The Mississippi High School Activities Association reclassification for football and basketball in 2011-13 has left area teams largely in place — with two major exceptions.
Starkville High School will move from Class 6A, Region 1 to Class 5A, Region 2 and West Lowndes will move from Class 2A, Region 2 to Class 1A, Region 3.
One of the most anticipated moves didn”t happen. Aberdeen, which was slated to move from Class 3A to Class 4A, will remain in Class 3A.
The classification of schools was based on the student enrollment reported on the October monthly report filed with the State Department Finance and Statistic Division.
In football, Starkville will move from a region that included with Columbus, defending 6A state champion South Panola, DeSoto Central, Horn Lake, Olive Branch, Southaven, and Tupelo into a new region with Yazoo City, Canton, Neshoba Central, Lanier, Callaway, Provine, and Ridgeland.
The reclassification puts Starkville, which is listed as having an enrollment of 1,060, at the top end of Class 5A. The school has the second-highest enrollment behind Callaway (1,079).
When the MHSAA released its original reclassification plan earlier this school year, some thought Starkville would be paired with New Hope and West Point in Class 5A, Region 1. The move would have saved the three Golden Triangle schools time and money based on the travel partners in the proposed regions.
But Starkville High School football coach Jamie Mitchell wasn”t surprised his school, the southernmost of the three Golden Triangle representatives, was placed in a region that includes Jackson area schools. Grenada will take Starkville”s place in Class 6A, Region 1.
“We all thought that”s where we”d end up,” Mitchell said. “It”s going to be very different, with completely different rivals and no one we”re used to playing. You just wonder how you”ll fit in.”
Mitchell said the Yellow Jackets hope to keep many of their local rivalries alive through the reclassification. He said his proposed football schedule for 2011 includes games against Noxubee County, Louisville, Tupelo, and West Point.
“It”s not going to be that much difference,” Mitchell said. “If you look at this year alone, we went to DeSoto County three times. We”re fortunate to have chartered buses that can go 65 miles per hour.
“But we”re actually going to be closer in that aspect, though nobody in our region is close to us. I think it will balance out.”
Aberdeen, which will play Forest at 11 a.m. Saturday for the MHSAA Class 3A football title, could have been placed in a region that included Noxubee County and Caledonia. But the consolidation of schools in Class 1A and the movement of Carthage, with 488 students, to Class 4A allowed Aberdeen, which has the highest enrollment of any Class 3A school (487), to remain in Class 3A. Ripley (483) has the second-highest enrollment in Class 3A.
Aberdeen coach Chris Duncan said the school didn”t petition the MHSAA to remain in Class 3A. He said the school realized the movement of Carthage and other schools would help his football program and the basketball teams maintain rivalries against Region 2 members Mooreville, Nettleton, South Pontotoc, Water Valley, and Mantachie in football.
“We”re going to keep competing and to keep doing what we have been doing,” Duncan said. “We”re happy with 3A because we”re familiar with the schools and we have good rivalries. We didn”t want to lose that.”
The only casualty from the reclassification could come in scheduling. Duncan said Aberdeen had hoped to play West Point in football in 2011. He said Starkville”s move into a different region in Class 5A than New Hope and West Point likely means a potential football game against West Point in 2011 won”t happen. He said his program discussed playing West Point in its first game but that it will stick with a game against Columbus to open the 2011 season.
“We may have lost a game,” Duncan said. “We”re going to be scrapping for someone to play that night.”
West Point coach Chris Chambless was like Mitchell in that he expected Starkville to be moved to a different region than Class 5A, Region 1. He said it made sense for the MHSAA to move Center Hill into Region 1 with the move of Indianola Gentry to Class 4A. He said West Point still will play Noxubee County, Starkville, and Columbus in football in 2011 and that he would like to play Aberdeen.
The sticking point is West Point has opened its football schedule the past few years against Shannon. Chambless said he would like to continue that rivalry, as does Shannon, which leaves few possible openings. The seven region games and four non-region matchups would fill West Point”s 11-game regular-season schedule.
“If we can work it out we will,” said Chambless, who admitted Aberdeen probably would be a better fit than Shannon, at least in terms of geography and the potential for a natural rivalry.
Chambless said the only option he sees at this point is to play Aberdeen in a Classic game, which would be the first game of the season at the earliest date allowed by the MHSAA. That decision would be determined by the available dates all teams have left on their schedules, he said.
West Lowndes will move from a Class 2A, Region 2 home in football that pared it against East Webster, Eupora, Hamilton, Ackerman, and J.Z. George to a new home in Class 1A, Region 3 that includes East and West Oktibbeha, Ethel, Nanih Waiya, Noxapater, Weir, Sebastopol, and Pelahatchie.
In basketball, West Lowndes will move to Class 1A, Region 5 with Ethel, East Oktibbeha, French Camp, Nanih Waiya, Noxapater, and Weir.
The only other move that will affect local teams is in Class 4A, where Amory will move from Region 4 to Region 1. It will leave a region that included Caledonia, Louisville, and Noxubee County to one that will feature Corinth, Tishomingo, Itawamba, Shannon, and Pontotoc.
Staff writer David Miller contributed to this report.
For a complete breakdown of the new regions, go to www.mhsaa.com.
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.