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January 9, 2014

Football schedules beginning to take shape for 2014

TIFTON — Football season begins in Augusta. Spring practice is still some time off, but yet it has been a constant thought for several high school coaches. Their offseason has seen the GHSA and GISA reclassify classes and reorganize regions. It is also the end of the normal two-year period of teams putting scheduling opponents outside of their regions.

Tift County's John Reid said his schedule is not set yet. He said some of the wait has been because of Lee County's appeal to the GHSA.

Lee County, who was moved up in classifications and into Region 1-AAAAAA, requested to be moved down a class for football only. This request was denied by the GHSA earlier this week.

Cook also lost their appeal to move back to AAA in all sports.

Jason Tone said the non-region games for his Worth County Rams were "not set in stone." That has been the answer given by all coaches. All schedules are still tentative, but most have some idea of who they will be playing.

For the first time since 1986, the Berrien Rebels and Cook Hornets will not be in the same region. Cook, who had the attendance numbers of a AAA school, was bounced up to AAAA by the GHSA. If fans are worried about the rivalry — the series  started in 1947 and has been played annually since 1974 — Berrien's Ed Pilcher has indicated that it will continue. Cook's spot in the region was essentially taken over by Seminole County.

Pilcher also has his eyes set on games against Irwin County and Clinch County. Once frequent opponents, the Rebels have not faced Clinch in the regular season since 1999.

If it holds up, it will be the first time Jon Lindsey has faced his neighbors to the south. His project out-of-region schedule has a trio of Class AA teams. The other two are Early County and traditional rival Fitzgerald. The two have bashed heads every year since 1954 and battled to a 20-20 tie in 2013.

The only time Early and Irwin have met was in 2001, in the first round of the state playoffs. The Indians also played once against their predecessor, Blakely-Union, in 1964.

Over at Tiftarea Academy, Ryan Branch is still not sure how many games his Panthers will be playing. There were 11 games on the slate in 2012 and 2013, but he won't be scheduling that many this time.

The GISA reclassified in November and the Panthers saw their region changed considerably. Gone are Bulloch Academy, Pinewood Christian and Westfield. In their place are Brookwood School, Terrell Academy and Valwood. They keep Southland Academy and Deerfield-Windsor. All three of the new arrivals were in Class AA.

Branch said he would like to keep Pinewood on the schedule, but has yet to decide on other opponents.

John Gamble's early plans are to stick with Class A schools as opponents. He said as of now, Terrell County, Randolph-Clay and Dooly County will be the non-region opponents. The Rebels' home region, 2-A, saw no changes, except for the return of Atkinson County.

Worth County will be in 1-AAAA with Cook, Albany, Americus-Sumter, Cairo, Crisp County, Dougherty, Monroe and Westover. Bainbridge and Thomas County Central join the region for all other sports.

That leaves the Rams just two slots for non-region games. Tone has his sights set on games against Fitzgerald and Lee County. There are also plans to scrimmage against Tift County at Brodie Field.

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20140726 John Reid.JPG

Tift County head football coach John Reid.

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