It appears after the first round of realignment, the Eastside Eagles will feel the brunt of the shuffle for the 2014-2016 school years.
Under realignment guidelines proposed by the Georgia High School Reclassification Committee, the Eagles would remain in Class AAAA, but would move to Region 4 from their current position in Region 8.
For the Eagles, that means taking on an entirely new region with new teams and opponents.
Under the new alignment proposal released Tuesday, the Eagles would join Region 4 with Eagles Landing, Griffin, Hampton (Henry), Henry County, Jonesboro, Locust Grove, Mt. Zion (Jonesboro), Riverdale and Spalding. The region will group Eastside with four Henry County schools, three Clayton County schools and two Spalding County schools.
While the Eagles sat on the southernmost border of Region 8, Eastside will again sit at the region’s edge, but this time at the north end of the region.
Eastside will leave Region 8 members Chestatee, Madison County, Monroe Area, Stephens County, Johnson and Walnut Grove. Lumpkin County and Lanier will also be reclassified from the region, with Lumpkin County moving down to Region 7 in Class AAA and Lanier moving up to join Region 8 in Class AAAAA.
The move is the fourth for the Eagles since the 2006-07 school year. Eastside moved from Region 8-AAAA to Region 8-AAA in 2006-07, to Region 4-AAA in 2008-09, back to Region 8-AAA in 2010-11 to Region 8-AAAA in 2011-12.
While the Eagles will no longer have to travel to the northern part of the state to take on Lanier, Gainesville and Chestatee, Eastside will lose regional rivalries with Monroe Area and Walnut Grove. As part of a 10-team region, the Eagles will not be allowed to play both schools in the same season.
The Eagles will decide whether they want to move to Region 4 or appeal to stay in Region 8 and keep their traditional rivalries.
“Nothing is official yet,” Eastside football coach Rick Hurst said. “We are still deciding what our future plans are in regard to petitioning to stay in Region 4 or appeal to return to Region 8. If we do decide to stay, it will hurt losing games against Monroe Area and Walnut Grove.
“The issue I see is that they keep moving us around,” he said. “We have bounced around from region to region and it’s hard to build rivalries. Our only rivalries are against other county teams, and I would like to develop other rivalries with other schools. It doesn’t necessarily matter where we are, just as long as we stay put and develop rivalries with other schools.”
The Eagles are expected to make a decision whether to appeal the realignment proposal by the end of today.
No matter what the Eagles decide, Hurst does believe that competition in the region will still be strong.
“It’s a very athletic region in Region 4,” he said. “Griffin is a strong team and they have a lot of tradition, but everyone else from top to bottom is solid. Everyone is going to have a chance to earn a playoff spot. Whichever way we decide to go, I’m looking forward to it.”
Other schools across Newton and Rockdale counties will also see some changes in region play, although in less dramatic fashion than the Eagles.
Region 2-AAAAAA, the home to Alcovy, Newton and Rockdale County teams, will gain two new members starting in 2014, while losing Luella, Morrow and Druid Hills.
Region 2 will welcome Lakeside (Dekalb) and Tucker with the loss of the Lions, Mustangs and Red Devils.
Tucker will bring a football power to the region, adding competition to an already growing region. The Tigers are currently 13-0 this season and will face Gainesville tonight in the Class AAAAA semifinal contest.
Alcovy football coach Kirk Hoffman said that with the addition of Tucker and Lakeside, the region is only going to get tougher.
“I think anyone will tell you that our region is going to get even more competitive now,” Hoffman said. “Adding a team like Tucker is always a good thing, and when you combine them with a team like Lovejoy, I think you’ll be able to say that our region can play with anyone, anytime. Even though we may have a lack of teams in our region, the quality is there.”
Lovejoy will join the five other teams to make up a six-team region.
Hoffman said that he will regret seeing the former region members leave Region 2.
“It’s all part of where we are located in the state,” he said. “When you’re near the metro area, a lot of things change. In the southern part of the state, other regions stay like they are forever and they know the teams that they are playing year in and year out. We can’t worry about region realignment because our region is always going to change. It hurts sometimes to develop natural rivalries, besides the other schools in our area, but that’s what we’re working with.”
Druid Hills, Morrow and Luella will drop down to Class AAAAA, joining Region 6. Region 6 will feature 17 teams and will be split into two sub-regions. Druid Hills will be featured in Sub-region A, while Morrow and Luella will be a part of Sub-region B.
Heritage, Salem stay
Heritage and Salem will remain in Region 8-AAAAA, but will welcome former Region 8-AAAA member Lanier into the region.
Gainesville, Flowery Branch, Clarke Central, Loganville, Cedar Shoals, Winder-Barrow and Apalachee will also remain in Region 8.
The region shift could put rivalry games in jeopardy. Both teams will only be able to pick up one non-region game, which means the Patriots' and Seminoles' annual contests against Rockdale County could go by the wayside.
Teams that wish to appeal the initial realignment proposal have until Dec. 13 to submit their request to appeal for a lateral transfer to a different region.
The Reclassification committee will meet Dec. 17 to hear appeals.
Final realignment decisions will be made Jan. 14 when the full Executive Committee meets.
Full 2014-2016 region realignments can be found online at ww.ghsa.net.