The Mississippi High School Activities Association denied George County's appeal of the organization's realignment changes on Monday.
George County will leave Region 4-6A, which includes eight Coast schools, and join Region 3-6A, which features four Jackson area programs (Terry, Brandon, Pearl and Jim Hill) and Meridian.
George County High School is located in Lucedale, which is about 150 miles away from the Jackson area and 112 miles from Meridian.
“It's a huge impact economically, travel-wise,” George County football coach and athletic director Matt Caldwell said. “We're looking at possibly three trips to Jackson and one to Meridian. Those are four trips that are right at two hours. It's going to hurt their income as well. Some of those teams will have to come 2 ½ hours or 2:45 to Lucedale. Folks can't get off work at 5 and be there at 7. You can't get off at 5 at Chevron or Ingalls or if you work in Mobile and make it to Pearl.”
George County hoped that the MHSAA would change its mind and turn 4-6A into a nine-team region. There are uneven regions in the lower classifications, but all four regions in 6A include eight teams.
Caldwell said that the decision won't have much impact on class schedules for student-athletes, but the long trips home will make it difficult.
“If you've got a Tuesday night at game at Meridian and it doesn't get over until 9:30, then you've got to get on the bus for a 2-hour ride home,” Caldwell said. “That's going affect kids a lot that way.”
The teams in Region 3-6A are George County, Brandon, Jim Hill, Meridian, Oak Grove, Pearl, Petal and Terry.
Caldwell's football team will enter a tougher region in football and the Rebels' baseball team will be joined with Petal, Oak Grove and Meridian in Region 5-6A for possibly the toughest region in the state.
“We'll just have to get our fundraising going better,” Caldwell said. “If you have four long trips like that, you hate to ask coaches to teach all day and drive 2 hours back. That's an 18-hour work day. We'll get together and start formulating a plan.”
George County is on one of its best runs in sports in school history: The George County football team finished 7-5 and reached the playoffs for the first time since 2010. The Rebels' boys basketball team made its first trip to Jackson since 1991 when it lost 81-49 to Columbus in the 6A state quarterfinals in March. The George County baseball team has lost in the Class 6A state title series the last two years.