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New look for prep classes

The Florida High School Activities Association proposed new classification guidelines Sunday that could affect several football programs on the Suncoast next school year.

Under the proposal, Clearwater (1,268 students in grades 10-12), Dixie Hollins (1,154) and Pinellas Park (1,330) would drop from Class 5A to 4A. Osceola (867) would fall to 3A.

Two schools would move up a classification: St. Petersburg Catholic (230) to 2A and River Ridge (approximately 900) to 3A.

Here's how the classes would be divided: 5A _ more than 1,341 students (101 schools); 4A _ 958 to 1,340 students (80 schools); 3A _ 440 to 957 students (81); 2A _ 208 to 439 students (60); A _ fewer than 208 students (40-45 football-playing schools).

The FHSAA is scheduled to vote on the football proposal today, along with a proposal to reclassify all other sports. Both proposals are expected to pass.

Commissioner Ronald Davis said the FHSAA will realign districts in December.

With the possibility of three Pinellas schools leaving the seven-team Class 5A-District 8, the district might have to add schools.

Dixie Hollins coach Mark Wiszowaty said he was happy with the proposal.

"It'd be great to move back to 4A," said Wiszowaty, who is 27-11 in four years at the school.

In 1990, before moving to 5A, the Rebels went 8-2; in 1989, they were district champs. Since joining 5A-8, Dixie Hollins has not been able to unseat powerful Sarasota Riverview as district champion.

Osceola coach George Palmer had mixed reactions about falling to 3A.

"It's good that we should have a chance to compete for a district championship with schools our own size," he said. "But I really think we're better off in 4A. It's hard to ask fans to travel out of the county, plus we'll be missing out on a few traditional rivalries."

For other sports, the committee proposed that the largest classification, 4A, include schools with 1,252 or more students; 3A schools with 642 to 1,251 students; 2A schools with 208-641 students; and A schools with fewer than 207 students.