opener 61-18.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to at least give them a game this time. The first time, they were on their game, and we were not. They embarrassed us. That’s about as bluntly as I can put it.”
“We know that Mauldin is not going to bring the same intensity that they brought the first week, with this being a playoff game and either you win or you go home,” Hillcrest coach Greg Porter said. “We know they’re going to bring their best shot, and we’ve got to be prepared to match their intensity.”
Just a few years back, Mauldin had been dominating the series with its Golden Strip rival, having won nine straight games against Hillcrest. But the Rams have won the last four, including the last three by a combined score of 137-38.
Mauldin, which lost its last three regular-season games, also lost starting quarterback Dre Harris to a broken collarbone near the end of its loss against Spartanburg in Week 10.
Freshman Mitch Norman started in place of Harris and threw for 132 yards and a touchdown in a 42-14 loss at Boiling Springs in Week 11. He also threw three interceptions, but Taylor said he asked Norman to do things beyond his capability at that point.
“He’s a freshman, but he doesn’t seem to get rattled,” Taylor said. “He’s a confident kid, so hopefully he can manage the game and play like he did against Boiling Springs, minus the interceptions. A couple of those were things he couldn’t do at that time but he should be able to do now.”
“He’s very athletic, very fast, very tough,” said Porter. “There’s not that much film on him, and most of the time when he did get in the game, he got in as a cleanup near the end of the game.
“He definitely brings something different to the table as a runner, and they have a good offensive line. Their offensive line played very well the first time they played us.”
Hillcrest is 3-2 at home and 6-0 away from Chandler Stadium, but Porter said he’s still glad the Rams won’t have to travel.
“Being at home is always an advantage, even though I feel like our team has played better on the road,” Porter said. “It’s an opportunity for our community to get behind us, our school to get behind us, our student body to get behind us and to continue to make our run.”
CLASS AAAA DIVISION I
Summerville at Dutch Fork
Spring Valley at Fort Dorchester
Carolina Forest at Goose Creek
White Knoll at Sumter
Gaffney at Byrnes
Mauldin at Hillcrest
Boiling Springs at Ashley Ridge
Dorman at West Ashley
CLASS AAAA DIVISION II
South Florence at Spartanburg
Laurens at Northwestern
Cane Bay at Westside
Fort Mill at Lexington
North Augusta at Blythewood
Nation Ford at York
Westwood at Conway
T.L. Hanna at Irmo
Chapman at Seneca
Richland NE at South Pointe
Union County at Greer
Wren at Chapin
Brookland-Cayce at Georgetown
St. James at Midland Valley
Hilton Head at Myrtle Beach
Airport at Hartsville
CLASS AA DIVISION I
Newberry at Strom Thurmond
Woodruff at Fairfield Central
Lake Marion at Loris
Timberland at Dillon
CLASS AA DIVISION II
Saluda at Chesterfield
Batesburg-Leesville at Abbeville
Andrews at Silver Bluff
Marion at Whale Branch
CLASS A DIVISION I
Williston-Elko at Southside Christian
McBee at Christ Church
Latta at Bamberg-Ehrhardt
Allendale-Fairfax at Calhoun County
CLASS A DIVISION II
Hunter-Kinard-Tyler at Lamar
Ridge Spring-Monetta at McCormick
Baptist Hill at C.E. Murray
Cross at Lake View