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Sports High schools

TSSAA adopts 'Super 6' classification plan for football

August 11th, 2014 2:13 pm by Douglas Fritz

Welcome to the Super 6, Science Hill.

No, it’s not a couple of steps down from the motel chain, but it could leave the Hilltoppers wondering if they can leave the lights on for their athletic endeavors.

The TSSAA Board of Control voted Monday to split the state’s largest 32 schools into their own classification — grabbing Science Hill and Dobyns-Bennett from this end of the state — beginning with the 2015 football season. The remaining schools will be split into five classifications under the old Class 5A format with the top four teams from each region earning playoff berths.

All of the 32 Super 6 teams will automatically qualify for the playoffs, making the regular season a mosh pit for seeding.

Science Hill’s new “district” will stretch from Johnson City all the way to the western end of Knoxville. It could house D-B, Jefferson County, Sevier County, William Blount, Knox Bearden, Knox Farragut and Hardin Valley. However, there is speculation a team like William Blount will take the opportunity to move down to Class 5A and perhaps be replaced by Maryville — whose coach/AD George Quarles confirmed to the Knoxville News-Sentinel that the school's plan is to move up if originally classified as 5A.

The biggest question facing the Hilltoppers will be the revenues generated from trading a game like Daniel Boone for a contest against Hardin Valley or Knox Bearden.

“I know our athletic director isn’t for it, and the No. 1 thing being financially,” said Science Hill head football coach Stacy Carter. “I think we’re ready to go to that division; as far as football goes it’s a good time for us. But it really scares you about financial things.

“Football supports all of the school’s sports. When we play Farragut, are they going to bring as many people as Daniel Boone would bring? When you travel two hours from home to play, you lose people to follow you. It’s things like that. I hope it plays out well.”

It’s not just the gate. It’s also going to cost a lot more money for Science Hill to travel to Hardin Valley, Bearden or Farragut than it would to Boone or Crockett.

“It is expensive,” said Carter. “We would probably go on a school bus. We probably won’t be getting charter stuff for those games. It will make for a tough day to go that far.”

One bonus is a good football league, said Carter.

“Sevier County is a top-notch team, Hardin Valley is up and coming, and Farragut is good,” said Carter. “You will definitely play some good football teams, week in and week out. I think it will be a tough division.”

Carter said there are certain non-Super 6 teams he wants to keep on his schedule. Specifically two of them are Tennessee High and Elizabethton.

“I don’t want to lose teams like Elizabethton and Bristol,” said Carter. “And Greeneville would be great for us to have. We enjoy playing teams in the Tri-Cities area, and we don’t want to lose that.”

Elizabethton head coach Shawn Witten said he liked the TSSAA decision because it should allow his team to continue playing bigger schools — without the current catch.

“The biggest thing for is we don’t want to be punished for playing a bigger school,” said Witten. “The Science Hill game for us, or other teams playing D-B, under the current system it can hurt. It’s a big money game for our school, but if we lose it can hurt our playoff seeding and so forth.”

Witten’s team would possibly be placed in a region with Greeneville, Johnson County, Unicoi County, West Greene and Chuckey-Doak. The Cyclones could also look at moving up to Class 4A with Sullivan Central, Sullivan East, Tennessee High, Sullivan South, Volunteer and Cherokee.

“At Elizabethton we’ve been able to play in a league where we’re supposed to be,” said Witten. “And we’ve played teams like Daniel Boone, David Crockett and Sullivan South when they weren’t in our league. As long as we can continue to schedule those teams in a non-conference game, I think being where you are supposed to be puts you on an equal playing field. It allows you to be more competitive. I think we could have a 10-game schedule that is competitive and fan-oriented.”

At Daniel Boone, getting a schedule could be a challenge. The Trailblazers could be in a five-team league with David Crockett, Cocke County, Morristown East and Morristown West.

“We would have to get six non-conference games,” said Boone head coach Jeremy Jenkins. “It was hard with four, and now we have to get six.

“And then travel-wise we have to go to Morristown East and West. But we’ve scrimmaged them a lot, and we’ve scrimmaged Cocke County.”

It’s basically the old Inter-Mountain Conference.

“It’s a little different atmosphere than the people we’ve been playing,” said Jenkins. “But you can’t control that. You do what they say, and hit it running like everybody else will.

“I just wish they would go with one thing for every sport. It’s hard to have rivalries with other sports playing a totally different conference schedule. But we will just line up and go play.”

Among the smaller schools, Happy Valley could wind up in a Class 2A league with Hampton, South Greene, Sullivan North, Cosby and Cumberland Gap.

“For us, it’s potentially a good thing,” said Warriors’ head coach Larry Shively. “I think the new setup could provide more competitive balance for schools like us. The differences in school sizes won’t be as great now.

“And scheduling should be easier. With the current setup it’s hard to find a game. Everybody is looking for a win because that’s the No. 1 criteria for the playoffs.”

At the end of the day, Carter said he’s simply resigned to what the TSSAA decides to do.

“We’re not worried about it because we feel like we don’t have any control,” said Carter. “They’re going to do what they’re going to do.”

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