High schools face some re­align­ment

Some move down in lat­est MPSSAA clas­si­fi­ca­tions

Maryland Independent - - Sports - By TED BLACK tblack@somd­news.com

When the fi­nal high school clas­si­fi­ca­tions for the up­com­ing 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years by the Mary­land Public Sec­ondary Schools Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion were ap­proved, there was very lit­tle move­ment among the South­ern Mary­land Ath­letic Con­fer­ence schools in re­gards to clas­si­fi­ca­tions or re­gion re­align­ments.

But sev­eral changes that im­pacted the SMAC schools that did get re­clas­si­fied caught the at­ten­tion of sev­eral ath­letic direc­tors and coaches from mem­ber schools.

Chop­ti­con, which spent the pre­vi­ous two school years in the 4A East Re­gion, drops back into the 3A South Re­gion along with fel­low SMAC schools North­ern, Hunt­ing­town, St. Charles and Great Mills.

North Point and Leonard­town re­main in the 4A East Re­gion, while Calvert, Patux­ent, La Plata, Thomas Stone and West­lake com­prise most of Sec­tion II of the 2A South Re­gion along with South­ern of Anne Arun­del County. Lackey, how­ever, drops from 2A to the 1A South and joins fel­low SMAC school McDonough there along with sev­eral new­com­ers from Prince Ge­orge’s County, Fred­er­ick Dou­glass and Friendly, which had been 2A schools.

‘Hav­ing Lackey in our re­gion is go­ing to make things tougher for us in some sports, like foot­ball,” McDonough ath­letic di­rec­tor Pam Van Bellen said.

“With Lackey and Dou­glass and Friendly now in our re­gion, it will make it tougher for our foot­ball team to make the play­offs. But for some other sports like girls soc­cer and boys and girls lacrosse and softball, I think it helps our chances of win­ning the re­gion ti­tle now.”

Lackey head foot­ball coach John Lush watched a bevy of tal­ented se­niors grad­u­ate and sign with NCAA Di­vi­sion I pro­grams, but will still have at least a hand­ful of qual­ity starters back on both sides of the ball. Now the Charg­ers’ SMAC sched­ule will be against pri­mar­ily schools that are larger, but they will have a clearer path to the post­sea­son in the 1A South.

“We’re ex­cited about the chance to con­tinue our suc­cess and now we’re in a re­gion where it should not be as much as a strug­gle just to reach the play­offs,” Lush said. “In 2A South, we had to deal with Patux­ent, Calvert, West­lake in SMAC and then Gwynn Park and Dou­glass in Prince Ge­orge’s. Now we’re in 1A and we still might have to face Dou­glass and Friendly, but it makes our path to the post­sea­son a lit­tle eas­ier.”

Like Van Bellen, Calvert ath­letic di­rec­tor Ja­son Cran­ford also viewed the clas­si­fi­ca­tion changes and re­align­ments — which did not im­pact his school con­sid­er­ably — as hav­ing its fair share of plusses and mi­nuses. In some sports, es­pe­cially lacrosse where there are now four classes in­stead of three, the Cava­liers might face a more level play­ing field in the post­sea­son.

“Def­i­nitely in some sports, like lacrosse, we’re go­ing to have a bet­ter chance to ad­vance now,” Cran­ford said. “In the past we might have had to play some 3A schools or we were in a tough re­gion for 2A, but now we’re in the same re­gion with some Prince Ge­orge’s County teams who just started lacrosse. In other sports, like foot­ball, we still have a tough road to the play­offs even though Lackey and Dou­glass move down.”

In 4A East, North Point and Leonard­town will be in Sec­tion II along with An­napo­lis, Broad­neck and South River from Anne Arun­del County. North­ern, Hunt­ing­town, St. Charles, Chop­ti­con and Great Mills will com­prise the teams in the 3A South Sec­tion II, while Lackey will join McDonough in the 1A South Sec­tion II.

WCAC makes some changes

The St. Mary’s Ryken High School foot­ball team will not play in the Wash­ing­ton Catholic Ath­letic Con­fer­ence this fall un­der Knights first-year head coach Aaron Brady, but the con­fer­ence found an im­me­di­ate re­place­ment in The Heights, a Mont­gomery County all-male pri­vate school. The Heights will join the WCAC in 10 of the 13 sports that it of­fers.

“The WCAC is such a tough league,” Brady said. “We want to be able to take a look at what we have next sea­son be­fore we start play­ing a na­tional sched­ule. [For­mer] coach [Jerry] Franks knows more about foot­ball than I’ll ever know, so there’s a lot of things he did that were re­ally good the last five years. But next year we’re go­ing to scale things back a lit­tle but and give me and the coaches a chance to eval­u­ate what we have be­fore we move for­ward.”

“Ad­mit­tance to the WCAC is a real credit to our young men and coaches in the Up­per School,” said The Heights ath­letic di­rec­tor Dan Lively. “Through their hard work and will­ing­ness to play chal­leng­ing sched­ules, we were able to cred­i­bly present our ath­letic pro­gram as one that could meet the rig­ors of WCAC play.”

In fall 2018, WCAC foot­ball will have two di­vi­sions with each di­vi­sion hav­ing its own play­offs and cham­pi­onship game. SMR will com­pete in the Metro Di­vi­sion with Arch­bishop Car­roll of Wash­ing­ton, D.C., and Vir­ginia schools Bishop Ire­ton, Bishop O’Con­nell and Paul VI. The con­fer­ence has no cur­rent plans to do this in other sports.

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