ALBANY — With several of the Region 1-AAAA schools still coming to grips with Class AAAAA football powers Thomas County Central and Bainbridge being added to their region, coaches have voted to divide 1-AAAA into sub-regions for the 2014-15 seasons.
In a near-unanimous decision by the region’s football coaches, Crisp County, TCC, Cairo, Monroe and Albany will make up sub-region A, while Bainbridge, Americus-Sumter, Westover, Worth County and Dougherty will make up sub-region B.
All four Dougherty County coaches were in favor of the split, including Westover’s Octavia Jones, who led the Patriots to their first region title in school history last season.
“I think it was for the best of the region with the amount of teams we have,” he said. “I understand that a lot of people don’t like sub-regions, but the positives from my end are that it allows us to have a true championship game for the next two seasons, and it allows each team to build up to region play.”
Without sub-regions, each team would have had to begin region play in the first two weeks of the season — a scenario that Dougherty County Athletic Director Johnny Seabrooks said would have left some teams at a disadvantage.
“You look at the possibility of having a couple of bad games early in the season, and all of a sudden your chances of making the playoffs are extremely less,” he said. “This gives teams a chance at the end of the season.”
By-laws are still being ironed out by the 10 region coaches, but the new format will likely be a four-game region schedule with the top three teams in each sub-region guaranteed at least a shot of making the Class AAAA state playoffs.
In the proposed format, the winners of each sub-region will play each other in a Week 10 region championship game with the winner earning a No. 1 seed in the postseason and the loser getting the No. 2 seed. Teams that finish second in their sub-region will host the third-place teams from the other sub-region in a pair of games in Week 10 that will decide the Nos. 3 and 4 seeds for the postseason.
The fourth-place and fifth-place teams will also play each other in a pair of season-ending matchups.
The region was divided using FTE (enrollment) numbers with the first, third, fifth, seventh and ninth largest schools placed in Division A, and the second, fourth, eighth and 10th largest schools placed in Division B.
In addition to playing four sub-region opponents, each school drew at random to play two other teams from the opposite sub-region.
Westover’s crossover opponents for the 2014 season will be Monroe and Cairo, while Monroe drew Westover and Bainbridge. Albany High will play Dougherty and Americus, and Dougherty will play crossover games against Albany High and Crisp County. The crossover games will not count toward the region standings.
Albany High coach Felton Williams was one of the biggest supporters of dividing into sub-regions after his school — which is the smallest in Region 1-AAAA with an enrollment of 912 — was forced into the same region with Bainbridge and TCC, who have enrollments of more than 500 students.
“This gives everybody a fair chance with those two big animals coming in, which I extremely disagree with,” Williams said. “I think it was unfair of the GHSA to allow them in with us, Dougherty and Worth County all choosing to play up (from Class AAA). I just want my kids to have a fair opportunity.
“With the sub-regions, it gives the smaller schools like myself, Dougherty and Worth County a chance.”
However, because of scheduling conflicts, two longtime city rivalries won’t happen this season unless the teams meet in Week 10. Dougherty and Monroe don’t have a regular season game scheduled against each other, and neither do Albany and Westover.
Jones said he hopes the teams will be able to renew their rivalries as early as the 2015 season.
“That’s just kind of how it worked out this year,” said Jones, who was named The Herald’s John Reynolds Coach of the Year in 2013. “The next go-around we will have more of an ability to get it all worked out before we schedule non-region games. That’s what happened this year. Everybody had their non-region schedules filled already.”
The region was expanded to 10 teams earlier this month when the GHSA’s Executive Committee approved an appeal from TCC to move into Region 1-AAAA for travel purposes. The GHSA also moved Bainbridge from 1-AAAAA to 1-AAAA because of isolation.
While the football coaches decided to break off into sub-regions, softball will retain its full region schedule. Seabrooks said each sport gets the opportunity to decide on its own whether it will split into sub-regions. Cook County — which will play in Region 1-AAAA in all sports but football — will join sub-region A in any other spot that votes for a split.