Thomas County Central won’t be the second-smallest school in Class AAAAA the next two years.
Rather, the Yellow Jackets will be the fourth-smallest member of the GHSA’s second-largest class, after the GHSA Reclassification Committee’s meeting Monday morning in Thomaston.
“Obviously, we‘re not real happy about it,” Central football coach Bill Shaver said. “Once again, instead of being next to the bottom we’re third from the bottom.
“We felt like once we looked at it that we had a chance to go down to AAAA and being a little more inline with folks and also help our travel. Obviously, that didn’t happen.”
Central athletic director Mike Singletary, who attended Monday’s meetings, echoed Shaver’s sentiment. He also added that Central is hopeful the GHSA will make an exception due to isolation.
“Of course we‘re not happy about it,” Singletary said. “But there’s not a lot of recourse that we have when something like that happens. The best we can do is wait and see what they are actually going to do with any kind of isolation issues. That’s the best we can do. So we’re going to pursue that as best we can.
“I talked to the executive director myself and he said that the powers that be understand our situation and our doing the best they can..”
Two years ago, Central’s 1,128 students were just above the cutoff for Class AAAA, leaving the Yellow Jackets in a region with Bainbridge and Lee County as well as Columbus-area schools Hardaway, Harris County and Northside-Columbus. But after once again just sitting above the AAAA cutoff with 1,429 students - Riverdale is the largest Class AAAA member with 1,393 students - the Jackets aren’t sure what their region will look like for the next two-year cycle. The next step in the two-month reclassification process is for schools to decide to play in a higher classification, followed by the Reclassification Committee meeting Dec. 3 to set the regions. After an appeals process, the final region ratification with the GHSA Executive Committee will take place Jan. 14.
That will be of interest to Central since two of other Region 1-AAAAA member schools headed to different classes. While Central is one of the smaller AAAAA schools in the state again, Lee County will be the state’s smallest Class AAAAAA school with 1,802 students. Northside-Columbus, meanwhile, will drop to AAAA with 1,324 members.
“Just looking at it, it‘s hard to see how we‘re going to fit in a region that isn‘t going to mandate us to drive an average of 135 to 140 miles,” Singletary said. “Bainbridge would be the only one within that, and even counting Bainbridge’s mileage, the average is still 134.”
Coffee, which had been in Region 1-AAAAAA, did fall a class with a projected enrollment of 1,775. But the Trojans could be placed in a region that includes Warner Robins, Northside-Warner Robins and Houston County. Or Central and Bainbridge could be placed in a region there, as well.
“Now we‘re sitting with how is the region going to be,” Shaver added. “You look at our old region and out of the six schools, we’re losing two and sitting here with four. And that is with only us and Bainbridge semi-close.
“What’s going to happen with the Warner Robins schools? Coffee is coming down, where are they going to be placed? There were moves out of Ware County’s region over there. There’s all these factors, how are they going to align the regions?”
Region changes, when they are announced next month, could also hit Cairo and Thomasville. While the Syrupmakers still reside comfortably in Class AAAA with 1,171 students, three of the current 1-AAAA members have the numbers to drop into Class AAA - Albany, Dougherty and Worth County. All three did two years ago, as well, but decided to play up a class due to travel.
All three may decide to do so again, as could Cook, which had the numbers to fall into Class AAA as well after being a member of Region 1-AA. Cook had AAA numbers two years ago as well, but due to isolation, was allowed to remain in Class AA.
With Cook moving out of Class AA, Region 1 will have a slightly different look for Thomasville (its 775 students place it within 30 students of Class AAA).
The remainder of 1-AA will remain in the class as Berrien is the state’s largest AA school with 798 students, and Pelham being the state’s 10th-smallest AA school with 481 students.
Seminole County, currently in Region 1-A, could join 1-AA as it will move up a class with 477 students.