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Sunday May 24th, 2015 9:16PM

GHSA releases new regions: Some big changes in store

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
Region 8-AAAA may well become the beast of the northeast.

The Georgia High School Association released its new region alignments for the 2014-16 school years today, and there were plenty of changes for the area's schools, including a Region 8-AAAA line-up that could prove brutal.

The GHSA's member schools still have until Dec. 13 at noon to appeal for a lateral transfer within their classifications -- but those appeals have rarely been approved in the past, making for an interesting two years ahead.

"There were some tough decisions made down there (in Thomaston) today," Buford athletic director and GHSA Executive Committee member Dexter Wood said. "But we have a strong reclassification committee, and they'll listen to anyone who has a strong case. Of course it's tough because they have to do what's best not just for one school but for an entire region."

Wood's Buford will be just part of a new 8-AAAA that will consist of (in alphabetical order) Buford, Chestatee, Johnson, Madison County, Monroe Area, North Hall, North Oconee, Stephens County, Walnut Grove and White County. Seven of those schools reached the football state playoffs this season in their current region set-ups. Also within that region are the reigning Class AAA softball champ (Buford), two state semifinalists in basketball from a season ago (Buford and North Hall boys), as well as a state finalist in baseball (North Hall) and a state semifinalist in girls soccer (Buford).

"This new region has a lot of schools with a rich athletic tradition, and it's going to be competitive in every sport," Wood said. "That's what you expect when you move up in classification (Buford is currently a a member of Region 7-AAA), and that's what we're excited about."

The shifts in 8-AAAA were just a few of many. Here is a look at some of the other changes involving area schools:

-- Habersham Central will move from Region 7-AAAAAA to Region 6-AAAAAA, shifting from a Gwinnett County-based region to a Forsyth County/north Fulton County-based region.

-- Region 8-AAAAA added Lanier (the only change to the current set-up).

-- Region 7-AAA added Lumpkin County and Franklin County after losing Buford, North Hall and White County.

-- Region 8-AAA will consist of three schools in Jackson County (including Jefferson).

-- Region 8-AA's only change is the loss of Jefferson.

-- Region 8-A's only change is the loss of Pincecrest Academy (moved to Region 6-A).

North Forsyth athletic director and GHSA Executive Committee member Nathan Turner said they are glad to welcome Habersham Central to 6-AAAAAA and felt that the GHSA provided the best region alignments possible under the circumstances.

"The big surprise was all the Class AAAA schools asking to move up," said Turner in reference to the fact that 10 Class AAAA schools asked to play up in Class AAAAA, making it the second largest classification (88 schools) behind the 100 schools in Class A. "We're excited about having Habersham; we think they will be a great representative in our region."

Class AAAAA now features one region -- 6-AAAAA -- that will harbor 17 schools.

"It's so challeging now because of the growth of the number of schools in metro Atlanta," Wood said. "Traditionally, the state has been divided into four regions in north Georgia and four in south Georgia, and you really can't do that anymore. There are some schools in south Georgia that are getting isolated, and that makes it very hard."

Appeals made will be heard by the GHSA's reclassification committee on Dec. 17. The final ratification and acceptance of the new regions by the Executive Committee will take place on Jan. 14 in Macon.
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