With 14 local schools in Class AAAAA, Gwinnett had its teams distributed in Region 7-AAAAA and 8-AAAAA, which came as no surprise. But the 12-member committee made a change in AA that left three Gwinnett private schools in bewilderment.
Rather than remaining in its current 8-AA, the Greater Atlanta Christian School, Providence and Wesleyan were bumped to 5-AA, which includes private schools like Lovett and Pace Academy and Atlanta schools like Crim and Grady.
"I am shocked by it," Wesleyan head football coach Will Jackson said. "I thought our region was fairly stable."
With the decision, the GHSA placed three strong private schools into an already competitive region. GACS and Wesleyan finished first and second in this year's Director's Cup standings for AA.
The move also places 13 teams in 5-AA and leaves only seven in 8-AA. Buford is one of the schools remaining in 8-AA, leaving it separated from its three Gwinnett rivals. Travel to mountain schools in 8-AA like Union County apparently was a factor in the committee's decision.
"I'm disappointed with the 5-AA and 8-AA," Buford football coach and athletic director Dexter Wood said. "We have a great relationship with those three schools and don't want them to leave."
The region assignments in AAAAA were more pleasing to the teams involved. Region 8-AAAAA will remain entirely Gwinnett, with Berkmar, Brookwood, Central Gwinnett, Grayson, Meadowcreek, Parkview, Peachtree Ridge, Shiloh and South Gwinnett.
The other Gwinnett region is 7-AAAAA, which features Collins Hill, Dacula, Duluth, Norcross and North Gwinnett with three Fulton schools — Centennial, Chattahoochee and Northview — and South Forsyth.
"Us and Duluth are so close to Chattahoochee, Centennial and Northview," Norcross football coach Keith Maloof said. "I think it was the right thing to do."
The committee was faced with putting Gwinnett, Cobb and Fulton schools into four regions — 5-AAAAA, 6-AAAAA, 7-AAAAA and 8-AAAAA — and used an East-West philosophy in the process. The group in 5-AAAAA consists of schools on the west side of I-75 along with Sprayberry while 6-AAAAA featured schools between I-75 and Georgia 400.
That leaves 7-AAAAA to include Gwinnett schools between 400 and I-85 as well as three Fulton schools and South Forsyth. Region 8-AAAAA features Gwinnett teams on the east side of I-85. Reclassification committee member Dave Hunter, Brookwood's athletic director, said the two wild-card schools in terms of geography were Dacula and Peachtree Ridge. Peachtree Ridge went to 8-AAAAA because it was closer to the other 8-AAAAA schools while Dacula went to 7-AAAAA.
"I think it's fair," Hunter said of 7-AAAAA and 8-AAAAA. "One of the prerequisites was not having more teams in one of those regions and to do it geographically. Competitively one region looks stronger on paper than the other but you never know."
Schools have until July 11 to appeal their placement in the committee's proposed region alignments. The committee will hear those appeals July 16 before sending its final plan to the GHSA executive committee.
Other local schools placed in regions were Apalachee and Winder-Barrow, both in 8-AAA, and Hebron Academy, a Dacula school new to GHSA competition. Hebron is in 8-A.
This story originally appeared in the Gwinnett Daily Post.