The road to the football playoffs just got more difficult for schools in Columbia and Richmond counties.
That was the general reaction Wednesday after the Georgia High School Association released its region alignments for the next two years. The changes begin next fall.
Every Richmond County school except Laney was placed in Region 3-AAA with football powers Thomson and Washington County (combined state titles: eight) as well as Burke County. Harlem and Grovetown are also in the region.
The GHSA divided Region 3-AAA into subregions, with Burke County, Butler, Cross Creek, Glenn Hills, Hephzibah, Washington County in one, and Grovetown, Harlem, Josey, Richmond Academy and Westside in the other. Two teams on each side would make the playoffs.
"I can deal with it if it stays like that," Richmond Academy football coach Chris Hughes said.
Said Grovetown football coach Rodney Holder: "It looks like a really competitive region from top to bottom. We're excited to be in there with everybody local."
Laney remained in the 11-team Region 3-AA. The region's football coaches will meet after the regions are finalized to determine whether they want to continue a 10-game region schedule.
"It will be interesting to see what the coaches want to do," Laney coach Lemuel Lackey said. "I'm not sure a (10-game region schedule) will be the mind-set this time around."
The three remaining Columbia County schools -- Lakeside, Greenbrier and Evans -- are in a Region 2-AAAA subregion with Statesboro, Effingham County and South Effingham. Greenbrier returns to Class AAAA following a two-year, travel-heavy hiatus in Class AAAAA.
Aquinas, which lost out on a playoff spot on an obscure tiebreaker, moves to Region 5-A. In addition to fighting Lincoln County, Wilkinson County, Washington-Wilkes and Warren County for playoff spots, the Irish must also face Johnson County and Twiggs County. Those two teams combined to go 19-4 this past season.
The GHSA initially wanted to reclassify its teams for the next four seasons, but will instead amend that cycle to two years.
Schools can appeal their region placement before the GHSA on Dec. 16. Regions will then be finalized during the association's meeting Jan. 12.
Reach Matt Middleton at (706) 823-3425 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Changes in the Georgia High School Association region alignments take effect in the fall. Schools can appeal their placement.
A.R. Johnson *
Glascock County **
Taliaferro County *
Georgia Academy for the Blind *
Georgia Military **
* does not play football; ** did not play a region football schedule this past season