Six athletic directors and a couple of assistants came together Wednesday morning in a second-floor computer lab at South Johnston High School just past 8 a.m. to start to put the Two Rivers 3A Conference’s fall schedule back together after Hurricane Matthew.
Two hours and 45 minutes later, they walked out having been forced to end some seasons prematurely, scrap a conference tournament, revamp playing dates and sites multiple times for various reasons over the course of said meeting. And still, they left with a few questions unanswered.
So goes life when one perhaps the largest flood event in the area’s history comes just as high school fall seasons are winding down and championship season is starting.
Sure, there are much more important matters than athletic contests in times like these but with state-mandated playoff reporting deadlines looming, decisions had to be made on how to go forward.
The decision to ax the final girls golf match of the season was made pretty simple by course availability to some degree but mainly by the scoring reporting deadline for qualifiers for Monday’s regional championships.
The conversation took longer when it came to the conference volleyball season and planned conference tournament. With some teams needing to get in three regular season matches to finish the regular season, a limit of four matches allowed per week and the state volleyball playoffs starting Oct. 22, the debate was about finishing the regular season or moving directly to a conference tournament.
Complicating that decision was the NCHSAA’s decision to change the playoff qualifying procedure for this year with only conference regular-season or tournament champions guaranteed spots in the state playoffs and the other qualifiers determined by overall won-loss records. Meanwhile, there was the revenue the conference volleyball tournament brings to the conference itself to keep in the back of their minds.
Ultimately with four teams still mathematically alive for the regular-season conference championship, the ADs voted to finish the regular season by this coming Wednesday and cancel the conference tournament.
With no boys soccer tournament scheduled, most teams will play three matches a week the rest of the way to get their full 10-game schedule in.
The meeting eventually got to the sport that’s the most followed — football — and determining if anyone would be able to play on Friday night and if not, when they would play.
After clarification on when Harnett County Schools would be allowed to play — nothing that concluded after 5 p.m. the rest of the workweek — to make sure student-athletes were home before nightfall, teams went to work juggling their hopes for Saturday games or whether to just move things to Monday night.
As the only two Johnston County schools playing each other this week, South Johnston and Cleveland could have left their game on Friday night, but both coaches wanted to move the game to Saturday. And with a key baseball alumni event at South Johnston set for Saturday night, the game will be at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
The group went into the discussion with the idea of trying to avoid Monday games because most of them have already played twice in a week this season, but couldn’t avoid Monday as it turned out. (The decision to cancel all of the junior varsity games was made as well. Mostly as a nod to student-athlete safety since there are no conference championships or playoffs awaiting those teams.)
Smithfield-Selma and Western Harnett looked at a Saturday date, but decided against it because of concerns over high water still in Johnston County around the Neuse River through the weekend. They’ll play Monday, as will Corinth Holders and Triton.
Cross country meets that were to be this week were all canceled since those don’t impact any post-season events. The league championships in that sport remain set for Oct. 19 at Smithfield Community Park.
South Johnston, LaBonte take golf titles
The decision to cancel the final Two Rivers 3A Conference girls golf match of the season wrapped up conference championships for South Johnston and Corinth Holders’ Peyton LaBonte.
The Trojans won three of the five league nine-hole matches this season, finishing second in the other two matches. Triton — winners of the other two matches — finished second, followed by Corinth Holders, Smithfield-Selma and Cleveland, respectively.
LaBonte finished with a 39.4 scoring average for the conference season. Her best round was a 33 at Riverwood early in the season. Triton’s Kathryn Elliott was second at 39.6, followed by South Johnston’s Sydney Wheeless.
Maggie Riley of Smithfield-Selma was fourth, followed by South’s Mackenzie Honeycutt and Cleveland’s Taylor Hasick.
South Johnston’s Anna Weaver was ninth individually, making the Trojans the only team to have three individuals finish in the top 10 for the season.
South Johnston will host the NCHSAA 3A Eastern Regional Championships on Monday at Reedy Creek Golf Course. Tee times start about 8:30 a.m.
Cancelled Area Conference Tournaments
- Carolina 1A volleyball and girls tennis
- Two Rivers 3A volleyball
- Greater Neuse River 4A volleyball and girls tennis
- Eastern Plains 2A TBA