Only one of Gordon County’s three high schools will change divisions after the latest reclassification appeals were heard last week by the GHSA.

Sonoraville will be moving up to the 4A ranks from the 3A while Calhoun will remain a 5A school and Gordon Central will stay in the 2A bracket.

After initially appealing the move to a bigger classification, the Phoenix withdrew their request last Wednesday to remain a AAA school and beginning next fall in the 2022-23 school will have five new playmates instead of the eight they currently have because they will be in 4A Region 7. (They are presently members of 3A Region 6).

Calhoun will stay in the 5A Region 7 they now reside in, but the Yellow Jackets will have some new faces to compete with as there were a couple of changes made.

Gordon Central will still be in 2A Region 7 and the only new school they will have to worry about is Dalton Academy, which doesn’t have a football team and doesn’t play all the sports.

“We were really glad to see there were not a lot of changes in our region,” Gordon Central Athletic Director Matt Swanson said. “We’ve established a good working relationship with everyone in our region and when you move, you have to establish new relationships and get to know new people, so we’re glad that our Region will remain, except for a couple of schools, just like it is now. Nobody really likes change.”

The AA Region 7 will have seven teams and the new look will have Dalton Academy joining Gordon Central, Model, Chattooga, Dade County, Pepperrell and Coosa to form a new league with Fannin County being moved to AA Region 8.

Swanson said he didn’t know if Fannin County appealed the decision, but he is looking forward to playing in the league as it is now drawn up.

For Calhoun, school officials appealed to drop to the 4A ranks, but just like two years ago when they were the only public school in Georgia to get bumped up two classification sizes instead of just one, they lost that appeal.

“We appealed the move because we have a 4A enrollment,” Holley said. “Two years ago, we got moved from 3A to 5A, which is quite a jump, and we lost the appeal to go back to 3A. This time, we appealed it on the basis that we have a 4A enrollment, but the appeals committee didn’t see it that way so we’ll remain a 5A school for the new cycle.”

The Yellow Jackets will still have current mates Cartersville, Hiram, Woodlands, and Cass in their new region with newcomers Dalton, which was formerly a 6A school, and Villa Rica, which was a 4A, joining the party. Blessed Trinity will be moving and going up to the 6A division.

“We think it will be a very competitive region,” Holley said. “We have a great relationship with the people that are currently in our region. They’re good folks. And we appealed, not because we didn’t want to be with these schools, but because we wanted to be with teams our size as far as the enrollment goes. But the committee didn’t see it our way again, and so we look forward to continuing to work and compete against all the schools that are in our region.”

Initially, Cartersville was named a 6A school, even though the enrollment number they submitted would have put them at the bottom of the division size-wise. But when a school currently listed as a 5A announced, they wanted to move up to 6A, that brought Cartersville back into the 5A listings and they were promptly put back in Region 7.

“They didn’t even have to use the appeals process,’’ Holley said. “Somebody wanted to move up and so the committee went to the list of 6A schools and since Cartersville was right at the bottom as far as enrollment, they moved that school up and Cartersville came back into 5A and back into our region.”

Holley said the new schools, especially Dalton, makes sense because the teams from Gordon and Whitfield Counties have always had a good rivalry.

“Calhoun and Dalton have always had some great games, in every sport,” Holley said. “I know in football they played each other for years and for the longest time, Dalton won most of those games, but in the early 2000s, that started to change and the rivalry started to become much more competitive and now it’s pretty intense when they play each other, so it’s going to make for some great competition with them and us being in the same region. Now they’ll be playing for more than just bragging rights because the games will count towards playoff spots and seeding and all those things, so we’re excited about Dalton joining our Region.

“And we’re excited as well about Villa Rica. They’re very competitive in everything and made the playoffs this year in football, so I think our region, with these new schools, just got that much more tougher in everything.”

For Sonoraville, everything changes.

Besides the classification level, the size of their league changes as the coaches will now have to hunt for a few more non-region games.

For example, the Phoenix football schedule will have five non-region games and five region games next fall instead of the two non-region and eight region games under their real time 3A Region 6 format.

That means head coach Denver Pate and athletic director Brent Mashburn have to find three more games to play instead of just two.

The geography also changes with no one really close to them like Adairsville. The Phoenix are about to be members of 4A Region 7 along with Southeast Whitfield County, Northwest Whitfield County, Cedartown Catoosa Heritage, and Carroll Central.

The Firebirds’ district right now remained fairly intact and it still a nine-team league with Ridgeland and Bremen replacing Sonoraville, which moved up, and Rockmart, which moved down to AA and was placed in Region 5 with Temple, Haralson County, Heard County, and Callaway.

“Rockmart is strong in everything so I know there was talk that they might be placed in our district, but I think Region 5, geographically, is much better for them,” Swanson said.

The new 3A Region 6 next year will have Adairsville, Ringgold, Coahulla Creek, LaFayette, Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, Murray County, North Murray, Ridgeland and Bremen.

Region appeals are set to be heard by the GHSA Appeals Committee this week and all the athletic directors in the county said they have not heard about any schools wanting to make changes at the moment, but that doesn’t mean someone won’t want to go in a different direction.


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