By Tommy Keeler Jr.
Central finds itself in an all too familiar spot, while Stonewall Jackson is experiencing it for the first time.
The Virginia High School League released its new proposed realignment figures, classifications, conferences and districts for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years on June 24, and both Central and Stonewall Jackson are expected to change classifications.
"It's going to be a change, and change is always a little difficult to swallow, but I'm sure we'll figure it all out and make the most of it," Stonewall Jackson athletic director Todd Fannin said.
Fannin said Stonewall Jackson was always a Group A school in the former three-classification system. Then when the six-classification system was adopted for the 2014 school year, they moved to Group 2A.
The Generals will have some welcome faces joining them in 1A as both Luray and Riverheads will also be moving down to 1A and be in the same conference.
In the three-classification system, Central was constantly moving back and forth between Group A and Group AA. Last year and this coming year the Falcons are in Group 3A, but in 2015-16 and 2016-17 they are expected to be in Group 2A.
"I don't know if it's really a good thing or a bad thing," Central athletic director Kenny Rinker said. "One positive is we will be competing against schools in the district and in the conference that we competed against in the old Region B. One thing that I also think will be advantageous conference-wise is the travel won't be as bad as it is now in triple-A."
Skyline was placed in the Northwestern District again and asked to be moved to the Bull Run District, but it didn't go through. Skyline could officially appeal being placed in the Northwestern District, but Skyline athletic director Bill Cupp said the school will not do that and is still happy being in the Northwestern District.
"Part of the reason we did that was because some of the teams in our conference are in the Bull Run, it would have made it easier on us," Cupp said. "We're not going to appeal because things that would need to be in place for us to win the appeal are not there, so we're not going to appeal.
"The Northwestern District has been good to us. We get decent gates, and the travel is really nice for us."
The new VHSL alignment plan will be voted on by the Executive Committee on Sept. 17. Rinker said he expects the plan to go through, and doesn't expect many changes to the plan as it is now.
Stonewall Jackson's enrollment numbers are listed at 453, the cut off for 1A is 475, and there are six schools bigger than Stonewall also in 1A in the new plan.
The Generals will still be in the Shenandoah District with Buffalo Gap, East Rockingham, Luray, Page County, Riverheads, Stuarts Draft and Wilson Memorial.
However, things will be much different in conference play. Stonewall Jackson will be in Conference 44 with Luray, Riverheads, Highland, Galileo Magnet, Cumberland, Central-Lunenburg, William Campbell and Altavista.
"We are a little concerned with the new conference alignment with travel," Fannin said. "It's going to make for some long Tuesday night trips. Hopefully, our teams will do well and the other schools will be making the long trips."
Stonewall Jackson will compete in Region 1A East.
Central will once again be in the Bull Run District with Strasburg, Warren County, Clarke County, Madison County, George Mason, William Monroe and Rapphannock County.
Central has been placed in Conference 35 with Strasburg, Clarke County, Madison County, George Mason and Page County.
Central's enrollment numbers are listed as 766, making it the biggest Group 2A school. Rinker said that they have some big classes coming up, and he's concerned that the school could be moved back up to 3A once again in two years.
"I know it's three years from now, but I'm worried that Central is going to fall back into that pattern that we've been in for 33 years of going up and down, up and down," Rinker said. "You never know what's going to happen. You don't know how many schools might open up in the next three years, but we don't want to get in that pattern we did when we we're double-A and single-A, and we went up and then we went back down."
Fannin said he isn't aware of any big classes coming up for the next few years, but he said you never know what things could happen. Fannin said the VHSL has talked about moving the 1A cutoff numbers from 475 to 450, which could move Stonewall Jackson back up.
Warren County and Skyline will continue to be in Conference 28, but there will be lots of changes in the conference and in their region.
Skyline and Warren County will be joined in Conference 28 by Brentsville, Culpeper, Manassas Park -- who would move from the Bull Run to the Evergreen District -- William Monroe and Riverside, a new school opening up in Loudoun County in 2015.
James Monroe and Spotsylvania have moved from Conference 27 to Conference 26, and Conference 27 will be completely different. Conference 27 will now consist of I.C. Norcom, Lakeland, Phoebus, Poquoson, Tabb, B.T. Washington and York, and most of those schools are currently in 4A.
"The way it is, it's changed so much from the last time," Cupp said. "We're losing four schools from the conference and replacing with four new schools. Then in the region I think we're losing six schools and gaining five new ones. Right now there's a real balance in the region, half are in the north and half are in the south. I think with the new plan 75 percent will be in the south and only 25 percent in the north.
"A lot of the schools in the region are in the Richmond, Virginia Beach area. There will probably be a lot more travel, and obviously, that concerns us."
Sherando's enrollment numbers are listed at 1,431, making it the fourth largest school in Group 4A. The Warriors will still be in the Northwestern District, but will now be in Conference 22.
Conference 22 will consist of Sherando, Handley, Harrisonburg, Loudoun Valley, Millbrook, James Wood and Woodgrove.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd