Examining 2015-2017 Realignment

[Editor's note: The
style="font-style: italic;"
target="_blank">VHSL recently announced the new alignments
for the 2015-2017 seasons
as enrollment numbers have changed across the state. Long-time friend
to, Matt Gilliam, sat down to examine the changes and
their impending impact.]
Here's my list of the ten teams I think will make the biggest impact on
football in their new classes once the redistricting takes effect in
2015. Remember, nothing has changed for the upcoming 2014 season. A lot
more teams will be moving. But these ten made me sit up and take
10. Washington &
Lee - This school moves up from 1A to 2A. They will be the
smallest 2A school in the state with only 479 students. Nevertheless,
the Eagles are always there with a winning record and sometimes much
better than that, so look for this squad in the playoffs and as often
as not, look for them to snag home field in the first round of the
playoffs most years.
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style="font-weight: bold;">9. Stuarts Draft -
This is the second of three tough new 2A schools on our list. The
Cougars are moving down from 3A so they may be looking at a little
easier path in the playoffs than they're getting in the first two years
of the new plan. Their 728 students will make them one of the larger
schools in this class. I expect these guys to be around in the late
rounds of the playoffs more often than not.
8. Manchester
- This looks to be the new team in 6A that could be having the biggest
impact. The Lancers will be playing as one of the smaller schools in
Virginia's biggest division, but they also could have a big impact.
Plain and simple, these guys always have a winning record, and they
seem on the verge of some big things. 6A is a challenging place to make
your move, but Manchester could be trouble for anyone who draws them in
the playoffs.
7. I. C. Norcom
- As a AAA school they had become one of the most respected squads
around and they are coming off of a nice season in 4A. It can't be
comforting to most of 3A to see the Greyhounds will be a contender in
their division.
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style="font-weight: bold;">6. Kettle Run -
Kettle Run has been one of the best teams around the last three years
and while moving up to 4A will be a challenge, anyone who has dealt
with the Cougars will tell you that nobody in 4A is going to have an
easy game against theses guys.
Central - Woodstock - I'm not sure everyone statewide has
noticed how good the Falcons have been. They have posted two straight
10 win seasons and have had five straight winning seasons. They are
moving down from 3A to 2A, so theoretically they will have an easier
road, not that they need one. They've been in the final eight two
straight years.
While I am predicting
the above teams to have immediate impacts in their new classifications,
the next four teams are the BIG stories.
4. Varina -
The Blue Devils have been bad in the past, but I can't remember when
that would have been. These guys put up double digit wins as often as
not and usually in the state championship conversation at some point
just about every year. Still the trophy has eluded them (though they
probably had the best team in the state a couple of times). 5A should
give them a better shot than 6A simply because 6A is consistently going
to provide a national powerhouse caliber team or two while you may get
a break from that from time to time in 5A.
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style="font-weight: bold;">3. Lafayette - This
team was the AA version of Varina, though they did have a couple of
down seasons 5 or 6 years ago, not many schools have more football
tradition than the Rams. Lafayette has won the state title before
(2001). Moving up to 4A from 3A probably means some tougher early round
games in the playoffs, but I don't think anyone doubts that Lafayette
is up to the challenge.
2. Riverheads
- The Gladiators have been a single A powerhouse for ages and they are
always a contender to win it all. Moving down to 1A from 2A will mean
trouble for any school that runs into them in the playoffs. If you
follow the smaller schools in the state, there is no doubt that this
move is the biggest story in those classifications.
1. Phoebus -
Really? The Phantoms drop to 3A? The team everyone uses as the prime
example of enrollment doesn't matter is Phoebus. The team was AA size
while playing up in AAA and winning 7 state championships over an
11-year period. The new system has moved them down and the thought of
these guys in 3A has to send shivers down the spines of some people.
So what's the overall impact on the divisions? It really is not that
much; the divisions mostly traded teams around and overall it was
mostly a wash. 6A and 5A basically trade good Central Region teams.
Varina is probably seen by most as a traditionally stronger team than
Manchester, but we all know that Manchester has been steadily closing
the gap on everyone in recent years.
4A will lose Phoebus and Norcom, but gain Lafayette and Kettle Run.
Phoebus is such a big deal that you have to feel that things are a
little easier here for the remaining teams, but really, even as good as
the Phantoms are, it's not a significantly easier class in the new
3A will be losing Woodstock, Stuarts Draft, Kettle Run, and Lafayette
which opens up a lot of new playoff spaces. Phoebus and
Norcom come in to take those places. If one of the teams coming in
wasn't Phoebus, I might be willing to say things are getting easier in
3A, but with the Phantoms there, I can't make that claim.
2A will have more tough teams than ever with three teams on my top ten
list coming in and they only lose Riverheads. This class will be even
more competitive come 2015.
1A loses Washington & Lee, but gains Riverheads. The Gladiators
have more tradition than Washington & Lee so you might think
this makes the class a little more difficult, but I don't think it does
by a huge margin, though Riverheads is a super strong program, no