The Georgia High School Association released its region realignment for the 2016-18 seasons Tuesday.
For the most part, all area schools will see a few new region opponents when next fall rolls around.
After making the jump to Class AAAAAA, Gainesville High will be in Region 8 with fellow area school Habersham Central.
Apalachee, Lanier and Winder-Barrow will carry over with the Red Elephants from what is currently Region 8-AAAAA.
The new opponent will be Dacula to round out this six-team region.
GAINESVILLE ATHLETIC DIRECTOR BILLY KIRK: “We’re excited. Logistically, it helps out with our teams not having to go all over God’s creation on school nights. It’s a tough region top to bottom in all sports. We’re really excited about where we’ve been placed. ... (The other ADs and I) have been working on things behind the scenes. You have to. We’re going to informally get together and work on (home and away games for football) next week. Even though the GHSA won’t ratify the regions until January, we have to be proactive. ... I regret losing Flowery Branch, but I hope we can pick them up in non-region. That’s the only regret I look at, we don’t have that natural rival. If we can’t play them in the regular season, maybe we can scrimmage.”
Buford, Johnson and Flowery Branch will all play in region competition next season in the new Region 8-AAAAA.
Athens schools Clarke Central and Cedar Shoals, along with Loganville, will remain in the region. Walnut Grove will be making the move into Class AAAAA from Region 4-AAAA to complete the new region alignment.
FLOWERY BRANCH ATHLETIC DIRECTOR JIMMY LAWLER: “I feel good about it, our coaches feel good about it. We’ve got familiar faces in Clarke Central, Cedar Shoals and Loganville. We’re going to meet Thursday night to set up our football schedule for next year so we can start working on getting some non-region games. ... It was a little bit of a surprise (to have seven teams in the region), but that cuts down on travel. ... We were expecting the six teams we were grouped with. It made sense geographically for all of us to be in the same region. ... [Upon the official release of new regions] The first thing was a sigh of relief. Everybody’s been on edge wondering ‘Are we going to be 5A or 6A?’ ‘Who’s going to be in our region?’”
Chestatee, Riverside Military, West Hall and White County will comprise Region 7-AAAA starting in the fall.
The four area schools will contend with Blessed Trinity and Marist for region supremacy.
WEST HALL ATHLETIC DIRECTOR ETHAN BANKS: “We’re losing a lot of our traditional rivals that we love to play in region play, so that’s kind of disappointing. It’s good to have county foes for the games that count for something. … Those will be the games we miss. It’s a guessing game. I think everyone was on the edge of their seats waiting. … We’re going to play whoever they put out there. All of the schools are really, really good, so we’ll put our best foot forward.”
In Region 7, Jefferson and Oconee County, which are both making the jump to Class AAAA, will be battling with St. Pius X, Stephens County, North Oconee and Madison County, all Class AAAA veterans.
JEFFERSON ATHLETIC DIRECTOR TIM CORBETT: “If you’ve got a region with six teams, you’ve got to find five extragames. Sometimes your success can be your Achilles heel. Finding those extra games are tough, not a lot of folks want to play us. Maybe we’ll have some crossover games between Region 7 and 8. … Big picture, we’ve got to play them all to win them all. I’m just not a fan of driving toward Atlanta for anything. I left for Blessed Trinity in our (football) playoff game at 4:30 p.m. and got there just in time for the coin flip. But we’ll be alright, we’ve just got to play the hand we’re dealt.”
Dawson County, East Hall, Lumpkin County and North Hall will anchor area teams in Region 7-AAA.
They will compete with Fannin County, Greater Atlanta Christian and Union County.
NORTH HALL ATHLETIC DIRECTOR BILLY WELLS: “It’s kind of what we thought. I-85 seems to be the dividing line between (Regions) 7 and 8. … Traditionally (Greater Atlanta Christian) has done well, but other schools, we’re looking at all of them. We’re excited to be in a new region with new faces. … We felt like we held our own in the past. Being in a region with Buford, we always challenged the kids to compete. … We didn’t see many surprises we didn’t expect.”
Region 8-AAA lost Elbert County, Jefferson and Oconee County, but will pick up Franklin County and Monroe Area.
East Jackson, Jackson County, Hart County and Morgan County are staying put.
Banks County will be falling back into Class AA and heading up Region 8-AA.
Elbert County is also moving down from Class AAA.
Oglethorpe County, Rabun County and Social Circle will remain in Region 8-AA, where they’ve been the last two years.
Monticello and Putnam County will remain in Class AA, but will move from Region 4 to Region 8.
Lakeview will remain in the state’s smallest classification.
The Lions will play in an 11-team region for the 2016-18 seasons.