Evans finally escaped the rigors of traveling to play Atlanta-area teams by dropping from Class AAAAA to AAAA for the 2004-2005 school year.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Greenbrier and Lakeside moved from Region 8-AAAA to Region 2-AAAA and will join Evans in the same region.
But many of the teams in Greenbrier and Lakeside's 2003-2004 region have dropped to Region 3-AAA with Harlem.
Greenbrier, Lakeside and Evans are joined by teams from a hodgepodge of locations. Statesboro and Effingham County join Wayne County, Baldwin County and Jones County in a region that requires Rand McNally to navigate.
Oh, and Augusta Christian left the state altogether, joining the South Carolina Independent Schools Association.
Every two school years the Georgia High School Association scrambles schools around like jigsaw puzzle pieces.
The problem is that two years are never enough time for the puzzle pieces to fit together.
"It's like we can't ever get a feel for the teams in our region because the GHSA mixes it up every couple years," said Harlem athletic director Jimmie Lewis.
When asked about his feelings on the region switch, a smile runs across Greenbrier coach Mickey Derrick's face.
"It's definitely going to be fun," Derrick said about the opportunity to face off against county rivals in the same region for the first time ever. "Now the games against Evans and Lakeside and us will mean more than bragging rights. Playoff spots could be on the line."
The three area schools moved into a region that will benefit them greatly in most sports.
The results in football, however, might not pan out the same way.
2003 Class AAAA state runner-up Statesboro joins Wayne County, Baldwin County and Effingham County as serious playoff threats into the new region.
"There are some real tough teams in our region and some real good coaches," Evans' coach Marty Jackson said. "We'll have our work cut out for us."
While renewing rivalries might be nice, the goal for each school is to make the playoffs. The three Columbia County schools might be fighting for the final spot with one of the aforementioned schools.
"I am excited about the new region," Lakeside coach Randy Hill said. "It is going to be fun, but it will be tough; some of these teams we will play this year will be good. But it will build a stronger program for Lakeside."
A recent power poll conducted by the Georgia Sports Network placed Greenbrier fourth in the region behind Statesboro, Wayne County and Baldwin. That would put the Wolfpack in the playoffs. Evans was picked sixth and Lakeside seventh.
"Preseason polls don't mean a thing," Derrick said. "With the region the way it is and rivalry games, the region is up in the air."
In this particular switch, Harlem appeared to get the raw deal.
Placed in a region with a number of schools that were large enough to compete in Class AAAA a season ago, the Bulldogs will be hard-pressed to find success on the gridiron this season.
"We just can't be competitive," said Lewis, "in any sport. There are a lot of things I'd like to say (about the GHSA), but I can't."
Although the Bulldogs lose Laney and Washington County, Harlem gains football power Thomson and 2003 playoff teams Butler and South Effingham. Benedictine, Glenn Hills, Burke County, Hephzibah and region incumbent Jefferson County are all serious contenders for the playoffs in the 11-team region.
The Bulldogs went 2-8 last season in a weaker region and could be in deep trouble after losing superstar quarterback Tim Camp to the Air Force Academy.
"We will work as hard as we always do," Lewis said. "I just think we are going to struggle in the new region."
A Whole New World
Citing travel costs, Augusta Christian athletic director Bruce Lane announced the Lions would leave the Georgia Independent Schools Association at the end of the 2003-2004 school year.
The move to SCISA would force the Lions to play an entirely new schedule, but the benefit would lie in the travel costs.
The Lions had to travel two hours plus to Milledgeville and Macon often to play region games. Now, most of Augusta Christian's region games will be in the Columbia, S.C., vicinity.
The affect on competition remains to be seen.
"We just don't know how the season will shake out," said Lane. "We will be playing teams we are not familiar with, and that could be good or bad."
The Lions will play the Class AA champion and runner-up and will face the Class AAA runner-up.
"I think we will be tested early and often with our schedule," Lane said. "Our success will depend on how well our young guys perform."
Lane returns only six seniors forcing the young Lions to grow up quickly.
"We'll know were we stand in this new region pretty quickly," he said.
With only 10 games, just about every county team will have that same revelation early in the season.
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