“The only thing that is constant is change” _ Heraclitus
(WDAM) - Every two years, prep football around the state undergoes a metamorphosis of sorts, with a dozen, two dozen teams shifting regions and/or classifications based on a biennial census of Mississippi high schools.
Official enrollment figures were released earlier this week by the Mississippi Department of Education. Wednesday, the Mississippi High School Activities Association released raw classification slotting, listing which schools will comprise 6A, 5A, etc, etc., etc., during the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 athletic seasons.
At this stage of the process, schools have not even been designated as South or North competitors, let alone separated into distinct regions.
But this week’s initial classifications still allow for a good glimpse into how the modifications likely will impact current regions.
Oak Grove, Petal and George County high schools retain spots among the top 32 enrollments in the state and will stay members of Mississippi’s largest classification.
But the current cluster the Pine Belt trio share _ Region 3-6A _ saw one peer, Jim Hill High School, slip into Class 5A, meaning at least one new face will be joining the triad as well as Brandon, Pearl, Meridian and Terry high schools.
With an enrollment of 1.051, George County was the cutoff, bumping Pascagoula High School (1,038 enrollment) from the 6A ranks and making it the most populous 5A program.
With ‘Goula coming down a rung on the enrollment ladder, a vacancy was created in Region 4-6A, an eight-school conglomeration of Gulf Coast entities.
But the fix could be as simple as swap, with Pascagoula moving back to its former home in Region 4-5A to replace current member West Harrison High School.
The Hurricanes will compete in Class 6A starting in 2019-20, sliding in three spots ahead of George County on the big-school list with an enrollment of 1,105.
Region 4-5A also will be affected by the loss of Stone High School, which will move from Class 5A to Class 4A. A potential replacement: 4A power East Central High School, which will carry the distinction as the smallest Class 5A school (734 enrollment) for the next two years.
Region 4-5A’s other members _ Hattiesburg, Wayne County, Picayune, Pearl River Central, Gautier and Long Beach _ all remained qualified for Class 5A inclusion.
Region 3-5A will lose North Pike High School, which will return to Class 4A after a two-year tryst in Class 5A. But that vacancy could be as simple a fix as returning Jackson Provine High School to its old home.
Provine moved from Region 3-5A in 2017-18 to Class 2-6A, but will return to the Class 5A fold next fall.
All six of Region 7-4A’s schools retained Class 4A status: Forrest County Agricultural; Purvis; Sumrall; Poplarville; Greene County; and Lawrence County.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the current 7-4A lineup stays intact especially with nearby neighbor Stone moving back into Class 4A.
Region 8-3A will lose Wesson High School, which just missed retaining 3A status and will be Class 2A’s largest school for the next two years with an enrollment of 279.
Region 8-2A will lose Richton High School, which slips into Class 1A. The rest of the region qualifies within Class 2A: Perry Central; North Forrest; Collins; and St. Patrick’s.
Region 5-2A’s Taylorsville, Bay Springs and Heidelberg all will remain within Class 2A as well.
After a two-year absence, East Marion High School will return to Class 2A after playing in Region 4-1A the past two years.
Richton moves down, but could very well be the quick fix to fill in the vacancy in Region 4-1A left by East Marion’s departure to Class 2A.
Likewise, the Eagles could land in the vacancy created in Region 8-2A by the loss of Richton.