Tifton Gazette

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June 30, 2014

New season splits some rivalries, keeps others

TIFTON — The calendar is rolling to a new school year in the land of the Georgia High School Association.

Reclassification was announced months ago, but it will now be implemented. The changes have meant that several regions have lost old friends. Some are getting them back.

In 1986, there were but four classifications in the GHSA. Region 1-AAAA was pretty full then, consisting of Tift County, Valdosta, Colquitt County, Lowndes, Westover, Dougherty and Monroe.

The Albany schools were out in 1988, with Coffee coming in as a replacement (along with Bainbridge). Seasons came and seasons went. A new classification was added in 2000 and another in 2012. Bainbridge dropped down a class in 2002 and the GHSA added and subtracted teams from the region. Tift, Valdosta, Lowndes, Colquitt and Coffee stuck together.

Until now.

Coffee will be gone this upcoming season. A preliminary basketball schedule released recently by Julie Conner indicates they will continue a court rivalry, but football is, at least temporarily, no more.

Official ties have bound Tift to the other three since 1986, but the feuds have gone on much longer. The Blue Devils have played Lowndes annually since 1968, Valdosta since 1966 and Colquitt/Moultrie since 1964. Despite Coffee being close by they, strangely, did not figure in to the Devils' plans very many years.

Tift is not the not the only school who has seen a longtime opponent move out. Berrien and Cook had been roped together in the same region since 1986 and even included a change from 1-AA to 2-AA and back.

Cook was considered too large by the league to stay in AA and have been moved up to AAA this year. Unlike Coffee and Tift, the two have arranged for gridiron battles. They have been annual opponents since 1974 and have only missed each other twice since 1947.

Over in Class A, the Irwin County Indians will be seeing the return of one of their old region rivals. Atkinson County returns from their brief trip to the land of AA. With the exception of two years, they were together from 1986-2010. Turner County and Irwin, seemingly natural schools to stick together in a region, have only been bound since 2006. The Ashburn Rebels bounced between A and AA and sides of the state in the years prior.

The longest running feud for the area, however, involves two teams who have only barely been attached. Fitzgerald and Irwin, annual opponents since, 1954, have only been in the same region four of those years: 1954-56 and 1962-64.

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