Thomas County Central had the numbers to play in Class AAAAA when the GHSA released those numbers.
The Yellow Jackets hoped their isolated status — only Bainbridge was nearby in the same classification — would allow them to drop into Class AAAA.
When the GHSA reclassification committee released its region breakdowns Tuesday in the latest step of the process that sets regions for two years, Central will actually be part of both classes. The Jackets and Bearcats will play in Region 1-AAAAA for football while being allowed to drop into Region 1-AAAA for all other sports.
“In terms of travel we got a little bit of help,” Central athletic director Mike Singletary said. “It may aout three-quarters dead but we’re going to still try and work out a situation where we can’t get back to AAAA.
“I don’t if we’re going to have any luck with it, but we’re going to try.”
But that isn’t a help for the Central football program, which will be regular visitors to Columbus the next two seasons as part of the nine-team region that outside of Bainbridge consists of Columbus schools — Columbus High, Carver, Hardaway, Northside and Shaw — as well as Harris County and LaGrange, both in the Columbus area.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed that we still have to do all that traveling for football,” Central football coach Bill Shaver said. “Of course, we’re happy for all the other sports — the basketballs, the soccers, the softballs and all that, that will help tremendously with their travel.
“I guess the rationale is that football only has to travel every other year. But our problem is we’re traveling to Columbus every time.”
It’s a road the Jackets have gotten to know well. Hardaway, has been a region foe the past six years, Northside the past four and Harris County has played in Central’s region four of the past six years as well.
“That’s fine for them because they have to come down here one time for Bainbridge and one time for Central,” Shaver added. “So, they’re not worried about travel. We’re still having to go three times one year to Columbus and four times the next year traveling to Columbus, so it’s made our travel really not any better for football.”
While Central and Bainbridge were mandated to play in the classification that their enrollments dicated for football, as did Camden County in Class AAAAAA, the GHSA did allow three Class AAAAAA schools drop down a class for all sports due to isolation — Effingham County, Evans and Richmond Hill. Effingham and Richmond Hill were likely suspects for 1-AAAAAA where Effingham’s average region road trip would have been 155 miles, according to Google Maps. Richmond Hill’s average region trip would have been 141.14 miles. Central, meanwhile, will have to travel an average of 140.88 miles for a region game. Bainbridge’s average region trip is 133.5 miles.
“They don’t explain why they do anything,” Singletary said. “What happens is they have a committee meeting and you’re just sitting there watching. You’re not allowed to ask questions, you’re not allowed to raise your hand or anything, you’re just allowed to watch.
“So they said they were isolated. But I don’t have any answers for why they isolated us, Bainbridge and Camden for everything but football. That was one of the things where they were trying to help Camden because they don’t have anybody they can play during the week. They were trying to help them by creating that situation, and it also enabled them to use it on somebody else, and that happened to be us and Bainbridge.
“But nobody has offered a definitive answer for if we’re isolated, why aren’t we isolated in football. That’s one of the reasons we’re going to continue to pursue it.”
Outside of football, Central did fall into Region 1-AAAA where the travel will be considerably better. There, along with Bainbridge, the Jackets will find a region lineup that actually is regional with Cairo, Albany, Americus-Sumter, Crisp County, Dougherty, Monroe, Westover and Worth County all remaining as members. Albany, Dougherty and Worth County all chose to play up a class despite AAA numbers.
Cook will also join Region 1-AAAA, moving up from 1-AA. The Hornets had AAA numbers but were bumped up a class due to isolation two years after remaining in AA for the same reason.
“Cook is always a good team, a good tradition, a good town, a good crowd,” Cairo football coach Tom Fallaw said. “So, it’s a good addition.”
Despite Cook’s departure, Region 1-AA will still be seven members strong with Thomasville joined by holdovers Berrien, Brooks County, Early County, Fitzgerald, Pelham and with Seminole County moving up from Region 1-A.
“Well, one good team goes out and one good team comes in,” Thomasville coach Leroy Ryals said. “To be honest with you, I don’t worry about all that too much. I let the high school association decide and we’ll just try to compete against whoever is in our region.”