High School Sports

These Coast high schools will switch classifications next year, creating new rivalries

East Central High School coach Seth Smith is about to spend more quality time with family members during football season.

The Mississippi High School Activities Association revealed enrollment numbers on Monday, giving schools a heads up on which classification they’ll be competing in for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons.

East Central will be one of the schools on the move, making the jump from Class 4A to 5A with an enrollment of 734 to make them the smallest Class 5A team in the state.

Some other Coast schools switching classifications are:

Pascagoula will move down from Class 6A and be the largest Class 5A program with an enrollment of 1,038.

West Harrison will compete in the state’s largest classification for the first time due to an enrollment of 1,105.

Stone High is moving down from Class 5A to 4A with an enrollment of 716, making it the second largest Class 4A school behind Vancleave (723).

Despite seeing a drop in its enrollment of about 100 students over the last two years, George County narrowly made the cut and will be the smallest of the 32 Class 6A schools at 1,051.

East Central will likely enter Region 4-5A for football, meaning the Hornets will face teams like Picayune and Pearl River Central. Smith’s father-in-law, Dodd Lee, is the legendary football coach at Picayune and Jacob Owen, Smith’s cousin, is the first-year head coach at PRC.

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Smith admits that the idea of playing family members in crucial region contests doesn’t appeal to him.

“They’re family and I love them,” Smith said. “One of you is going to lose that game and be disappointed. It’s more enjoyable when you’re not playing family members.”

One downside for East Central will be leaving behind a budding Class 4A rivalry with Poplarville. The two teams played for the Class 4A South State title last season with East Central coming out on top. They’re on pace to play for another South State title in November with East Central standing at 8-0 and Poplarville sitting at 8-1.

Pascagoula move’s to Class 5A seems to be good news for a football program that’s failed to make the playoffs in its last two seasons in Region 4-6A, but head coach Lewis Sims understands Region 4-5A can be just as difficult.

“There’s not a whole lot of difference between 5A or 6A,” Pascagoula coach Lewis Sims said. “You look at the people in those regions, they’re all competitive from top to bottom. If you look at the scores in 5A and 6A, anybody can beat anybody on any given night. There’s a lot of parity these days. We’re 1-8 and we’ve lost three region games by a total of eight points. We’re competitive, but we’re not winning a lot.”

Patrick Magee: 228-896-2333, @CoastCoverage.
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