Meridian Star


December 15, 2012

MAIS final realignment announced for 2013

MERIDIAN — The drastic changes proposed in the initial Mississippi Association of Independent Schools' realignment are gone but the biggest difference that remains is popular among local coaches.

    While the splitting of Class AA into two divisions much like Class AAA has been and the addition of a third district into Class AAA were overturned, the 8-man football league no longer has just a North District and a South District, instead going to a four district overall look. That is perfectly fine with Calvary Christian's Kirby Newell and Kemper Academy's Pete McCleskey.

    “I think it's a great move for us,” Newell said.

    Added McCleskey: “I think it's going to work out. I'm happy with it.”

    With the realignment that accompanies reclassification every two years, the Cougars are leaving the North and heading into District 9 along with Christian Collegiate, Rebul Academy and The Veritas School. Losing local rivals Kemper Academy and Central Academy as division foes will benefit the Cougars, according to Newell, since they will make for short non-conference trips.

    “I think it's going to allow for us to be more competitive within the division with those guys,” he said. “I also think it's going to cut down a little bit on travel.

    “We're still going to play Kemper and Macon and Hebron, because they're close.”

    That is also something McCleskey is hoping for in addition to competing in District 7 against Calhoun Academy, Central and Hebron Christian.

    “I know it will be good for us, if we can work the scheduling out,” McCleskey said. “It will hopefully save some of us some long, long trips. That was the focus when we realigned and went to the two divisions in the North and two in the South, that was the plan.

    “It's going to be working the scheduling out. Someone is still going to have to be doing some traveling, unless we can get some more teams down here. But it won't be as bad as last year. I sure hope we don't have to go to Marvell, Ark. The key will be if we can some of those schools around Jackson on the schedule that we couldn't last year.”

    One team that will no longer be part of those changes in the 8-man league is reigning state champion Russell Christian. The Warriors instead are jumping into Class AA as they return to 11-man football following a two-year stint in the 8-man game.

    With the move to Class AA, Russell – which has reached an agreement with Lamar to open against each other – will join District 4-AA and perennial power Simpson Academy. The rest of the district includes Hartfield Academy, returning to the MAIS following a two-year stint as a member of the Mississippi High School Activities Association, Park Place, Wayne Academy and Laurel Christian, which doesn't play football.

    “It's not where we want to be, but it's where they put us,” Russell coach Nate Ballard said. “We wanted to be Class A but we had one student too many, so this is where we are.

    “Simpson is always good and Wayne always has talent and then I'm not sure what to expect from Hartfield, so the way I look at it is they put us with two powerhouses and possibly a third one, so we have our work cut out for us coming from 8-man. It's going to be tough, but we're looking forward to the challenge.”

    After spending the past two seasons in the same division with Simpson and Wayne, Lamar is returning to Class AAA after four years in Class AA. The Raiders, who played for one state championship in Class AA, and have won two Class AAA, Division II titles, will again be in Division II where they will compete against District 2 foes Columbia Academy, Copiah Academy, East Rankin Academy and Oak Forest Academy. Other District 2 teams are Division I schools Jackson Prep, Parklane Academy and Presbyterian Christian.

    “Playing in Class AA hasn't been real easy for us and we know we're going to have one extremely difficult game with Jackson Prep, plus have the other two big schools in Parklane and Presbyterian,” Lamar coach Mac Barnes said.

    Under the original proposal, Lamar would have been in the same district – while still in different divisions – with both heavyweights Jackson Academy and Prep, meaning annual games with both. And with the splitting of Class AA into two divisions it basically equated into six classes for football.

    “I will say this and I don't think too many people will disagree with it, but that has to be in the top 10 worst proposals ever made in athletics,” Barnes said. “That thing was horrible and there was no question it was going to get thrown back out of the water. They had three districts in Class AAA, which made no sense because there wasn't enough teams, and two divisions in Class AA, which really didn't make any sense.”

    Newton County Academy, which remains in Class A 11-man, is moving from District 4 to District 3 as the league moves from a four-district to a five-district setup. The Generals, who have won the district the past two seasons, will compete with Benton Academy, Central Holmes, Heidelberg Academy and Sylva-Bay Academy.


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