August 7, 2013

Christian Heritage opponent suspends season, coach unsure how gap to be filled

Chris Whitfield

— The 2013 schedule is in limbo for Christian Heritage and several other Region 6A high school football teams after Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy decided to drop its program weeks before the new season kicks off.

SACA coach Adrian Chism told Georgia High School Football Daily, an email newsletter that covers prep football in the Peach State, that he received a call over the weekend informing him the school’s board of directors had voted to “suspend the season.”

Now, all of the Sub-region 6A-A teams who were scheduled to play SACA must either scramble to find a 10th game to fill out their schedules or be forced to have a nine-game season.

Also, Sub-region 6B-A teams will have to wait and see which team will not have a game at the end of the regular season in the region crossover games as the result of SACA’s absence.

Christian Heritage was scheduled to play at SACA on Oct. 25.

As of Monday night, Christian Heritage coach Preston Poag was uncertain about what the Lions would do, and Georgia High School Association executive director Ralph Swearngin said nothing official has been decided by the GHSA.

“The GHSA hasn’t said anything to us yet,” Poag said. “The region hasn’t called a meeting yet. They have to do something. It is a pretty big deal.”

The main concern for the schools affected are the Class A power rankings. Sixteen private schools and 16 public schools advance to the Class A state playoffs based on the power rankings, which use a point system that takes into account a team’s won-loss record and the strength of its schedule. Last season, teams received no benefits for beating an opponent playing a non-region schedule.

“I have had a call from Providence Christian and their coach and I have been playing phone tag all day, and if we were to play them, we would have to open the season on Aug. 23,” Poag said. “But I really can’t tell them anything because no one has told us. They are playing a non-region schedule, but how will that affect the power rating? We will talk to people, but I don’t know if we should sign any contracts yet because you don’t know what it all means.”

No one seems to know.

“As I understand it now, the schools involved are trying to plug and fill the holes,” Swearngin said. “We told the schools if there is anything we can do to help, we’ll do what we can. If teams aren’t able to get an opponent, then they’ll have a nine-game schedule. Whether that hurts or helps them in the power rating system, there are so many variables. You wouldn’t be able to know ahead of time how it affects a team’s rating.”

Late Tuesday afternoon, Darlington coach Bob Stinchcomb — who is also a member of the GHSA’s hardship committee — sent an email to region coaches giving a list of “solutions” for schools trying to fill out their schedules. Among the suggestions were playing an opponent twice, playing an out-of-state private or public school, finding teams playing non-region schedules and playing against the junior varsity team of a larger school.

However, how any of those options would affect the power rankings was unknown. Also, playing against private schools in the state of Georgia who are not members of the GHSA is prohibited by the organization’s constitution and bylaws.

“Last year, games against teams playing a non-region schedule did not count for any points in the power ranking system, and I don’t think playing out-of-state teams helped you any either,” Poag said. “We will have to do something with the power ranking.

“There are just too many variables right now. What if you can’t find a game? Is the power ranking now divided by nine to give an average? No one knows right now.”

Darlington will fill in its schedule with Our Lady of Mercy — a non-region opponent SACA was scheduled to play as well — on Nov. 1. Our Lady of Mercy was scheduled to have a bye week on that date, which was the Friday night the Tigers were scheduled to play SACA. Poag said the other teams on SACA’s schedule all have conflicting bye weeks to make scheduling even more difficult.

Another concern for Christian Heritage is that the Lions already had an off date scheduled for the week before the SACA game. Unless a team can be scheduled during either one of those Fridays, CHS could go three weeks between games in the middle of the season.

“That is going to be a huge momentum killer if that happens,” Poag said.

Sports writer Devin Golden contributed to this report.