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August 10, 2007

Changes in Region D could shake up playoffs

HAYSI, Va. Haysi and Honaker have been playoff regulars the past couple of decades.

The new and bigger Region D could change that. In Honaker's case, it could make it even tougher to advance if the Tigers did reach the post-season.

Four new schools which average around 700 students, Lee, Virginia High, Lebanon and John Battle, join Region D this fall. That forces Haysi down to the smaller school Division 1, but it leaves Honaker in an even stronger Division 2.

The changes don't mean Haysi has it made. The Tigers had to deal with perennial state powers Powell Valley and Gate City in Division 2. In Division 1, however, J.I. Burton has been to the past three state finals and Appalachia owns three state crowns from the not-so-distant past.

"If you go by history you're going to play (J.I. Burton) or Appalachia (in the playoffs)," Haysi coach James Colley said. "It's going to be different, but not necessarily easier."

In recent years, the Virginia High School League classification system has gone from a set cutoff point of 500 for Group A and 1,000 for Group AA to a fluctuating format that allows the cutoff numbers to increase each year as the number of large, consolidated schools grows in northern and eastern Virginia.

In addition, schools divided into small and big school divisions within each region, allowing for example, most of the Division 1 schools in Region B to be bigger than many of the Division 2 schools in Region D.

Honaker coach Doug Hubbard has been an outspoken critic of the Virginia High School League's format in recent years.

"We're in now with a lot of schools with 200 and 300 more students than we have," Hubbard said. "We could easily be 9-1 and sitting at home (in the post-season). I think there are better ways to do this.

"Going to four or five classes would be better. I think five classes would even the numbers out a little bit better (across the region and state). That makes more sense to me."

Colley is no more a fan of larger, former Group AA schools crowding the Group A ranks than Hubbard.

"We're finally where we should be (in Division 1)," Colley says. "But the way it is now, a 9-1 team could miss out (on the post-season) in one region and a 3-7 team could make it.

"I would never say anything about any team making the playoffs, but if a 3-7 team is in the playoffs and a 9-1 team is sitting at home, something's wrong with the system and the system is the VHSL."

The VHSL has allowed Group A to experiment with divisional play in boys and girls basketball this winter. Some area school officials are hoping the move is so popular it might lead to a broader change, perhaps, even in classification, in a Group 4A and even a 5A.

"We're losing enrollment like everyone else in this area," Hubbard said.

"It makes it tough to compete. Hopefully they'll make a change soon."


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