Cane Bay football on probation

Jeff Cruce

Cane Bay High School hasn't even opened its doors yet, but its football team is already on probation.

The new Berkeley County school, which will open in August, was penalized by the High School League for holding two illegal practices in February.

Jeff Cruce, the school's athletic director and head football coach, met with eight potential quarterbacks and allowed them to throw footballs Feb. 3 as parents looked on at Sangaree Middle School. Two days later, Cruce and seven of the QB candidates met again and threw footballs. High School League rules state that if a coach works with more than three athletes during the offseason, it is an illegal practice.

Cane Bay officials appealed to the High School League's Executive Committee on Wednesday, but the group upheld league commissioner Jerome Singleton's ruling.

Singleton could not be reached.

Cruce said he knew the rule was in place, but didn't consider it to be a practice since he didn't have a football team in place.

"You get only one chance to do things right the first time," Cruce said. "That's the worst thing about it. This will be people's perception of Cane Bay football for the first year. That's devastating."

The probation means the Cobras, who will play at the Class AA level for two years, cannot participate in any preseason or postseason play. Cruce said the school will appeal the postseason ban later in the school year.

"Sometimes the High School League rules don't favor the kids," Cruce said. "What this means is we can't participate in the Sertoma Classic or the playoffs. But we can still have a competitive season."

In January, Cruce held a meet-and-greet day for prospective athletes at the new school. Cruce said 402 students attended the meeting and filled out questionnaires. Cruce said 155 students expressed interest in playing football and 12 specifically were interested in playing quarterback.

Cruce contacted the potential quarterbacks, who were in the seventh, eighth and ninth grades. They worked out twice and were scheduled for a third, but Cruce received a phone call from another coach.

"He was trying to be helpful," said Cruce, who was athletic director and football coach at Hanahan for 12 years before accepting the Cane Bay job. "He said we might be in violation. I didn't think I was, but I started thinking about it after I got off the phone. Then, I contacted the High School League and reported it."

--High School League changes venue for some football championships. Page 7C