You can forget about making frequent road trips to Augusta anymore to watch Effingham County and South Effingham in regular season interscholastic sports.
The Georgia High School Association has placed Effingham County’s two high schools in the same region for the first time as they will be part of a new Region 2-AAAA. Much of Effingham County’s old Region 3-AAAA will be included — Brunswick, Glynn Academy, Statesboro, Ware County and Wayne County.
“I think we’re really excited,” South Effingham principal Dan Noel said.
But the region does not include any Augusta-area schools. Both Effingham and South Effingham were in regions last year with a handful of metro Augusta schools. South Effingham’s current Region 3-AAA also has Burke County, Butler, Cross Creek, Glenn Hills, Harlem, Hephzibah, Thomson and Washington County. Effingham’s present Region 3-AAAA has Evans, Greenbrier, Lakeside-Evans and Richmond Academy.
“It worked out just the way we wanted to,” ECHS athletic director Tim Hood said. “This was the perfect case scenario. We feel the region is going to be competitive.”
Hood said the region also will be more financially sound — gates should be stronger and gas expenses for buses could be cut down.
“We’re in a situation where the bus driver shortage in the county is affecting us,” he said. “The coaches wind up having to drive the buses on game nights.”
It also cuts down the amount of time student-athletes miss class. Hood said in some cases they had to leave an hour earlier for their road trips.
Said Noel: “Athletics are wonderful, but when we’re putting kids on buses and they’re traveling two to two and a half hours to play, they have to get out of school early. I think cutting down on that travel is good.”
Noel also mentioned the fuel costs in road trips to Augusta-area schools for region contests.
“It is a real drain on our budget,” he said.
The length of the road trips also makes it difficult for students and working parents to get to games in time, if at all, Noel said.
There was some concern Effingham’s two schools — South Effingham’s enrollment growth pushed into the AAAA tier, and schools can opt to play up a class but not down a class — would be lumped into a region with Augusta-area schools. That would have led to subregions.
Under the GHSA’s reclassification numbers, Effingham County’s enrollment was 1,676 in the fall and South Effingham’s was 1,486.
Several other area schools are also AAAA in terms of enrollment but chose to play up a level at Class AAAAA — Bradwell (1,880, the second largest school in AAAA), Jenkins (1,795), Groves (1,534) and Johnson (1,620).
With the regions for next year set, Hood said ECHS has begun conversations to fill out the non-region portion of its football schedule.
“Wouldn’t it be exciting if we were playing South Effingham in game 10 (of the football season), and the winner goes to the playoffs and loser is out?” Hood said. “If we thought we had big crowds and interest before, we may not have enough room anywhere in the county to play that game.”
“It’s always a great rivalry when we play Effingham County,” Noel said, noting now a game between the Rebels and Mustangs could mean a potential playoff berth at stake. “What if Effingham County and South Effingham was the last game of the year? Talk about some excitement there.”
Officials at both schools pointed to the good-natured rivalry between the two county schools.
“The rivalry we have with South Effingham we feel is a healthy rivalry,” Hood said.
AAAAA schools playing in 2008-09: 66
AAAA schools playing in 2008-09: 81
AAA schools playing in 2008-09: 81
AA schools playing in 2008-09: 82
A schools playing in 2008-09: 100 (71 in football)
A look at Region 2-AAAA
Schools in Region 2-AAAA for 2008-10 and their enrollments (based on fall counts):
Glynn Academy, 1808
Effingham County, 1676
South Effingham, 1486
Ware County, 1486
Wayne County, 1464