Expect new football rivalries as FHSAA releases revamped districts, regions

And if a team isn't happy with its current position, well, no appeals allowed.
Tampa Bay Tech celebrates a touchdown during the second quarter against Armwood in the season opener. (TAILYR IRVINE | Times)
Tampa Bay Tech celebrates a touchdown during the second quarter against Armwood in the season opener. (TAILYR IRVINE | Times)
Published December 14 2018

The Florida High School Athletic Association released new district and classification assignments for its member schools in football Friday. The classifications are based on enrollment numbers that were submitted by schools in October.

Because the state's governing body for sports wants to keep the districts as even as possible, it will be not be accepting appeals to move up or down, according to the FHSAA website. If a school is unhappy with its new classification, it can become an independent for the next two years.

The biggest change involves the area's top teams, Armwood and Plant, the last area schools to appear in a championship game (Plant in 2016, Armwood in 2017-18). Both will now have decidedly different paths for a return trip to Orlando's Camping World Stadium.

The Hawks, who moved up from Class 6A to 7A, will no longer potentially face Miami Northwestern in a title game. Instead, Armwood could face an even tougher road in a district that includes Tampa Bay Tech and a region that includes Bloomingdale, Plant City, Venice and defending state champion Lakeland.

"It's all good for me," Hawks coach Evan Davis said. "We have to show up and play. Our region is really good."

Plant, which lost to eventual state champion Lakeland in the Class 7A region final, moves up to 8A. The Panthers could end up renewing another rivalry with Orlando Dr. Phillips in the playoffs.

"We knew this was going to happen just by looking at the enrollment numbers," Plant coach Robert Weiner said. "It's new blood and gives something different to prepare for.

"Once you get through the first few rounds of the playoffs you're going to face someone tough. We're trading one for another. We went 2-2 against Lakeland the last four years in the playoffs and we went 2-2 against Dr. Phillips the years before that."

Tampa Bay Tech and Armwood have played each other for the past four seasons. Now the game will have more meaning as they're in 7A-8, along with Wiregrass Ranch and East Bay.

TBT coach Jayson Roberts figured that might happen, and he said it could have been worse.

"The only difference is now (Armwood) is a district game," Roberts said. "I'm glad (defending state champion) Lakeland isn't in our district. Actually we're back where we used to be. We're in the north side of the bracket so we don't have to go through Venice and (Fort Lauderdale) St. Thomas Aquinas to get to states."

Chamberlain is no longer paired in the same district as Armwood. The Chiefs moved down to 5A and is in the same district as Jesuit, among others.

"We're replacing one juggernaut for another," Chamberlain coach Jason Lane said. "Jesuit has been a powerhouse in that class for a while, and I have tremendous respect for the job Matt Thompson has done with that program."

Lakewood fell from Class 5A to 4A, which means it will not be in a district in 2019. For the past two years, the Spartans were in a small district with Dunedin, Tarpon Springs and Gibbs. Now coach Cory Moore can schedule any team he wants.

"I wasn't surprised by it," Moore said. "Honestly, we should've been in 4A the past two years. But before the (playoff) point system, there wouldn't have been anybody in our district near us. So we played up in 5A against the bigger schools because of the financial standpoint. This will be a positive for us. We get to play schools our own size."

Moore said he's not sure if the Spartans will continue to play rival Gibbs, which moved up to Class 6A. He hinted that he might try to play them in a spring or preseason game.

New districts/regions

Class 8A-7: Wharton, Steinbrenner, Plant, Palm Harbor University, Alonso

Class 8A-8: Riverview, Sarasota Riverview, Haines City, Ridge Community, Newsome, Lennard

Class 7A-7: Strawberry Crest, Bloomingdale, Plant City, Durant

Class 7A-8: Tampa Bay Tech, Armwood, Wiregrass Ranch, East Bay

Class 7A-9: Pinellas Park, Sunlake, Mitchell, Leto, East Lake, Sickles

Class 6A-5: Lecanto, Springstead, Lake Minneola, Pasco

Class 6A-6: Fivay, Land O'Lakes, Freedom, Gaither

Class 6A-7: Osceola, Clearwater, Countryside, Seminole, Largo

Class 6A-8: Northeast, Boca Ciega, Gibbs, Dixie Hollins, St. Petersburg

Class 6A-10: Spoto, Middleton, Blake, Jefferson, King, Brandon, Hillsborough

Class 5A-8: Hernando, Central, Weeki Wachee, Crystal River, Nature Coast, Citrus

Class 5A-11: Anclote, Tarpon Springs, Wesley Chapel, Zephyrhills, Gulf, River Ridge

Class 5A-12: Sarasota Booker, Dunedin, Bradenton Bayshore, Robinson, Chamberlain, Jesuit

Class 4A, Region 2: Keystone Heights, Lake Highland Prep, Villages, Cocoa, Space Coast, South Sumter, Astronaut, Cypress Creek, Palatka, Hudson

Class 4A, Region 3: Tampa Catholic, Somerset Canyons, Lake Placid, Clewiston, North River, Lakewood, Glades Central, Avon Park, Lemon Bay, Tenoroc

Class 3A, Region 3: Clearwater Central Catholic, John Carroll, Benjamin, Cardinal Newman, Cardinal Mooney, Kings Academy, Calvary Christian, Berkeley Prep, Bonita Springs, Oasis, Bishop Verot

Class 2A, Region 3: Tampa Bay Christian, Zephyrhills Christian, Keswick Christian, Cambridge Christian, Northside Christian, Indian Rocks Christian, Admiral Farragut, St. Petersburg Catholic, Seffner Christian, Carrollwood Day