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GHSA region realignment to bring new competitors to ASHS, Schley in 2016-17

By MICHAEL MURRAY
michael.murray@americustimesrecorder.com

The Georgia High School Association (GHSA) has recently approved a plan to realign the athletic regions throughout the state, due to take effect at the onset of the 2016-17 school year. Due to the disparity in the sizes of schools in currently in region 1-AAAA, the restructuring process is designed to level the playing field and ensure that no school has too significant of an advantage over another due to an abundance of student body resources. The restructuring will affect both Americus-Sumter High School and Schley County High.
The Americus-Sumter Panthers and Lady Panthers will still see two familiar opponents on the field, the diamond, and the court next school year, with Cairo and Westover remaining in region 1-AAAA.
The newly restructured region 1-AAAA will bring a new set of challenges to Americus, however.
Perhaps the strongest new competitor to be included in the region with the Panthers will be the Carver Tigers of Columbus, who are currently playing in a 5A division. Despite the school’s tough level of competition, the Tigers’ football team battled their way to a 9-2 record this season, with the team’s second loss of the season being dealt by Dalton in the first round of the state playoffs.
The Carver Tigers’ boys basketball team is 7-1 against their 5A competitors. The Lady Tigers’ basketball team was 6-1 at press time.
Both the Tigers’ boys’ and girls’ basketball teams will certainly be looking to bring a high level of competition to the court in Americus next year.
The Columbus High School Blue Devils will also be joining the Panthers in region 1-AAAA for 2016-17.
The Blue Devils’ football team amassed a 7-4 record in 5A competition last season, as they fought their way into the AAAAA state playoffs. The Columbus High boys were taken out of the competition in the first round.
Columbus High’s boys’ basketball team is currently 5-4 overall in their divsion. The Lady Blue Devils’ basketball team is currently undefeated after eight contests.
Also new to the region will be Northside, of Columbus, Hardaway High, of Columbus, and Shaw, also of Columbus. Each of these schools will be taking a step down from 5A competition. Northside and Shaw each punched their ticket to a state playoff appearance with their performances on the gridiron during the 2015 season. Both teams were eliminated in the first round.
As of press time, Northside’s boys basketball team was hanging onto a 6-1 overall record, while the school’s girls were holding steady at 5-1. Shaw’s boys basketball team is currently 5-1.
The Panthers and Lady Panthers may have their work cut out for them when they step onto the hardwood in the 2016-17 season.
As for the schools currently in the region with Americus-Sumter, four of them will be competing at the 3A level next year. Crisp County, Dougherty County, Worth County, and Monroe will each be moving down a division. Bainbridge and Thomas County Central will be moving up to AAAAA competition next year.
ASHS head football coach, Erik Soliday, recently spoke with the Times-Recorder to discuss the effect that this will likely have on Panthers football next fall.
“I like the new region structure,” Soliday said. “There will not be any subdivisions, so it will be more straightforward. We will only have to pick up three games instead of six or so, so that will be a little easier on us. We’ll just go in and play the competitors in our region.”
After expressing that he will certainly not miss seeing the current division’s traditional powerhouses, Bainbridge and Thomas County Central, on the field next year, Soliday concluded, “I think it will be a good, competitive region”
The realignment will significantly affect Schley County as well. The newly restructured regions will put the Wildcats and Lady Wildcats in a subregion alongside newcomers, Crawford County and Macon County. Schley will be participating in region 4-A, subregion B alongside these two schools as well as Dooly County, Taylor County, and Hawkinsville.
While it’s no secret that many Ellaville gridiron fans will not mourn the fact that Marion County and Brookstone will be participating in subregion A, the Wildcats’ football team will certainly see their share of obstacles on the gridiron next season.
The team will be squaring off against Macon County, which has been a stronghold of Southeast Georgia football talent for years. The Macon County Bulldogs, who will be taking a step down from AA competition next season, amassed an impressive 10-3 record last fall as they pushed their way to the third round of the AA state playoffs. The Bulldogs were taken out of the running in the third round by Pace Academy of Atlanta, who went on to win the state AA title.
The Bulldogs will have 11 returning seniors on the football team next year to lend their experience to the season.
The Manchester Blue Devils will bring some new faces to 4-A subdivision A as well. While it is not certain whether or not the Wildcats will face the Blue Devils in the coming year, the teams will definitely meet on the field some time soon. With their 9-4 record during the 2015 season that landed them a spot in the state playoffs, the Blue Devils are sure to come into their new region ready to prove themselves as tough opponents. Manchester was taken out of the running in the second round of the state playoffs this season.
Crawford County will also be moving down from AA play and is certain to bring a tough level of competition to the field in Ellaville when the teams battle.