Reclassification has new look, new problems

Published 6:00 am Thursday, December 11, 2008

New classifications. New rivalries. New problems.

The Mississippi High School Activities Association has releasedits latest reclassification for all MHSAA members. There are someearth-shaking changes for several schools, especiallyBrookhaven.

In a so-called progressive move, the MHSAA has added anotherclassification, namely Class 6A to the mix. Formerly Class 5A, thetop 32 schools in enrollment have been promoted to Class 6A.

Brookhaven and many other Class 4A schools have climbed the ladderto 5A. That’s where it gets interesting. The Panthers, with aprojected enrollment of 893 students in grades 9-12, will competein Region 3-5A, featuring Wayne County, West Jones, Picayune, PearlRiver Central, Stone County, McComb and Forest Hill. Picayune, with1,080 students; Wayne County (1,072) and Forest Hill (1,063), areamong the largest enrollments in 5A.

Suddenly, No. 4 seeding at the conclusion of the regular seasonlooks pretty satisfying. Once a dominant force in the old Region6-4A, Brookhaven is faced with the challenging prospect of workingovertime just to be competitive.

“It’s part of what we have to live with,” said Ole Brook headfootball coach Tucker Peavey. “We will try to make the best of it.Travel is the biggest problem.”

For the unknowing reader, Wayne County and Picayune are consideredannual state title contenders. West Jones played for the SouthState title last month.

“I feel like we have joined the SEC,” said BHS offensivecoordinator Jaymie Palmer.

For sure, Peavey and his staff have their work cut out for them.Wayne County, Picayune, Stone County and Pearl River Central are2-3-hour bus rides from Brookhaven. The level of competition ishigh but the travel expenses are even higher for all of theschools.

How does a school system pay for the additional fuel costs in thesetough financial times?

Perhaps some ambitious wildcatter could drill for oil on the BHSpractice field.

Spirit buses, taking football fans to out-of-town games, shouldbecome more popular. Also consider car-pooling or fan-pooling.

Brookhaven won’t have to play former Region 6-4A foes Mendenhall,Port Gibson and Florence, but the hot rivalry with Lawrence Countywould be great to continue. Besides 6 region games, the Pantherswill have 4 playing dates to fill. Natchez, Franklin County,Hazlehurst, South Pike and North Pike are area options.

Locally, Region 4-1A is going to benefit from reclassification.Puckett, Pisgah, Pelahatchie and Stringer have graduated to Class2A. Bogue Chitto, West Lincoln, Dexter, Salem, Mount Olive, NatchezCathedral and Vicksburg St. Aloysius remain in 4-1A, withSebastopol joining the group.

Today’s geography lesson: Sebastopol is located in the farnortheast corner of Scott County, 15 miles north of Forest. That’sabout 65 miles west of Jackson. Add another 60 miles driving southon I-55 to Lincoln County. That’s also known as a road trip.

Region 4-1A will be locked into 6 region games instead of 10 likethe previous two years. That will allow teams at least 3, if not 4non-region games to play against local teams like Enterprise, LoydStar and Wesson. That should boost gate receipts.

Coaches are eager to schedule Mt. Hermon, La., a new footballprogram similar in size to 1A. Mt. Hermon is about an hour’s drivesouth of Lincoln County.

Lawrence County should be strong in the new Region 7-4A. TheCougars, coached by Mike Davis, roared to the old Region 6-4A titlethis year. They will be joined by Columbia, Magee, South Pike,Purvis and North Pike in the new alignment. North Pike’s schooldistrict has been growing in leaps and bounds but the athleticdepartment hasn’t caught up and achieved a high enough level to becompetitive in 4A. It takes time and money.

In Class 2A, Wesson, Loyd Star, Enterprise, Hinds AHS and MadisonSt. Joseph remain in Region 6. The newcomer is powerful Puckett,fresh from winning the Class 1A state championship. Former membersSt. Andrew’s and McLaurin have vaulted to 3A.

Speaking of Class 3A, Region 7 is loaded with strong footballteams, including state runner-up Tylertown, plus Franklin County,Hazlehurst, Jefferson County, Amite County and Wilkinson County.Hazlehurst won the 3A state title in 2005, followed by FranklinCounty in 2006. Franklin County was runner-up to Louisville in2007.

Most football games are played on Friday nights, so the travel timeis more tolerable for players and fans alike. Regions becomedivisions for basketball and other sports, meaning a reduction insize.

In Brookhaven’s case, the Panthers will compete in Region 5-5A inbasketball for the next two school years. They are joined by ForestHill, McComb and West Jones. Tuesday night road games won’t be toobad, with the exception of West Jones which is 90 minutes east, ifyou obey the speed limit on Highway 84.

The annual Alabama/Mississippi High School All-Star Classic kicksoff at 1 p.m. Saturday in Mobile’s Ladd-Peeples Stadium. TheMississippi team will be seeking its second straight win.

Peavey is coaching the offensive line. Anthony Hart of LafayetteCounty is the scout coach. Hart is a Lincoln County native whograduated from Loyd Star.

Directing the Magnolia State squad is Marcus Boyles of WayneCounty. Other coaches are Anthony Jenkins of Hernando, Todd Mangumof Ocean Springs, Brad Peterson of Louisville, Scott Pierson ofWest Jones, and Milton Smith of Laurel. Steve Rudolph of EastCentral is administrative coach.

Quarterbacking the Mississippi team are Tyler Russell of Class 5Astate champion Meridian and Jamie Collins of Franklin County. Dueto a turf toe problem, running back Kendrick Hardy of LawrenceCounty elected to skip the game.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O. BOX551, Brookhaven, MS 39602 or e-mail sports@dailyleader.com