Lots of changes are in the works

Published 5:19 pm Thursday, December 6, 2012

Every two years the Mississippi High School Activities Association and the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools goes through a reclassification process. Enrollments at schools either rise  or fall. Some schools even close or consolidate.

     Did someone say consolidate?

     That’s a dirty word in Lincoln County. Bogue Chitto, Enterprise, Loyd Star and West Lincoln have strong community support. It would take an act of congress to close one of them. Besides, millions of taxpayers’ dollars are being pumped into each facility to keep it up to standard.

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     Now, if they could just do something about that Attendance Center moniker that glares from the wall at the entrance to each school. The world would be a better place. In our opinion, Learning Center or just plain s-c-h-o-o-l reads and sounds much better. It is pleasing to the eye and to the ear.

     Climbing down off my soapbox, the subject of this column is reclassification. There are several changes in Lincoln County, public and private.

     In the MHSAA, Brookhaven remains in Class 5A but the Panthers have some new Region 3 opponents in Natchez, Laurel and Pearl River Central. They join Wayne County, West Jones, South Jones and Wingfield.

     In other words, the Ole Brook Panthers have a tough row to hoe in football. Natchez fell from Class 6A and McComb  dropped down to Class 4A but the ancient rival will remain on the BHS schedule. Lawrence County, plus  neighbors North Pike  and Franklin County, are back on the menu.

     Ole Brook head coach Tommy Clopton said the contracts with non-region teams haven’t been signed yet, so nothing is cut in stone. Recently fired Lawrence County coach David Parker wanted to drop the Panthers but higher powers prevailed.

     BHS versus Lawrence County is a money game, home and away. For sure, the Panthers usually win but it’s always a highly competitive contest.

     In Region 7-4A, Lawrence County is joined by Columbia, McComb, North Pike, Purvis and South Pike. Perennial powerhouse Tylertown has descended to Class 3A. The Chiefs will reside in Division 8,along with Perry Central, St. Patrick, Seminary, Sumrall and West Marion.

     In Class 3A, Division 7 includes Crystal Springs, Franklin County, Jefferson County, Wilkinson County, newcomer Wesson and new state champion Hazlehurst. Wesson was a strong force in Class 2A for many years but the Cobras will be the underdog in almost all of their region games.

     Wesson also will take a hit financially, because of the distant travel. Many fans don’t follow their teams on long road trips.

     In Division 7-2A, state champion Bassfield has been planted among Amite County, East Marion, Loyd Star, Enterprise-Lincoln and newcomer West Lincoln. Bassfield is strong enough and fast enough to compete on even terms with many 5A and 6A football teams. Ouch.

     West Lincoln, after two years as an independent, finds itself in hostile territory. The Bears realized their first-ever winning season in 2012  and expected to move from 1A as enrollment grew. Golly gee, Bassfield and East Marion were South State finalists this year.

     Madison St. Joseph and Puckett are the only returning members of Region 6-2A. They are joined by Leake County, Pisgah, S.V. Marshall, and Williams-Sullivan.

     Loyd Star (1-9) and Enterprise (0-11) went looking for relief. In an historic, earth-shaking  move, Loyd Star elected not to play archrival Wesson in football. That’s comparable to Auburn not playing Alabama and Ole Miss not playing Mississippi State.

     Go figure.

     In Region 4-1A, region champion Bogue Chitto is joined by Natchez Cathedral, Dexter, Hinds AHS, Lumberton, Mount Olive, Salem, state champion Stringer, Resurrection of Pascagoula and Sacred Heart of Hattiesburg. The travel expense in that 10-team region is staggering. Cathedral must travel 70 miles for its closest region opponent.

     Bogue Chitto is locked into nine region games. The Bobcats probably will play Enterprise and Loyd Star for the gate receipts.

     Sacred Heart, a young athletic program, had considered joining the MAIS for two years. The Crusaders can compete in baseball and other spring sports but football and basketball will be a problem.


     Hartfield Academy, formerly University Christian of Brandon, has left the MHSAA’s Region 4-1A in favor of its former residence in the MAIS.

     Leaping to the MAIS, final appeals on reclassification will be heard today. Brookhaven Academy had been placed in a new Class AA district, consisting of Central Hinds, Prentiss Christian and ACCS. The BA Cougars are fresh from winning the AA state championship.

     In a major change, Columbia Academy and Oak Forest have been bumped up to Class AAA. Both athletic programs will have to work overtime to be competitive in football. In the South, they must deal with Parklane, Presbyterian Christian and Jackson Prep.

     Believe it or not, Starkville Academy had played in South AAA the last two years. Thankfully, the Volunteers have been moved to the North. They’ll save a ton of money on fuel and tires.

     After all the debate, complaining and appeals, the reclassification process will last two years before the respective organizations do it again.

     Another change. AA power Trinity Episcopal of Natchez has dropped to single A.


     Contact sports editor Tom Goetz by Email: togoetz@dailyleader.com