Many of us have gotten our wish. Next year's Thomson High football schedule will be more challenging and will, hopefully, better prepare us for the rigors of playoff competition.
However, there is some work still to be done. Here's what we know. Several of our 2010-11 region members have been reclassified by the Georgia High School Association. Gone from 3AAA are Burke County, Hephzibah, Cross Creek, Richmond Academy, Westside, Josey, Grovetown, Harlem, Butler and Glenn Hills. Butler and Glenn Hills could have remained in 3AAA, but chose to play in 3AAAA because of travel concerns. Grovetown jumped two classifications and will join Lakeside, Evans and Greenbrier in Region 2AAAAA. Westside, Harlem and Josey, who had been playing in AAA because of travel concerns, have elected to play where they were placed, in AA. Frankly, they should be much more competitive. That's a good decision for those programs.
Thomson's new region will see us joined by Jefferson County, Dodge County, Washington County, Swainsboro and Southeast Bulloch in Region 3AAA. This should result in tougher games, but with five region contests we only have to win two in order to secure a playoff spot. Southeast Bulloch might try to appeal to play in a more southerly region, but it is somewhat doubtful that the GHSA will allow them to move into a region that already has more than six teams and to leave our region with only five teams.
The problem with this setup is that Milan Turner enters his second year at the Bulldog helm having to find five nonregion opponents to fit in the beginning weeks of our schedule. Having helped coach Luther Welsh with scheduling in the past, I can tell you, from experience, that Turner faces quite a challenge. He needs to find opponents that will challenge us and at the same time keep us from having to travel excessively. That might not be possible. Furthermore, until the final appeals are decided upon by the GHSA regarding lateral moves, we aren't sure how many nonregion games these potential opponents have open on their schedules. Additionally, because football revenue supports most of the other sports at Thomson High, Turner needs to find opponents who will bring fans when it's our turn to be the host team.
Having anticipated the problem of scheduling, Turner has tentative agreements to play three teams thus far: Burke County, Lakeside/Evans and St. Pius, a private school in Atlanta. While these matchups will in all probability take place, we won't know for sure until the middle of January. Most likely these games will occur in the first three to four weeks of the season. It also looks like the longtime rivalry with Washington-Wilkes has ended because the Tigers are in a rebuilding stage.
The real challenge is to find two more nonregion games that will fit somewhere in the fourth to sixth week of the season before our region schedule begins. Another problem Thomson faces in scheduling is that, because we are normally pretty good, some teams don't want to play us. Phone calls, voice mails, text messages and e-mails asking coaches whether they are interested in playing often go unanswered.
While I'm sure there are some south Georgia AAAAA powers needing games, it might not be wise to schedule them because of the distance involved. And, frankly, you want someone you have a reasonable chance to defeat. In our case, I would question the wisdom of scheduling a great team from a larger school immediately before our region play begins.
I believe Burke, Lakeside and St. Pius will provide us ample opportunities to prepare ourselves for tough games ahead. That's what we face at this point. It won't be easy, but I'm sure Turner will work it out.
Nevertheless, many of us have had our wish answered. We no longer have to play schools out of Richmond County, and our schedule will be more challenging. Stay tuned for further developments.