Under new classification, 2 county teams could win state titles in same sport

Student-athletes are back in the daily grind and parents are back to car patrol. But as the 2013 seasons approach, most people, even many of the players themselves, don’t have a total understanding of the new VHSL reclassification.

In part two of our series, we will break down how reclassification affects each high school, and, while two schools go into the new unknown hand in hand, two others walk new roads alone.

PATRICK HENRY

The Patriots are one of three county teams assigned to Class 5A. Classes are assigned to schools based on enrollment, attempting to create postseason matchups between schools of similar size, a problem in the former Group AAA/AA/A format.

At first, Patrick Henry was assigned to the 5A South Region in Conference 11, home to Atlee, Lee-Davis, and six other former Capital and Colonial District schools. Patriots Activities Director Matt Crowder saw an opportunity.

“When the proposal was presented, we saw that Conference 16 only had three teams. We felt we would have a better chance of success being there rather than in a nine-team conference,” Crowder explained.

When Patrick Henry was assured that there would not be automatic mandates of all sports having to play their conference members twice a season, moving to Conference 16 to join Orange County, Halifax, and Albemarle High Schools made sense. The school petitioned the VHSL, and they approved the move.

“We are only playing Orange in golf (last week) and the other conference teams at a wrestling meet in the regular season,” Crowder said. “So, there won’t be a huge increase in our transportation budget with this move.”

In a time of tight budgets, that is good news for county officials and taxpayers alike.

The change will affect the postseason, where the Patriots will see their out-of-town foes at tournaments for sports like cross country and wrestling. In other sports, travel is almost certain for all schools, though the VHSL is reportedly working to assure closer regional matchups in early playoff rounds in some sports. All of this will finally come to light as we reach the postseason in each sport in 2013-2014.

So, Patriots fans can expect the usual helping of Hermitage, Mills Godwin, Deep Run and others, at least for the next two years. With any new program, there may be changes in years to come, and Crowder is aware of that, and ready for it.

HANOVER

The Hawks become the lone county team in Class 4A, being the school with the smallest enrollment in Hanover despite being the newest school.

Capital District foes, including Atlee and Lee-Davis, are replaced by the likes of Dinwiddie, Caroline and Midlothian in the new Conference 20 in the 4A South Region.

The Hawks will still play old Capital foes and rivalries with county schools will continue for the next few years, but trips to Caroline and Dinwiddie are on the horizon. Some Hanover coaches are anxious to face their new conference-mates.

“I didn’t get to schedule as many Conference 20 opponents as I’d like to,” said Hawks’ head golf coach Chris Pace, looking to get his players used to the new VHSL landscape.

The major effect of reclassification on Hanover is in the postseason, where they will no longer see county teams and most teams in the Central Region. But there are plenty of powerhouses in all sports at the 4A level statewide, such as Phoebus in football, who beat Hanover in the 2009 State Division 5 semifinals en route to one of their four straight state titles. The changes could benefit a team like Hanover softball, whose seasons ended in both 2012 and 2013 at the hands of county rivals in district tournament play, a step short of regions. In Conference 20 with a wider region playoff system, a team like this has a greater chance to have the opportunity to make a run at a state title.

ATLEE AND LEE-DAVIS

The Raiders and Confederates stick together in the new plan, both assigned to Class 5A South Region Conference 11. They will continue old Capital District rivalries with the likes of Henrico and Highland Springs, while facing ex-Colonial District teams such as Deep Run, Douglas Freeman, and Hermitage.

Travel will be a non-issue for both schools until playoff time, as the Raiders and Confederates do not have conference foes that are 50 to 100 miles away like Hanover (Dinwiddie) and Patrick Henry (Halifax). So mandates in the future to play home-and-home series within their conference will result in little budgetary changes.

Regular season schedules will evolve during the next few years for all schools. Some regular opponents will fade from schedules, new faces will replace them. Hanover County has a chance to win two state championships in the same sport for the first time. The playoffs will look different and fans should be prepared for more road trips. The first scheduled new-look playoff event is golf on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.

The VHSL spearheaded change to create opportunity for schools to win titles by facing schools of similar size. It will succeed in doing so, guaranteed. The question to be answered is, at what cost?

NEW MATCHUPS

PATRICK HENRY: Class 5A North, Conference 16, with Orange County, Halifax, and Albemarle.

ATLEE AND LEE-DAVIS: Class 5A South, Conference 11, with Deep Run, Douglas Freeman, Henrico, Hermitage, Highland Springs, and Mills Godwin.

HANOVER: Class 4A South, Conference 20, with Caroline, Glen Allen, J.R. Tucker, Dinwiddie, Monacan, and Midlothian.

Posted on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 11:03 am