Changes have once again taken place in the Georgia High School Sports Association that will affect all county football teams this year.
A two-year cycle in the GHSA of region assignments was completed with the 2005-06 school year. The result was region realignments for the 2006-07 and 2007-08 school years that dramatically changed the county's football landscape.
Evans, Greenbrier and Lakeside managed to remain together for another two years. All three schools were moved from Region 2-AAAA to Region 3-AAAA, and the new region increased in number from eight to 10 teams.
Though the three Columbia County schools remained in the same region as Statesboro, Effingham County and Wayne County, several newcomers also came into play, including the Academy of Richmond County in Augusta and three South Georgia schools.
The region's coaches elected to split into subregions with Evans, Greenbrier, Lakeside, Statesboro and Richmond Academy in Region 3B-AAAA. Football is the only high school sport that requires each school to play every team in both subregions.
The result is at least two road trips to South Georgia each year. It's a drive of approximately 200 miles - none of it via interstate.
"That's a lot to ask on a fan base, and to be honest it's a lot to ask on a budget," Greenbrier coach Scott Chadwick said. "This is the first time in six years I'll take a chartered bus to a nonstate tournament game. I don't want to ride back on a big yellow bus for over three hours, and neither do the kids."
Other Columbia County coaches voiced similar opinions, but the distance isn't the only thing upsetting football fans and coaches.
In Class AAAA, each region is allotted four state playoff bids. Seven of the eight regions have at least eight teams. The other region, Region 1, has only four teams. While the 14 teams in Region 4 will battle for four playoff spots, each team in Region 1 gets an automatic bid to the state playoffs.
"It doesn't make any sense," Lakeside football coach Randy Hill said. "We've got 10 teams going for four playoff spots in our region, and they're in at the start of the season," he said.
After the 2007-08 season, the regions will be realigned once again and, as before, school size and location will be taken into consideration by the GHSA. Until then, local teams will have to deal with the multiple-hour road trips.
"You look back when everybody at Evans was so upset about having to travel to Atlanta," Evans football coach Marty Jackson said in April. "Those were the good ol' days, in my opinion."
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