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Realignment creates unkind matchups

WESLEY CHAPEL — The realignment of the state's prep football districts, which includes reclassification of several local teams, is complete.

Not to mention confounding, at least to some local administrators who likely will appeal to move to more geography-friendly districts.

The Florida High School Athletic Association, which reconfigures its districts every other year, released the new districts Monday. Classifications are based on school population. Once those are determined, teams are placed in districts based on geography.

Initially, the FHSAA outlined an eight-district plan for its larger classifications (3A-6A), but opted to stay with 16 districts when extensive travel became a concern in some parts of the state.

In some parts of the North Suncoast, it will remain a concern. Schools have until Jan. 9 to submit written requests for reassignment.

Rest assured, some will.

That disgruntled group almost certainly will include Pasco (formerly Class 3A) and Wesley Chapel (formerly 5A), which move to a nine-team 2A district spanning parts of six counties.

The rest of the district: soon-to-be-opened Anclote (in west Pasco), South Sumter (Sumter), Lake Wales (Polk), Avon Park (Highlands), Crystal River (Citrus), Eustis (Lake) and Tavares (Lake).

"Do we want to stay where we're at? No, I don't think so," Pasco athletic director Jim Ward said. "We're probably going to appeal and ask to go up to 3A, District 6 (with Hernando, Nature Coast, Leesburg and Citrus)."

Wesley Chapel athletic director Steve Mumaw said he was "in shock." According to FHSAA population reports (combined enrollment for grades 9-12), Wesley Chapel's enrollment has fallen by 556 students in the past two years, resulting in the drop to 2A.

"My first thought is it will cost us a fortune in travel," Mumaw said. "It's such a large district. You're talking about going from Crystal River to Avon Park. It would be difficult to do that."

Other local teams set to spend as much time on the bus as the film room include Central and Springstead. The Bears move from 4A-8 (featuring Pasco, Hernando and Pinellas teams) to 4A-5 with Lecanto, Ocala West Port and Gainesville High.

"Interesting," Central coach Cliff Lohrey said. "I'm not really prepared to comment right now, to be honest."

The Eagles move from 4A-8 to 5A-8 with four Pinellas schools: Clearwater, Countryside, Tarpon Springs East Lake and Palm Harbor University.

"We'll look at it and if there's some discrepancy we may appeal," Eagles coach Bill Vonada said. "If it's, 'Hey, we're in the 5A category,' then those are probably the closest schools for us to play against. We'll work and put out the best team possible."

The other significant change involves Land O'Lakes (formerly 4A) and Mitchell (formerly 5A), which move to 3A-7 with Gulf, Hudson, Sunlake and Zephyrhills.

"I'm fine with it," Gators coach John Benedetto said. "The real question is, what will happen with the Sunshine Athletic Conference? This is definitely going to cause problems."

Indeed, it might cause an SAC football champion to go uncrowned. If Wesley Chapel, Pasco and Anclote aren't allowed out of 2A-4, they could play only two other SAC foes at the most. The SAC executive board, which includes all Pasco County high school principals and athletic directors, is slated to meet Feb. 5 at River Ridge to determine the conference's future.

fast facts

Football districts through 2010-11

5A-8: Clearwater, Countryside, East Lake, Palm Harbor University, Springstead

4A-5: Central, Gainesville, Lecanto, Ocala West Port

4A-6: Ridgewood, River Ridge, Tarpon Springs, Wiregrass Ranch

3A-6: Citrus, Hernando, Leesburg, Nature Coast

3A-7: Gulf, Hudson, Land O'Lakes, Mitchell, Sunlake, Zephyrhills

2A-4: Anclote, Avon Park, Crystal River, Eustis, Lake Wales, Pasco, South Sumter, Tavares, Wesley Chapel

Realignment creates unkind matchups 12/15/08 [Last modified: Monday, December 22, 2008 2:11pm]
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