The Georgia High School Association reclassification numbers were released on Monday, and Lee County athletic director Rob Williams had to do a double take.
After being in Class AAAAA for more than a decade, Lee County was surprisingly placed in Class AAAAAA for the 2014-16 athletic seasons.
With a student population of 1,802, the Trojans will be the smallest school in Class AAAAAA.
“Yeah, wow,” Williams said. “We were really surprised to be placed in AAAAAA. It’s kind of a bitter pill right now because we were so close to AAAAA. But on the other end of it, it’s a new challenge for us. If that’s where we are put, then we will accept the challenge and get after it.”
There was shock around the Trojan athletic department because of the move, but there was also some disagreement with the GHSA’s decision. Lee County is only seven students bigger than Class AAAAA’s largest school, Winder-Barrow, but Langston Hughes (1,808) and Lee County are 20 students smaller than the next-biggest Class AAAAAA school.
“We felt confident we would remain in AAAAA,” Williams said. “This is going to make it tougher on us because now we are going to be the smallest fish in the biggest pond. We are going to be competing with schools that have 3,200 and 3,300 students. That’s a big discrepancy. We understand that you have to cut it off somewhere. It’s going to be tough on us, but it’s just a new challenge.”
The GHSA will not rearrange the regions until Dec. 3, but the most obvious region for the Trojans to land in would be 1-AAAAAA with Camden County, Colquitt County, Lowndes, Valdosta, Tift County, Coffee and Brunswick —- the toughest football region in south Georgia.
The Trojans, who won the 1-AAAAA title on the football field less than two weeks ago, are preparing for Friday’s second-round playoff game against Mundy’s Mills, and coach Dean Fabrizio said that’s all he and his players are focusing on right now.
“All of our focus right now is on our playoff game Friday night, and we haven’t thought much about (moving to AAAAAA) to be honest,” Fabrizio said. “I don’t think it will (distract us on Friday). That’s next year. We will worry about next year when that time comes.”
REGION 1-AAAA IMPACT: Region 1-AAAA schools Dougherty (954), Worth County (942) and Albany (912) were all placed in Class AAA just as they were during the previous reclassification process.
Last time, all three teams played up in Class AAAA —- but area coaches and athletic directors are unsure if they will make the similar decision this year in what could end up being a major shake-up in Southwest Georgia regions.
“No one knows right now where we are going to be,” Dougherty football coach Corey Joyner said. “It’s going to make it interesting because if you look at the numbers, Thomas County Central (1,429) and Bainbridge (1,499) fall close to us and are in our area. We will just sit and wait and see how they group us.”
SEMINOLE TO AA: Seminole County is currently eyeing a Class A state championship in football as it enters its opening-round game Friday as the undefeated No. 1 seed.
The Indians’ road to a state title won’t be as easy next season.
Seminole rose to Class AA in Monday’s reclassification numbers with a student population of 477, a number significantly higher than previous years.
“Historically we have had 100 students in grades 8, 9 and 10 by the time they reach high school,” Indians football coach Alan Ingram said. “Now those grades are at 130 and 135 kids.”
However, Ingram said there still is a possibility that Seminole could remain in Class A after the Dec. 2 deadline for schools to submit their intent to play in higher classifications.
“There is a lot of talk about some of the private schools moving up to Class AA so they can play (public schools),” Ingram said. “They are having problems drawing crowds at ball games. To make more money, they would want to play public schools (for more attendance).”
For each Class A school that opts to move up in classification, a Class AA school would drop into Class A. Seminole is the 10th-smallest Class AA school, which means 10 Class A schools would need to move up in order for Seminole to drop.
If the Indians do stay in Class AA, a logical move would be to replace Cook in Region 1-AA after the Hornets’ population number of 917 put them in the middle of the pack in Class AAA.
“Whatever happens, our numbers are there,” Ingram said. “Whatever Georgia High School (Association) says is what we are going to do.”