Columbia County's four public high schools finally know their athletic future, because the Georgia High School Association region realignments for the 2004-06 seasons are now set.
For Harlem, nothing changed when the GHSA Executive Committee granted appeals and moved several prep programs into different regions during last week's appeal meeting in Forsyth.
Harlem remained in Region 3-AAA, but Greenbrier, Lakeside and Evans are in a much different region, and that's good news for Columbia County's Class AAAA schools.
With Greenbrier, Lakeside and Evans, Region 2-AAAA includes Baldwin, Effingham County, Jones County, Statesboro and region newcomer Wayne County. Meanwhile, former 2-AAAA schools Northside-Warner Robins, Westside-Macon, Warner Robins and Central Macon were shifted to another region.
The Region 2-AAAA alignment was made after the four Macon-area schools appealed for a move to Region 3-AAAA, which passed by a 36-9 vote of the GHSA Executive Committee on Tuesday.
The result leaves Greenbrier, Lakeside and Evans in an eight-team region, as opposed to the 11-team setup that was approved by the GHSA Executive Committee earlier this month.
The new Region 2-AAAA alignment gives Columbia County schools a break on athletic travel, and creates a more competitive balance on the playing field.
"I'm very satisfied," said Mickey Derrick, Greenbrier athletic director and head football coach. "It's going to be better for travel."
By having fewer teams in the region, earning state playoff berths will be much easier.
"This is pretty big," Derrick said. "It really evens up the region."
As for Harlem, Region 3-AAA was subdivided, with the GHSA Realignment Committee facilitating the split at last week's meeting.
Region 3-AAA North will feature Harlem, Butler, Cross Creek, Hephzibah, Glenn Hills, Richmond Academy and Thomson. Region 3-AAA South will consist of Benedictine, Burke County, Jefferson County, Liberty County, Richmond Hill and South Effingham.
"It's subdivided, but still, how can you have a region with teams that far apart? How can we be in the same region with Savannah teams?" asked Jimmie Lewis, Harlem athletic director and head football and baseball coach.
Travel isn't the only issue. Lewis can express his displeasure with Region 3-AAA in mathematical terms.
"This has cut my chances of going to the playoffs in half," he said. "We're in a region now that has seven teams, and four go to the state playoffs. We'll be in a seven-team sub-region, and two teams go to state."
For Columbia County football fans, something good will come out of the subdivided Region 3-AAA.
Harlem had to pick up four nonregion games to fill out next year's football schedule, and the Bulldogs will open the 2004 season against Evans.
"I can't remember the last time Harlem played Evans in football," Lewis said. "I don't think we've played them since 1984."
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