And those who support the teams from the southern half of the county should plan on longer commutes to region games in the future.
Why? The Georgia High School Association placed schools in their respective classifications for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years on Monday, and it did Cobb County no favors.
Osborne and Pope were moved into Class AAAAAA for the next two years. Overall, that is not a good fit for either program, but according to the Full-time Equivalent (FTE) numbers used to figure which school plays at what level, Osborne has 1,984 students from Grades 9 through 12, while Pope has 1,828.
According to these numbers, Osborne has more students than Harrison and is only 50 behind Lassiter. Pope is the third smallest school in Class AAAAAA.
I can’t see Osborne’s programs having success in Class AAAAAA, let alone being competitive in anything other than soccer and girls basketball. The last time the Cardinals were in the highest classification in football, they were outscored 435-55 and were shut out six times in 2005.
Having coach Xarvia Smith and his team potentially face the likes of McEachern, North Cobb, Marietta, Hillgrove and the like over the next few years will threaten to destroy any foundation he has worked so hard to build since taking over in 2011. His team of 35 to 40 players will never be able to match the 80-plus player squads of his new counterparts.
The same might be said at Pope. The Greyhounds will be more competitive than Osborne on the football field, and in most other sports because of a stable i.e. non-transient student population, but the idea of playing for state championships year in and year out in softball, baseball, wrestling, volleyball and lacrosse, like they have been the last few years, just got infinitely harder.
Yes, the last time Pope’s baseball and volleyball teams were in the highest classification they each won state championships, but that was likely the exception that makes the rule. Neither Osborne nor Pope will have the numbers to compete consistently at the highest level when their competitors consistently have an extra 300, 400, or 1,000 additional students to pull players from. And that’s the difference between Walton and Pope, nearly 1,000 students.
“That’s six starters,” one county football coach told me of how many potential impact players come out of 500 additional boys in a school. “How much better would we be if I had six more starters in different positions this year?”
While the change in classification is one issue Osborne and Pope will have to deal with, another is which region will they play in the next two school years? According to coaches who I have talked with, that answer is likely to be a lot easier for Pope than for Osborne.
The Greyhounds will likely just move into Region 5AAAAAA with Walton, Lassiter, Wheeler and the teams from North Fulton and Cherokee County, making it a nine-team region.
For Osborne, it may be considered a swing school with Campbell, South Cobb and Pebblebrook.
Either three or all four of those schools may find themselves paired with the remaining five teams from this year’s Region 3AAAAAA — Westlake, Newnan, Douglas County, Langston Hughes and East Coweta. If all four schools move, the GHSA may break the region into two subregions, leaving a Cobb subregion and an Atlanta-metro subregion.
If only three teams make the move, then Osborne may find itself in a revamped Region 4AAAAAA with Harrison, Hillgrove, Kennesaw Mountain, Marietta, McEachern, North Cobb and another new Class AAAAAA school, North Paulding.
Allatoona’s Region 5AAAAA looks to remain mostly intact, with one exception. With North Paulding moving to Region 4AAAAAA, Cass or Dalton could move into the Buccaneers’ region.
Region 7AAAAA (B) in east Cobb will have to add two schools with the departure of Osborne and Pope. River Ridge from Woodstock and North Atlanta could both be options.
Region 6A (B) appears as if it will remain fairly stable, but North Cobb Christian will continue to play a non-region schedule in football for at least the next two years.
Teams will officially be put into regions on Dec. 3 at the GHSA reclassification meeting.