Nestled right up against Paulding County and 10 minutes from the Bartow County line, it had the perfect scenario two weeks ago when the Georgia High School Association announced its region alignments for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years.
Allatoona was slotted into a new Region 5AAAAA with four schools from Paulding County and two from Bartow, as well as Rome and Dalton.
It was an ideal situation for Allatoona, a natural rival for the Paulding and Bartow county schools. The Buccaneers had also established rivalries with Dalton and Rome under previous region alignments.
“It was the best we could possibly ask for,” Allatoona athletic director Benji Morrell said.
However, the GHSA’s reclassification committee met again Tuesday to review the eight Class AAAAA regions, and Allatoona will now be in a Region 5 not all that different from what it’s faced the past two years.
Instead of taking on Dalton, Rome and the schools from Bartow County, the Buccaneers will maintain rivalries from the current Region 5 with Lithia Springs, New Manchester and Villa Rica. Chapel Hill and Alexander, two Douglas County schools, will also be added.
Allatoona will still face the same Paulding County schools — aside from North Paulding, which is going into Class AAAAAA — in the restructured region.
Cass, Dalton, Rome and Woodland were switched into a 13-team Region 7AAAAA that also includes Sprayberry and Kell.
“Right now, we’re disappointed,” Morrell said. “You would hope that the first time they put the regions together, it would be the best possible structure for everybody.
“We were really excited about how our region shaped up, but this restructure is disappointing.”
Morrell hoped that Allatoona would be able restart a rivalry with Dalton from the schools’ two years in Region 7AAA, and he looked forward to matchups against Rome, Woodland and Cass.
“We’ll be able to stay with the Paulding County schools, but we also still have the Douglas County schools,” Morrell said. “We had a good rivalry going with Dalton a few years after the school first opened up, and Cass and Woodland are close, so there’s a rivalry there, too. We liked the idea of kind of going up that I-75 corridor to play those schools.”
Morrell said he’s heard that the feeling is mutual with some his contemporaries. He has heard that as many as three schools from the original restructured Region 5 could petition the GHSA to move from Region 7 back to Region 5 by the state association’s Jan. 3 deadline.
“I think we’re stuck in our region,” Morrell said, “but I’m being told a few teams are looking at petitioning to get back to our region, so we’ll have to wait.”
The reclassification committee will hear appeals for lateral transfers — from one region to another in the same classification — after the new year before ratifying the new regions Jan. 14.
“We’re in a waiting period right now with regards to our schedule because our region could change again,” Morrell said. “We’re stuck until at least Jan. 3, when the petitions are due.”
The realignment change also affected Kell and Sprayberry.
Originally placed in a 10-team Region 7, the schools’ football coaches had planned a 10-game regular-season schedule, which they must now throw away.
“Everybody in the region is upset about (the change),” Sprayberry coach Billy Shackelford said. “It’s ridiculous. They set up the region and make a wholesale change two weeks later, making it harder for everybody to get games.
“On top of that, we go from a straight 10-game region to having two unbalanced subregions, which causes problems not only for us, but also for the other sports. It’s frustrating for sure.”
Now, the region will be subdivided, with Kell and Sprayberry matched up with Cambridge, Forsyth Central, North Springs and Riverwood. The four schools relocated from Region 5 will be in a subregion with Creekview, River Ridge and Sequoyah.
North Atlanta, which was originally placed in Region 5, was instead shifted to Region 6.
The region’s coaches plan to meet Friday to discuss scheduling, but Shackelford feels like the meeting could prove pointless.
“It could all be in vain,” he said. “We started out with Plan A, and now we’re moving to Plan B on Friday. Because of petitions, we could come back after the break and have to plan for Plan C because of schools petitioning out.
“I just don’t understand why the GHSA couldn’t get it right the first time. We could be looking at adding another classification or expanding the regions.”
Whitefield Academy is also in scheduling limbo, having already petitioned for a lateral transfer from Region 5A to 6A. The only Cobb County school in Region 5, Whitefield administrators hope to be placed with county rivals Mount Paran Christian, North Cobb Christian and Walker in Region 6.
“We made the request for two reasons,” athletic director Lynn Dupree said. “The first is that there are seven schools in 6A closer to us than the closest school in 5A. The second is that there are three Cobb County private schools in 6A and we have a great relationship with them. We have a strong rivalry with two of these schools, and we wanted to keep that rivalry intact.”
Another notable transfer request includes Milton, which wants to move from Region 5AAAAAA — a region comprised primarily of schools from east Cobb and Cherokee counties — to Region 6, which would consist of schools mostly of Fulton and Forsyth counties.
Milton, however, would be separated from Roswell, which did not petition to join its longtime rival in the move to Region 6.