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MHSAA should stick with its current format

By Staff
Nov. 24, 2000
Scattershooting in Oxford while waiting for the Bulldogs and Rebels to kick off…
In the last few weeks, I have heard some rumblings among local high school football coaches.
The problem comes from the Mississippi High School Activities Association and talks of reclassification and division or region setups.
The students at every school in the state have already been counted and the numbers have been posted on the Internet at www.misshsaa.com.
So far, here's what we know. We know that West Lauderdale is staying in Class 3A, but barely. West will be the second largest Class 3A school in the state behind Columbia, which drops down from 4A.
They will be joined in 3A by Philadelphia, which took a pretty good jump up. Too bad for Steve Cheatham's Tornadoes. They would probably still be in the playoffs in 3A this season. I can see a good Newton County-Philadelphia rivalry on the horizon.
Elsewhere locally, Kemper County is moving down to Class 2A, as is Morton. Everybody else is staying put.
Coaches can't change the numbers, but the big debate is coming over the talks of region play in football for all classifications. This is where the MHSAA doubles up divisions and four teams make the playoffs instead of two.
Class 5A is already playing region football and it seems to be working out fine for them. Of course, the 5A schools are scattered throughout the state and you have to travel to play 5A football.
Class 1A has partially gone to the region format in the North. Noxapater and Nanih Waiya participate in Region 2-1A.
Personally, I think it's fine for the 5A schools to play region football. They are going to have to travel and will play about the same schedule any way.
But I would hate to see it come to the other classifications in the state.
First of all, I think it would kill a lot of natural rivalries. For instance, if Class 3A were to go to region football, Southeast Lauderdale would probably have to play eight or nine region games a year. What about their annual contests with Enterprise, Northeast Lauderdale and Clarkdale? It would be a shame for Jud Gartman and Dwane Taylor not to kick off the football season.
But more importantly, I think it would cost the schools more money. Take Noxapater for instance. They have to travel to Greenville to play St. Joe now, when they would rather play somebody like Philadelphia.
It's hard to argue that one.
It would also mean the death of most of the state's bowl games, a Mississippi speciality. While West would have probably made the playoffs, they would have been matched up against one of the power teams in the state. I'll take a bowl game.
The decision hasn't been officially finalized yet and I hope the MHSAA will vote to keep the current format.
Too soon: I'm sure departing Northeast Lauderdale coach Darryl Jones has already been told more than one time that his departure is a bit premature.
Well coach, I'll be the next to say it.
Jones told the administration right after the season that he was stepping down as head coach, opting to be an assistant and gain more experience.
Personally, I hated to hear it.
Despite the way Northeast finished its season, I think Jones did a good job energizing the Trojan football program. I'm sure he didn't get as many wins as he would have liked this season, but he had plenty coming back.
He was playing with a sophomore-laden team that was pounded as freshmen and grew up a little this past season.
All I know is whoever takes over will have a wealth of talent on hand. Heck, Rocky Higginbotham and myself would take Marcus Betts and his buddies anytime.
Robbie Robertson is sports editor of The Meridian Star. E-mail him at rrobertson@ meridianstar.com.

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