TIFTON — The Georgia Independent School Association has unveiled football schedules for 2019, putting dates to previously announced game changes for Tiftarea Academy.
Tiftarea head coach Erik Soliday earlier announced two changes to the schedule. Lanier County, Tiftarea’s first ever regular season GHSA opponent, opted to schedule another school in its league. Notre Dame Academy, who forfeited homecoming to the Panthers because of a lack of healthy bodies, is going non-region, Soliday said.
In their places, Tiftarea will play Frederica Academy and Westfield.
Frederica had a spot open on its schedule as they, too, had Lanier County drop off their slate. Westfield had filled in an open slot last year with Central Fellowship, but Central Fellowship — already involved in the GICAA — is not playing any GISA opponents in 2019.
Currently, Tiftarea’s 2019 schedule is: Aug. 23 at Creekside Christian, Aug. 30 Terrell Academy, Sept. 13 at Westfield, Sept. 20 at Frederica Academy, Sept. 27 Loganville Christian, Oct. 4 at Valwood, Oct. 18 Heritage, Oct. 25 Brookwood, Nov. 1 Deerfield-Windsor and Nov. 8 at Southland Academy.
Tiftarea is well acquainted with both of its new opponents on the schedule. Both were opponents in 2017. They defeated Westfield by a 55-18 count two years ago, their second straight win in the series. Frederica played them in the state playoffs, winning 49-36 in a game much closer than its score.
Frederica’s Knights won the 2018 state AAA championship, clubbing John Milledge Academy in the finals, 48-0. A week earlier, John Milledge slipped past Tiftarea in the semifinals.
The Panthers won all 10 of their regular season games a year ago, including their first win over Deerfield-Windsor since 1998. They also won their first region championship since 2008 and advanced to their deepest point in the postseason since that same season.
Should the Panthers win three football games this fall, they will be at 250 in school history, according to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association. Tiftarea began play in 1975, five years after it opened its doors. A deep pool of players graduated in May, but coaches are confident in the talent pool returning. Among them are All-Region defensive back Adam McKinney and Logan Crosson, Tiftarea’s starter at quarterback for the past two seasons.
In league football news, the GISA is down to 31 football-playing schools, one less than its 32 a year ago. Crisp Academy, which returned to 11-man football in 2018 and played for the Class A championship, won’t be active in GISA football. Also gone, according to the GISA’s playoff brackets for 2019, is the Class A title.
Notre Dame’s decision to change its schedule affected Tiftarea’s fellow teams in Region 3-AAA. Though Notre Dame belongs to 1-AAA, Tiftarea, Deerfield-Windsor, Valwood, Brookwood and Southland Academy were on their schedule for the league’s crossover play. Twelve teams make state, the top two from each of the four regions, plus four others from crossover from the battles between Regions 1 and 3 and Regions 2 and 4.
To replace Notre Dame, Valwood will play Miami Christian (Fla.). Deerfield-Windsor challenges Blountstown, Fla. Brookwood plays Southwest Georgia Academy and Southland Academy is to face Glenwood, Ala.