The Tennessee Secondary School Athletics Association will not finalize district and region pairings for the new classification cycle beginning next year until its Board of Control meeting next week. But the sanctioning body’s proposed placements were released for coaches and school administrators to review on Thursday.
There were obviously going to be major changes for Scott High, because the Highlanders are moving to Class 3A for basketball and to Class 4A for football. But, in something of a surprise, there will also be significant changes for Oneida, even though the Indians remain in Class 1A for basketball and Class 2A for football.
Remember, the proposed districts will not be final until they’re voted on by the TSSAA Board of Control, and could change.
Football: The Indians are proposed to be in a five-team Region 2-2A, same as current. But the region make-up will be significantly different. Gone (to Region 1-2A) will be Cumberland Gap. Also gone, to Region 3-2A, will be Meigs County, which has won the current Region 2 each of the four years since the current region pairings were set.
Oneida’s new regional opponents would include York Institute and Monterey, along with Rockwood and Wartburg. While TSSAA traditionally tries to stay away from placing teams together that are in differing time zones, it’s not an unprecedented move.
The new region won’t help Oneida’s scheduling woes any; the Indians will still have to find six non-region opponents each year. But it should help Oneida’s chances of winning region championships. While York Institute’s strength ebbs and flows as graduations are held and new talent comes in, Oneida and Rockwood would likely be favored to be at the front of the pack in the new region on a fairly consistent basis.
Basketball, Baseball, Softball: There are major changes coming for basketball in District 3-A. Gone are the Roane County teams, with the exception of Oliver Springs, and back is Jellico.
That means the new District 3-1A will look very much like the old District 4-A, prior to 2017. The budding Oneida-Harriman rivalry that has been so thrilling the past two years will be over; the Indians and the Blue Devils will only potentially meet in the region tournament.
The proposed District 3-1A looks like this: Oneida, Coalfield, Jellico, Oliver Springs, Sunbright and Wartburg.
The most interesting aspect of the new district alignments is where the district tournament will be held each year. In the old District 4-A, the tournament was held at Wartburg each year, much to the consternation of the schools from outside Morgan County. There was little they could do to change it because of Morgan County’s voting power; four of the seven teams in the old district were from Morgan County and voted together.
When most of the old District 4 teams were absorbed into District 3-A in 2017, the voting dynamics changed somewhat. There were four Morgan County teams and four Roane County teams, plus Oneida, for a 5-4 split. A compromise was reached that saw the tournament held at Roane State Community College in Harriman each year.
The new alignments could well mean the tournament moves back to Wartburg each year, especially since the ability of other schools in the district to host the tournament has been questioned due to the size of their gymnasiums, and because Roane State is no longer a centrally-located option as a neutral site. However, because Oakdale has been placed in District 4-1A, there is not a Morgan County majority in the new district. If Oneida, Jellico and Oliver Springs were to unite, there would be an even 3-3 split.
Soccer: Soccer will not change for Oneida. The Indians will remain in District 3-A with Cumberland Gap, Harriman, Oliver Springs and Rockwood. As expected, Loudon — which makes the move down to Class A from Class AA — has been placed in District 4-A. That still means the Redskins will be a potential region tournament opponent for the Indians, which will have an impact in boys’ soccer, especially.
Football: As we’ve known, Scott High is making the move to Class 4A for football, due to the size of its enrollment, and the Highlanders will fall into a new Region 2-4A that looks likely to be a powerhouse region.
That’s not an unusual predicament for the Highlanders, who have traditionally been paired with the strongest schools in the Knoxville area in Class 3A. But the new region looks especially tough.
Scott High’s proposed region opponents include Anderson County, Carter, Fulton, Gibbs and South-Doyle. Several of those teams — Anderson County, Fulton and Gibbs — are past regional opponents of the Highlanders.
While Fulton has been down somewhat from its standard the past couple of seasons, the new region includes several traditional heavyweights, including the Falcons, Anderson County and South-Doyle.
The Cherokees are headed into this year’s Class 4A playoffs with a record of 7-3, and took two Knoxville area powerhouses — Powell and Central — to the wire in each of the past two weeks before losing. Anderson County is 8-2, riding a 6-game winning streak that has seen the Mavericks score at least 42 points in every game. Anderson County is coached by former Scott High head coach Davey Gillum. Their only two losses this season includes South-Doyle by one point, and Powell by two points.
Basketball, Baseball, Softball: As Scott High makes the move to Class 3A for basketball, the Highlanders are part of a proposed District 4-3A that includes just three other teams, including Anderson County, Clinton and Knox Halls.
Those three teams were expected district foes for the Highlanders. The surprise is that Fulton and Austin-East — two of the “Big Three,” along with Alcoa, from the current District 4-AA — are going to District 5-3A. That means the Highlanders lose those teams not only as district foes, but as region foes as well.
That could have huge implications down the road as far as championship contention, though it’s impossible to know how each school is going to cycle through talent in the years ahead. The most obvious implication is that every team in the new district — as well as every team in the four-team District 3-3A on the other side of the region — will be in the regional tournament each year.
The immediate take-away is that district parity increases substantially for both boys and girls.
On the boys’ side, Anderson County is traditionally a strong program, but has been down somewhat the past couple of seasons. The Mavericks are coming off a 16-14 season, and fell to the Highlanders last December, 73-62. Halls is not a traditionally strong basketball program, and is coming off a 5-18 season. Clinton is likewise not known as a powerhouse, though the Dragons are coming off a regional appearance last season, a season that included several impressive wins and a 16-14 record. The Dragons won 19 games two years ago, also getting to the regionals.
On the girls’ side, the Lady Highlanders match up relatively well with all of the other three teams in the proposed district, at least on paper.
Soccer: The only change for Scott High in the proposed soccer district pairings is the removal of Loudon, which drops to Class A. The proposed District 5-AA will not change beyond that, and will include Anderson County, Kingston and Clinton.
On the girls’ side, the Lady Highlanders and Lady Redskins played to an overtime finish in this year’s district semifinals, and Scott defeated Loudon in the district championship game in 2017.