Things will be much different for area high schools starting next year.
The Virginia High School League will finalize a plan on Aug. 8 that will increase the classifications from three to six. With the expanded classes will come many changes.
Perhaps the biggest change will be the addition of conferences. The VHSL will officially place teams in conferences on Aug. 8. According to the preliminary model, there will be 48 conferences over the six classifications.
Conferences will decide who moves onto regional play, but they won't replace districts. Teams will still play in their districts just like they always have. It is up to each district to decide whether or not they want to have a district tournament, though I expect most will.
From districts, each team will move on to the conference tournament, and then the top two teams, in most of the sports, will advance to regionals.
Each classification will be divided into an East and West or North and South, so there will only be two regions in each classification. The two regional finalists advance to the state semifinals.
Things will be different with football, as there will be no conference play. They will use a rating system to determine the top 16 teams in each region and go from there. It's very similar to what is already being used by Group A.
I'm sure when these changes first happen it will be a little confusing, but I think in the long run it will be a good thing for everyone.
Not much should change in this area as far as districts go. According to the draft model, Warren County would move to the Bull Run District next year, but every other team in the area would stay in the same district.
When conference play comes, all of the local teams would be divided into three different conferences if the draft model holds up.
Sherando would be in a 4A conference with Handley, Millbrook, James Wood, Woodgrove, Loudoun County, Dominion, Heritage and Park View. That seems like a pretty strong conference with some schools that have been very successful in sports over the years.
Central, Skyline and Warren County would all be together in a 3A conference with Manassas Park, Loudoun Valley, William Monroe and Brentsville. I think that would be a very solid conference with some good competitive schools.
Strasburg and Stonewall Jackson would be in a 2A conference with Clarke County, Madison County, George Mason, Luray, Page County and John Champe, a new Loudoun County school that will probably eventually move up to class 3A or higher. This is yet another strong conference with some very successful programs.
As usual I think teams would have to travel further than they would like, but I don't think there's a system out there that would solve that problem.
All in all, I think this is a positive step in the right direction for the VHSL. In the past, teams have had to play other teams twice their size in a classification. Now most classifications will only be separated by around 500 students from top to bottom.
This gives every team more of a fair chance and should make things more competitive across the board.
One thing I find interesting is the addition of conferences. I expect there to still be district tournaments, followed by conference tournaments and then regionals and states. I have always been a big fan of tournaments. I think it makes for a fun atmosphere, and the athletes get into it a little more with a little more on the line.
Every athlete loves playing for a trophy, and now each school will have one extra one to play for.
I look forward to the changes. It will be a new day for VHSL schools. I'm sure there will be some that complain and don't like it, but I think if everybody gives it a chance they will see that it has some real positives.
I'm sure in the coming years there will be tweaks made, I don't think the six-class model is perfect, but I definitely think it's a step in the right direction.
-- Assistant sports editor Tommy Keeler can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.