What to make of the new KHSAA football alignment? Well, it’s got something for everybody.
There are intriguing new district and regional matchups, there are drastic class changes and there are controversial pairings, such as the grouping of Trinity, St. Xavier, Male and duPont Manual in a district that has every football fan in Louisville talking.
Closer to home, it’s worth noting that almost every Advocate-area school is significantly affected by the alignment the KHSAA made public earlier this week. Only one local team is among the 60 that are changing classes, but five of the six teams will find themselves in districts that are drastically different than the ones they’re playing in this season.
It’s also worth noting that the alignment you’re reading this week is not necessarily the one that will be in force after the KHSAA Board of Control meeting later this month, though it probably won’t be a lot different.
The KHSAA has already acted on schools’ requests to “play up” to a higher class for geographic reasons, so that’s presumably off the table. Ten schools asked to play up, including Boyle County, but only three were of those requests were approved: Bath County (moved up to 3A), Cooper (up to 5A) and Letcher County Central (up to 5A). A request by Edmonson County is pending.
Schools have until Oct. 14 to file comments with the KHSAA, and the Board of Control vote is Oct. 18. The board can and often does make some changes to the KHSAA recommendation, but it usually doesn’t do a lot of tinkering. One reason for that is that the draft alignment is created by a Board of Control committee working with KHSAA staffers, where in the past much of the heavy lifting was done by a committee of coaches.
There will still be some noticeably thin districts, regions and even entire classes, which is just something we have to live with in a six-class world. We also have to live with larger classes in 2A through 5A, because classes 1A and 6A have been capped at 32 teams — though I haven’t read any explanation for that. That means that every team in those two classes will make the playoffs, while some of the other classes have 40 or 41 teams. It means that almost every district in 2A through 5A will have five teams, and a couple of them have six teams.
For more information from the KHSAA on realignment, visit this page, which includes commissioner Julian Tackett’s accompanying statement, as well as maps for each class that show the placement of each school. And for a more local perspective, here are my thoughts on how each of the six local schools fared:
Garrard County (3A-5): The folks at Garrard have to be snickering about their good fortune after landing in this cupcake of a district. The Golden Lions have had to contend with either Somerset or Corbin for the past several years, but the teams they’ll apparently play over the next four years are nowhere near that level. Estill County is a decent team, but there’s also Bath County (moving up from 2A), Bourbon County (down from 4A, and how can a school that close to Lexington be shrinking?) and Powell County, all programs for whom winning seasons are rare.
Lincoln County (5A-7): Almost anybody in the eastern half of 5A is a winner because of all the powerhouse teams that were taken out of that strong class. The Patriots will still have to contend with Pulaski County and Southwestern, but the two teams that replaced Mercer County in their district, Madison Southern and North Laurel, are beatable almost every year. In fact, Lincoln has been beating Madison Southern recently when it could beat almost no one else. The downside is that this is now a six-team district, one of only two in the state.
Danville (2A-7): Danville is one of two or three teams in 2A that is very near the center of the state, meaning it could be slotted almost anywhere. So just when it looked like their current district would be kept largely intact, the Admirals were carted off to an eastern Kentucky region and put in a district that includes two of last year’s state finalists, Class 1A champion Lexington Christian and 3A runner-up Somerset. The other two district opponents, Leslie County and Middlesboro, are more than 100 miles away, and assistant coach Jerry Perry is already spearheading a plan that would ensure that Danville, LCA and Somerset would only have to visit one of those schools each season.
Casey County (3A-4): The last thing a Casey program that is slowly but surely on the rise needs is annual games against Bell County and Corbin, but that’s just what the Rebels get. They also get two more manageable opponents, McCreary Central and current district foe Wayne County. Woe is the team that finishes fourth in this group, because the best team in the corresponding district is Central.
Boyle County (4A-5): Boyle isn’t a big loser, because its new district won’t be any tougher competitively or geographically than the one it’s in now. There’s still Lexington Catholic to deal with, and that might become the Rebels’ biggest annual rival in the short term if they end their series with Danville. But there’s a reason Boyle (and Lexington Catholic, for that matter) wanted to play up to 5A, and the fact that it was turned down has to make this a loss. Still, four of the five heavy hitters that dropped from 5A to 4A were placed in the same region, so the Rebels would only have to play one of them each year.
Mercer County (4A-5): Mercer would surely have liked to stay in 5A, but the reduction of 6A forced some teams to move from 6A to 5A and pushed Mercer below the line between 5A and 4A, where it is one of the largest schools in that class. That pushed the Titans right into the middle of the district that includes Boyle and Lexington Catholic, as well as Marion County, which beat them just last week.