Changes set up clashes of big schools
By Billy Byler | Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Three of the largest high schools in the area are tentatively set to meet next year in matchups of football teams from opposite sides of the Savannah River.

South Carolina Class AAAA North Augusta will play Lakeside and Evans, two Class AAAA Georgia teams, in nonregion contests. Schedules can't be officially set until the Georgia High School Association formally approves its new region alignment Jan. 12.

Realignments in Georgia and South Carolina opened the possibility for the matchups.

North Augusta coach Dan Pippin said he pursued the two Georgia schools as possible nonregion opponents after the Yellow Jackets fell victim to South Carolina's playoff points system. The system determines postseason seeding partially on strength of schedule.

North Augusta finished 10-1 in the regular season but was forced to go on the road in the second round of the playoffs because wins against smaller schools such as Class AA Strom Thurmond and Class AAA South Aiken hurt the Yellow Jackets' playoff seeding.

"That's not going to happen again," Pippin said. "We need to set ourselves up to be successful."

North Augusta dropped Strom Thurmond and Georgia Class AAAA Richmond Academy from its schedule and will instead play Class AAAA Division II state runner-up Northwestern and fellow Class AAAA teams Dutch Fork and Sumter in nonregion play.

Lakeside coach Jody Grooms said he agreed to play North Augusta because the Panthers are having a difficult time filling their nonregion schedule.

After a region realignment put Lakeside, Evans and Greenbrier in a subdivided Region 2-AAAA, Grooms said he's hoping to play four nonregion games in 2010.

A possible game with Class AAA Grovetown fell through, Grooms said, but the Panthers will play Class AAA Glenn Hills and Thomson next year. Grooms said he has also been in talks with Class A power Lincoln County.

Laney, who played a full, 10-game region schedule each of the past two years, will play in a nine-team region next season, freeing up the Wildcats to renew their rivalry with Josey.

Jefferson County, in the same situation as Laney the past two years, will use one of its new nonregion slots to play Washington County next season, coach J.B. Arnold said.

Staff writer Matt Middleton contributed to this report.

Reach Billy Byler at (706) 823-3216 or billy.byler@augustachronicle.com.

From the Tuesday, December 22, 2009 edition of the Augusta Chronicle
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