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Atlanta high school sports news from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Reclassification: Schools placed in new regions for 2016

The Georgia High School Association placed its member schools in regions for the 2016 season on Wednesday. Schools still can appeal for region-to-region transfers in the same classification, so this is not final. But here are some observations about the new region alignment. Below that are the regions, with each school's football team ranked in their new classifications by the Maxwell Ratings.

*Region championship and play-in games - which have flourished the past several seasons in the final week of the regular season - are a thing of the past for now, except in Class A, where four regions are subdivided. The move to seven classes meant fewer teams per region and less need for subregions.

*Gwinnett County will have three regions in the highest class, up from two for the past several years. Regions 6, 7 and 8 in AAAAAAA are made up entirely of Gwinnett teams except for Lakeside of Atlanta (R7), Newton (R8) and Rockdale County (R8). So Gwinnett could get 12 teams in the playoffs in the highest class.

*Valdosta chose not to play in the highest classification. That means that Georgia's most storied football program will play below the top tier for the first time since 1957. According to the Maxwell Ratings, Valdosta would have the No. 4 football team in the new Class AAAAAA, based on 2015 results. Other prominent football programs that will now play in the second-highest class (with their projected football ranking in this class) are No. 8 Dacula, No. 9 Lee County and No. 16 Tucker.

*With Valdosta and Lee dropping down,Region 1-AAAAAAA has four schools - Colquitt County, Camden County, Lowndes and Tift County. A new GHSA rule will give automatic state-playoff berths only to three teams in four-team regions. The replacement will be the highest-rated school that didn't get an automatic bid. Tift is rated the No. 24 team in the new highest class, according to Maxwell, so Region 1 still would stand a good chance of getting its No. 4 team in the back door.

*Region 1-AAAAAA has only five teams, and all five are among the top 13 teams in the new class. In fact, based on 2015 results, Northside of Warner Robins would not have made the playoffs, finishing fifth behind Valdosta, Houston County, Lee County and Coffee.

*Region 3-AAAAAA has six teams, none of which had a winning record this season. The best would be Lakeside of Evans (5-5), which Maxwell rates as the No. 37 team in the new class.

*Buford, which has won seven state titles in the past eight seasons, will be in AAAAA, getting a one-class bump because of a new rule that addresses the school's high out-of-county population. Buford is the highest-rated team in the new highest class, but now must contend with the likes of Ware County, Allatoona and Stockbridge.

*Catholic school powers Blessed Trinity, St. Pius and Marist are in AAAA, but Marist went in Blessed Trinity's region, while St. Pius is in Region 8 with Jefferson and Oconee County.

*Class AAA's strongest football region will be Region 6, with No. 6 Pace Academy, No. 7 Westminster, No. 8 Lovett - the Buckhead three - duking it out with No. 3 Cedar Grove of DeKalb County.

*Class AA is void of private schools, except for Benedictine of Savannah.

*In Class A, Region 6 has 15 teams, while Region 5 has seven. That's significant since region champions get a higher seeding in the public or private playoffs. So, if Eagle's Landing Christian wins its seven-team all-private Region 5, ELCA gets that special treatment. But if Mount Paran wins its eight-team all-private subregion, Mount Paran still needs to contend with the winner of the other subregion.

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