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GHSA announces region changes

Several Southwest Georgia schools are impacted

Johnny Seabrooks

Johnny Seabrooks

NEW REGION ALIGNMENTS

Region 1-AAAAAA — Lee County, Camden County (FB only), Colquitt County, Lowndes, Tift County, Valdosta

Region 1-AAAAA — Bainbridge (FB only), Carver-Columbus, Columbus, Hardaway, Harris County, LaGrange, Northside-Columbus, Thomas Co. Central (FB only), Shaw

Region 1-AAAA — Albany, Americus-Sumter, Bainbridge (all but FB), Cairo, Cook (Isolated), Crisp County, Dougherty, Monroe, Thomas Co. Central (all but FB), Westover, Worth County

Region 1-AA — Berrien, Brooks County, Early County, Fitzgerald, Pelham, Seminole County, Thomasville

Region 1-A — Baconton Charter, Baker County, Calhoun County, Miller County, Mitchell County, Pataula Charter, Quitman County, Randolph-Clay, Stewart County, Terrell County, Webster County

ALBANY — Rumors had been swirling around Southwest Georgia that there could be some shakeups in region alignments for 2014-16 when the Georgia High School Association released the region assignments on Tuesday.

The only question among area schools was how much the current regions would be impacted.

Turns out, not a single region in Southwest Georgia remained untouched by the GHSA’s announcement, which threw Lee County into arguably the toughest football region in the state, packed 11 teams into Region 1-AAAA and moved Seminole County into Region 1-AA.

It was moving day around the state, and few regions saw more movement than Region 1-AAAA, which welcomes Cook County in all sports and Bainbridge and Thomas County Central in all sports but football.

“It wasn’t a shock to me,” said Johnny Seabrooks, the Dougherty County athletic director and Region 1-AAAA president. “It was something that had been rumored about for a while. It was something that had been talked about in an executive meeting in April when they made provisions for high schools that would be isolated from other teams in their area.”

The only wrinkle in the Region 1-AAAA football picture was the addition of Cook County, but it’s the other sports that will be most impacted by Bainbridge and TCC moving down from AAAAA, while Albany, Dougherty, Worth and Cook opted to move up from AAA.

The region now contains a school as big as Bainbridge (1,499 enrollment) with a school as small as Albany High (912).

“It’s going to be awfully tough on all of us,” Albany High athletic director Archie Chatmon said. “We knew there was going to be an outside chance they would move into our region, but we are prepared for whatever comes our way. We can’t worry about something we don’t have control over.”

Westover athletic director Harley Calhoun said a solution would be to establish regions before schools were required to declare a change in classifications, which would let schools like Albany or Cook know if a larger school like Bainbridge or TCC was being added to the region.

“The fact is that the GHSA decided to move these two teams down, which they do have a bylaw to do,” Calhoun said. “But it traps the other schools. I feel bad for Albany, Dougherty, Worth and Cook, who all opted to play up in AAAA and now find out that two AAAAA schools are coming down.”

Chatmon said he would have made the decision to play in Class AAAA regardless of what happened with Bainbridge and TCC, but he agreed that the process was unfair for schools that had other options on the table.

“You want that information before you make a decision,” he said. “That is something you definitely would want to consider. I would have loved to have it before I decided.

“But for us, the other options just aren’t there. You have to play a Bainbridge and a TCC rather than travel. To me (staying in AAA) was never an option. When I made my decision that we would remain in AAAA, I already knew the addition of Bainbridge and TCC was a possibility.”

With 11 teams in Region 1-AAAA, Seabrooks said a decision to divide into sub-regions will be made after an initial region meeting when the schools gather to elect officials and write bylaws. With at least 10 schools, Region 1-AAAA now meets the GHSA requirement for sub-regions.

TOUGH ROAD FOR LEE: Tuesday’s announcement wasn’t a surprise for Lee County, which was stunningly moved into Class AAAAAA last month and logically assumed it would land in Region 1-AAAAAA, along with Colquitt County, Lowndes County, Tift County, Camden County and Valdosta.

Lee County football coach Dean Fabrizio acknowledged that it’s going to be a challenging road ahead on the football field for the Trojans, who were Region 1-AAAAA champs for the first time this season.

“It’s going to be a big challenge,” he said. “We are the smallest school in AAAAAA. There are some schools that are even bigger than us that they decided to isolate and let play in AAAAA.

“But we feel like we will be up for the challenge. Region 1-AAAAAA is one of the top, if not the top, league in the country, and it’s exciting to be a part of that. There are going to be some great atmospheres to play in, and it will be a great opportunity to measure ourselves against the best, week in and week out.”

Lee left Region 1-AAAAA, which welcomed in Carver-Columbus, LaGrange and Shaw.

SEMINOLE ON THE MOVE: Seminole County’s move from Class A to Class AA had been expected for more than year, and it’s a move that puts the Indians back in Region 1-AA, where they had competed in previous years.

“We are excited to move back to AA competition,” Seminole County athletic director Brinson Register said. “It will certainly be difficult on some levels, but it will be not so difficult on other levels. It’s certainly an exciting challenge for us and a move in another direction. We are looking forward to rekindling relationships we have had over the years with different schools.”

Seminole joins Berrien, Brooks County, Early County, Fitzgerald, Pelham and Thomasville in Region 1-AA.

The Indians are leaving Region 1-A, which will include 11 teams for 2014-16: Baconton Charter, Baker County, Calhoun County, Miller County, Mitchell County, Pataula Charter, Quitman County, Randolph-Clay, Stewart County, Terrell County and Webster County.