Reclassifications announced for high school football

The FHSAA released its new classifications, regions and districts for high school football programs throughout the state. All local teams in West Pasco and North Pinellas will notice significant changes. Mitchell, pictured, will join a league combining Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.

The periodic process of tweaking and reconfiguring the high school football landscape took place last month as the Florida High School Athletic Association released new classifications and districts.

The changes remain in place for the next two seasons, which has been standard practice in recent years. What’s different is that member schools are no longer able to appeal their placement.

According to the FHSAA, classifications are based solely on student enrollment, then geography. Schools believing they should be moved up or down classifications used to be able to file an appeal, state their case and be moved if the request was approved.

“After traveling the state this past year, the consensus the FHSAA heard from its athletic directors and coaches was that they wanted an equal number of teams by classification, an even number of teams in each district and region and no three-team districts,” read a statement on www.FHSAA.org. “Moving schools would go against that sentiment and would create uneven classifications, regions or districts. The staff has thoroughly reviewed the assignments and do not see any schools that are geographically isolated that would require movement to another classification.”

After reviewing the reclassification decisions, Pasco and Pinellas football programs will be noticing the changes.

All West Pasco and North Pinellas programs will play in completely reshaped districts next fall. In the case of Hudson, the Cobras won’t be in a district at all. The school’s falling enrollment led the FHSAA to place Hudson in Class 4A, which is broken up into four regions but not into districts.

Schedules have yet to be made and finalized, but Hudson’s 10-team, Class 4A Region 2 stretches all the way to Keystone Heights High in the north (located between Gainesville and Jacksonville) and Astronaut, Cocoa and Space Coast high schools on the Atlantic Coast to the east.

Only one district including West Pasco or North Pinellas teams is now confined to a single county. Class 6A District 7 is all-Pinellas, combining Clearwater, Countryside, Largo, Osceola and Seminole.

While every other local league crosses county lines, there will be more Pasco-Pinellas head-to-head games.

Tarpon Springs leaves its four-team, all-Pinellas district and becomes the lone non-Pasco program in the six-team District 5A-11. The Spongers join Anclote, Gulf, River Ridge, Wesley Chapel and Zephyrhills.

A six-team, tri-county league will bring together Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough. District 7A-9 includes East Lake and Pinellas Park in Pinellas, Mitchell and Sunlake in Pasco, and Leto and Sickles in Hillsborough.

The lone local program playing in a small, four-team district is Fivay. The Falcons bump up a classification while leaving their all-Pasco league for District 6A-6 with Land O’ Lakes and Hillsborough’s Freedom and Gaither.

Dunedin, a program that hasn’t won a regular-season game since 2014, moves to a spread-out, six-team league and is the lone representative which played sub-.500 ball last year. The Falcons get Chamberlain, Jesuit and Robinson in Hillsborough, Bradenton Bayshore in Manatee, and Sarasota Booker.

Palm Harbor University has struggled playing in the highly competitive District 8A-6 over the past four seasons. The Hurricanes’ situation now becomes more manageable.

PHU’s former league contained seven programs spread out over four counties. It remains the lone Pinellas school, but the other four teams are all located in Hillsborough: Alonso, Plant, Steinbrenner and Wharton. Alonso and Steinbrenner are familiar foes from District 8A-6 and Plant is, well, Plant. But the Hurricanes’ travel mileage has been slashed and they’ll have an opportunity to schedule more in-county competition with fewer required district games.