Although the 2013 sports season hasn’t yet drawn to a close, the Georgia High School Association’s recent reclassification and region alignment procedures already have schools making plans for Fall 2014 and beyond.
While programs like Flowery Branch, Gainesville and Lakeview Academy will see little to no change in their regions next fall, many other local programs can look ahead to a dramatically different landscape.
With that in mind, here’s a list of what could be the biggest winners when all the dust settles.
Everyone who gets to watch Region 8-AAAA football on a regular basis: What happens when you take the top football programs from Region 7-AAA, including one perennial state champion, and place them in Region 8-AAAA?Local football fans will get to see the answer to that question play out on the field next fall.
Buford, North Hall and White County will all move up and join teams like Monroe Area, Chestatee and Stephens County in a revamped Region 8-AAAA, which will also welcomes newcomer North Oconee from Region 8-AAA.
While Buford should remain the heavy favorite to win the region title and state championship once again, the battle for the postseason is bound to leave more than one quality program out of the postseason mix when November rolls around.
To put it a different way: Seven programs that qualified for the state playoffs in 2013 will have to battle for four playoff spots from Region 8-AAAA in 2014.
Needless to say, the new alignment raises the stakes in the rivalry series between Chestatee and North Hall.
Any program competing in a seven-team region: Barring any lateral transfers, nearly half of all area schools (nine) will spend the next two years competing in a seven-team region.
Region 7-AAA, 8-AAA and 8-AA are all aligned to drop from eight members to seven next fall, increasing each program’s odds of reaching the postseason.
Since most sports allow four teams from each region into the playoffs, more than half of the programs in the region are guaranteed to qualify.
In the case of Region 7-AAA and 8-AA, both regions lost some of their strongest members, providing an even brighter future for the schools left behind.
Buford: Let’s face it — the Wolves need a new challenge.
Buford’s football squad is chasing its sixth state championship in the past seven seasons, the softball team has won seven consecutive state titles, and many of its other programs can be counted on to advance deep into the postseason each year.
Some of the same opponents that the Wolves have faced in Class AAA in recent years will move with them to Class AAAA, but there will also be unfamiliar opponents and new challenges to provide tougher tests than the school’s athletic programs have seen of late.
Habersham Central: You could make an argument that the Raiders are the single-biggest winners of the Georgia High School Association’s new region alignment.
That’s not a knock against Habersham Central, or the Forsyth County and North Fulton County opponents that it will face in Region 6-AAAAAA next season. It’s just a testament to how brutal Region 7-AAAAAA and a schedule loaded with Gwinnett County powerhouses can be.
With the Raiders’ football team coming off a winless season and a 1-19 record over the past two years, a change of scenery can only help.
Habersham Central will be forced to make slightly longer road trips over the next couple of years, and Region 6-AAAAAA will be particularly tough in spring sports, but it’s a small price to pay to be in a region with better competitive balance overall.