Three Coast high schools will be dealing with significant changes for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons due to the recently announced realignment by the Mississippi High School Activities Association.
Pascagoula is moving up to Class 6A, St. Patrick will drop to Class 2A and George County is set to move from Region 4-6A to Region 3-6A.
George County plans to file an appeal against the MHSAA’s decision to move the school into a new region due to the issue of long travel distances to new region mates in the Jackson area — Terry, Brandon, Pearl and Jim Hill. The drive from Lucedale to Jackson is about 150 miles.
The school hopes to get an answer on its appeal in the next three weeks.
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Pascagoula is moving back to Class 6A for the first time since 2009-11. The Panthers will rejoin their old rivals in Region 4-6A, which will include D’Iberville, Gulfport, Biloxi, Hancock, Harrison Central, Ocean Springs and St. Martin.
“Pascagoula will be the second smallest 6A school in the state,” Pascagoula-Gautier School District athletic director Greg Freeman said Thursday. “That’s just kind of the way the numbers shook out.
“From a competitive standpoint, I believe that whether you’re 5A or 6A on the Coast, you’re pretty much equal. But I think as you move up, I think 6A is a little stronger.”
Freeman said Pascagoula will continue to play Gautier and Moss Point in non-region games. At the moment, Moss Point will be the opponent in the 2017 football season opener and Gautier will play Pascagoula in the fourth week.
Pascagoula will be in Region 7-6A in basketball, baseball and soccer along with D’Iberville, Ocean Springs and St. Martin.
St. Patrick joins Perry Central and Collins as three teams dropping from 8-3A to 8-2A. The Region 8-2A members will be St. Patrick, North Forrest, Perry Central, Richton and Collins.
“The teams that are in there are still good teams,” St. Patrick football coach Jim Bloomfield said. “There are more schools with student populations that are our size.”
Bloomfield was also upbeat about decreased travel times. The longest trip St. Patrick will have to make is Collins.
“It’ll be a little better,” Bloomfield said. “Kids can stay in school, stay in class longer. That’s always a benefit.”
If George County moves over to Region 3-6A as planned, it leaves behind several rivalries on the Coast. The Rebels will be joined in 3-6A by Brandon, Jim Hill, Meridian, Oak Grove, Pearl, Petal and Terry.
If the MHSAA realignment plan pans out, the Rebels will be in Region 5-6A along with Meridian, Oak Grove and Petal for baseball, basketball and soccer.
Region 5-6A may turn out to be the toughest baseball region in the state with all four programs featuring rich traditions.
“Somebody is going to have a good baseball team that’s not in the playoffs,” said Matt Caldwell, George County’s football coach and athletic director. “We’ve played for a state championship the last two years. Oak Grove is always good and Petal is always good. Meridian is usually good.”
With Pascagoula moving on, Region 4-5A has an interesting addition to its lineup with Wayne County joining Gautier, Hattiesburg, Long Beach, Pearl River Central, Picayune, Stone High and West Harrison.
Wayne County’s closest region rival will be Hattiesburg, which is 60 miles away from Waynesboro.
“I think it came down to either Wayne County or North Pike (joining 4-5A),” Freeman said. “Either one of those are a long way away. In football, I think Wayne County is going to bring it down here. They have a high quality football program.”