Realignment Makes Conference Even Stronger

It's what happens every four years in North Carolina Athletics: Realignment. Some teams stay in their respective classifications while others either move down or move up a classification.

That is the case with Ashbrook and East Gaston High School. They are moving up from 3A to 4A while conference rivals Forestview, Hunter Huss, North Gaston and South Point remain in 3A. Huss was originally slated to go down to 2A, but officials at Huss were able to get it overturned. East Lincoln, however, moved down to 2A and will break up with the Big South.

The Big South now consists of 4A and 3A teams; Forestview, Hunter Huss, North Gaston and South Point are 3A, while Ashbrook and East Gaston are 4A. Plus, this conference adds 2X 3AA State Champ, Crest and that's going to make this conference even more interesting than it was last year.

"I think it's going to be one of the toughest…if not the toughest conferences in the state." remarked North Gaston coach Bruce Clark. "Not only do you have Crest, South Point and Ashbrook, who have all recently won State Titles, but you have East Gaston who's improved a lot, Forestview who is also pretty good and Hunter Huss with plenty of speed. Our guys(North Gaston) should also be competitive in the conference, as well."

"You take out East Lincoln and you add Crest(who has won the state title not once, but twice in a row), it's going to be tough to compete in this conference." said Ashbrook head coach Mike Briggs "There are no easy games on our schedule this year."

Ashbrook's nonconference schedule isn't that much easier, as well. They open up with West Mecklenburg, who's coming off an 8-4 season, Clover, 2A State Runner-up-Shelby, Burns and East Rutherford, all in which are playoff teams.

One thing to note about this conference is the amount of Championships that have been recently won by the teams in it. Ashbrook won the 3AA State Championship in 2002. South Point won the 3A State Championship in 2003 and Crest won the 3AA State Championship in both 2003 and 2004.

"This conference is loaded with State Championships." remarked South Point head coach John Devine.

Not only are Crest, South Point and Ashbrook expected to shine this year, but other teams such as Forestview and East Gaston are going to be in the mix.

"It's going to be tough top-to-bottom." said Hunter Huss coach Steve Gardner "You have to be up every week. You have Crest, South Point and Ashbrook who have all won State Champs in the past three years and Forestview and East Gaston, who are coming along. North Gaston is becoming more competitive and our guys should also be in the thick of things this fall."

Last year, the teams in the old BS3A did not have much luck in the playoffs. Only two out of the six teams that made the playoffs advanced to the second round and only one of those two made it to the third round, but that team did not advance any further. That's likely to change this year with the boys from Boiling Springs coming to town.

"It makes the conference much better and it'll prepare you for the playoffs since you're playing good teams week in and week out." said Forestview coach Scott Lee.

Crest leaves a conference that had arch-rivals Burns and Kings Mountain in it, but Crest is no stranger to the rivalry here in Gaston County.

"I like it." Crest head coach Roy Kirby said about the conference "There are plenty of rivalries in that conference. We have a rivalry with South Point whom we've played in the regular season for the past four years and then there's Ashbrook whom we've played in basketball both in the regular season and post-season. Also, our head OC is now at East Gaston and that should create some rivalry there."

When asked about leaving a conference with Burns and Kings Mountain in it, he remarked "It really doesn't make a difference rather it's a conference or non-conference game. They are still big games for us, as is Shelby, and they will bring a lot of fans. They are still our rivals"

"They(Crest) are a well-coached group of guys and playing against guys like these will only make you stronger." said new East Gaston coach Greg Lloyd. Lloyd worked under Kirby for the past 8 of 10 years as Crest's OC.

"This conference was already strong to start off with," said Coach Devine "but now that we have added Crest to it, it's going to be even more fun. I'm looking forward to it." Crest replaces East Lincoln on the schedule and that sets up a big show in Belmont on November 4th as Crest travels to South Point. Devine was right, that is something to look forward to. South Point has only lost two conference games since 1999 while Crest hasn't lost a conference game since 2000. What better time could there be to have a big football game like that besides the last regular season game of the year?

This conference was not originally intended to take place. The first realignment draft had Forestview, South Point and North Gaston going to a conference with Waddell, Olympic and Charlotte Catholic while Ashbrook and East Gaston were to be aligned with former conference foe Berry Academy, West Mecklenburg, Garinger and Harding and Hunter Huss would have gone with Bessemer City, Cherryville, Shelby, Maiden and all four Lincoln County teams. Crest was to rejoin the NW4A.

But, all the parties involved got that overturned. The seven Charlotte-Mecklenburg teams that were involved are now in the Queen City 4A/3A conference. The four Lincoln County teams(Lincolnton, North Lincoln, East Lincoln, and West Lincoln), Cherryville, Bessemer City, and South Iredell are in the Southern Piedmont 2A/1A. Maiden moved to the Catawba Valley Athletic Conference which includes six other Catawba County teams and two Caldwell County teams(West Caldwell and Hibriten). Shelby is in the Southwestern Foothills 3A/2A with county rivals Burns and Kings Mountain and with R-S Central, Chase and East Rutherford.


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