Sports

December 3, 2013

News mostly good on new regions

Local high school ADs, coaches react to realignment

The Dalton High School athletic department will have to invest more in fuel after being placed in a region which travels south down I-75 and stretches westward towards the Alabama state line.

The Georgia High School Association’s reclassification committee announced the region assignments for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 academic years Tuesday, but with the exception of the Dalton’s jump to Class 5A, area programs seemingly fared well in regards to travel and rivalry considerations.

Northwest Whitfield and Southeast Whitfield remain in Region 7-4A, which loses Dalton, Cass, Cedartown and River Ridge but adds Cartersville for an eight-team region. Current Region 7 members Gilmer, Heritage-Catoosa, LaFayette, Pickens and Ridgeland remain in the region as well.

In Class 3A, Coahulla Creek, Murray County and North Murray are in Region 6 with Calhoun, Gordon Central, Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, Ringgold and Sonoraville. Christian Heritage remains in Region 6-A, which remained largely intact but added Morris Innovative, which drops in classification from 2A after this school year.

Dalton’s Region 5-5A includes nine other schools. The region is sub-divided with Dalton in Sub-region 5A with Rome, Cobb County’s Allatoona and Bartow County’s Cass and Woodland. Sub-region 5B is tightly packed with East Paulding, Paulding County, South Paulding, Hiram (another school inside Paulding County) and Villa Rica (which straddles Carroll and Douglas counties) all within a 23-mile radius of each other.

Dalton’s closest region competitor is Cass, which is 43 miles away, according to Google Maps. The trip for the Catamounts is 45 miles to Rome, 58 miles to Woodland and 60 miles to Allatoona.

“We will play anybody, anywhere, anytime,” Dalton football coach Matt Land. “We have been in this region before and were successful. It is a different animal, but it is the same game.

“We have 1,600 kids in our school and about 300 of them play athletics. In my mind, we have always played up.”

Since the GHSA has already subdivided the region, the by-laws of the organization specify that two-thirds of the principals of the region schools would have to vote to play a full region schedule.

Sub-divided regions will play crossover games during the regular season to fill 70 percent of the schedule in football, meaning Dalton would have three non-region games.

In all other sports, region competition only has to fill 50 percent of the region schedule.

“It is a lot better than expected, but it isn’t set in stone yet,” Dalton athletic director Jeff McKinney said. “There was always the fear that we would have the huge region like Region 6 (17 teams). The way that it is drawn now, we have 10 teams, and we are already divided and I am excited about it. I like the idea of being sub-divided because it cuts down on our travel and allows us to play more of the local teams.”

The local teams in Region 6-3A may have gotten the best of this round of classification from a travel and scheduling standpoint. All of the teams in the region are either in Whitfield County or in a county bordering Whitfield.

“Awesome. That is my reaction,” North Murray athletic director Roger Rainey said. “I am definitely excited about it. I was anticipating a little more travel in there, because Adairsville, Cedartown, Pepperell and Rockmart were teams that were sort of in the middle, and you are never really sure where they will end up.

Those four schools ended up in a new Region 5 which stretches southward to Columbus and is sub-divided among eight teams.

“I think it is a good spot for us,” Coahulla Creek athletic director Rhett Parrott said. “There are a lot of good schools, and I like the region the way it fell out.”

In the new Region 6-3A, football teams will play a seven-game region schedule, with three non-region games to be scheduled. Rainey said the possibilities for non-region competition with local schools such as Dalton, Northwest and Southeast, along with their region foes, is something he looks forward to.

“We are pleased with it. Adding Murray County and Calhoun to our region will greatly help with game revenue and the atmosphere of all sporting events,” Rainey said. “Financially, the more rival games you have, it creates a better atmosphere and a better gate. With some of these teams like Calhoun, those are games where people remember those schools that they played against in years past. You can throw in some more local flavor and that is always a good thing.”

But don’t pencil in a Whitfield County Schools championship game in just yet. Parrott said that while Coahulla Creek competes against Northwest and Southeast regularly in other sports, a schedule with all three schools playing each other on the gridiron may not happen as soon as some would like. Coahulla Creek is presently in the process of hiring a new head coach for football after Jared Hamlin — the only football coach in the school’s three-year history — was fired in November.

“Right now, with us making a coaching decision in the near future, that is something we would prefer to wait on to gauge the feelings of the new coach,” Parrott said.

Southeast football coach Sean Gray said this round of reclassification was exactly what he hoped for, with the Raiders headed into an eight-team region. With football teams playing a straight region schedule, Gray said it will be easier to know who the top four teams in the region are for the playoffs.

“You gain Cartersville but you lose Dalton, but I like a smaller region with no sub-region and everyone will get to play everyone to decide your top four,” Gray said. “I didn’t like the way the sub-region thing worked out the past two years, because we had to play the top two teams on the other side — Cedartown and Gilmer — as our crossovers, and some people drew the bottom teams. I would rather you play everyone if you can in a straight region schedule.”

Northwest girls basketball head coach Greg Brown, who is also a football assistant, said while he knows the school will still be able to schedule Dalton in most sports, it will take a little away from the contests because the two teams are in different classes after spending this year and last year in the same region.

“Hopefully we will still get to play that game, but I hate it locally for us because it just isn’t the same when we are not in the same region,” Brown said. “It is still a good game and people will show up, but there is a little bit more to it when a playoff spot is on the line. Travel will still be good for us, which will help economically. Picking up Cartersville is a little bit of a drive, but they are good in several things.”

Region assignments are based on reclassification numbers that were released by the GHSA in November. The GHSA goes through reclassifications based on student enrollment numbers every two years and members schools are divided into six classifications.

Schools have until Dec. 14 to appeal their placement in a region, and the entire GHSA executive committee will vote on the final region alignments on Jan. 14, 2014.

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