The Georgia High School Association announced region alignments beginning with the 2012 school season Tuesday, and early reaction from schools in northwestern Georgia is very positive.
GHSA 2012-2014 Region Alignment
Cass, Cedartown, Gilmer County, Pickens County, River Ridge
Dalton, Heritage, LaFayette, Northwest Whitfield, Ridgeland, Southeast Whitfield
Coahulla Creek, Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, North Murray, Ringgold
Adairsville, Cartersville, Gordon Central, Sonoraville
Calhoun, Dade County, Morris Innovative, Murray County
Armuchee, Chattooga, Coosa, Model, Pepperell
Darlington, Mt. Paran, Mt. Pisgah, Mt. Zion (Carroll), North Cobb Christian, Southwest Atlanta Christian, Walker, Whitefield Academy
Christian Heritage (Dalton), Excel Christian, Fellowship Christian, Georgia School for Deaf, Gordon Lee, King's Ridge, St. Francis, Trion
Though the GHSA initially subdivided nearly every region in its new six-classification plan, at least two of the four northwest regions likely will play full region schedules in all sports, and all four could go with full-region schedules in football.
In a statement released along with the alignment Tuesday, the GHSA said, "In a state as large as Georgia, there is no way to eliminate all travel issues. The Reclassification Committee continued to emphasize that viewpoint by establishing subregions in nearly every region. Here are the guidelines for this format:
"If a region chooses to subdivide because of either the large number of schools in the region or the large travel distances in the region, then the subdivisions established by the Committee must be used. In accordance with GHSA bylaws, a region may choose to play a full region schedule with a two-third vote of the principals of the schools in that region. This decision may be made on a sport-by-sport basis."
Region 5-AAA, which has eight schools -- including Ringgold, Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, North Murray, Coahulla Creek, Gordon Central and Sonoraville -- likely will elect to play full region schedules, according to one athletic director.
"Of course, we have to wait until we see if there are any lateral moves [via appeal], but I can't imagine too many people not wanting to play full region schedules," Ringgold AD Robert Akins said. "This would in football give us seven region games and three money games we can play with nonregion rivals.
"The way it is, the most travel we would have is going to Cartersville, and that's not bad. If we subdivided, we would have to find several more nonregion games and the travel would increase. We're excited to be in this region with quality people."
Region 7-AA also likely will go the full region route with eight schools for all sports and the new Morris Innovative School in Dalton competing in basketball and soccer only. This new region includes area schools Dade County, Calhoun, Murray County and Chattooga, along with three Rome-area schools.
"My first reaction is to be ecstatic," Dade County athletic director Bradley Warren said. "It's exciting to not have to subdivide and have play-in games. Regions can decided to subdivide based on travel, and I can't see that as being a problem with this region. A legitimate top-four [advancing to the playoffs] region should always be the goal."
Region 7-AAAA has Dalton, Heritage, LaFayette, Northwest Whitfield, Ridgeland and Southeast Whitfield from this area and with 11 total schools would have a complete region schedule in football. Whether it subdivides or not, it appears administrators in this region are happy.
"That's the best we could have hoped for," Dalton athletic director Ron Ward said. "That's all of our natural rivals, and it should benefit all of us. The travel will be cut down, even if we play full region schedules, so there will be much less loss of instructional time. It's great to have Northwest Whitfield back with us. It's a great rivalry and we've missed them."
The largest area region is 6-A with 16 schools, including Gordon Lee, Trion and Dalton's Christian Heritage, which joins the GHSA beginning next year. The region, as it currently does, stretches to Atlanta and will subdivide in most sports.
Schools have until Dec. 16 to appeal for lateral moves to other regions.
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...