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MPSA realignment sends PCA to the north

[3/11/04]Porters Chapel Academy is heading north, a group of Louisiana schools are getting back together, the football wild-card is going away, and everyone is going home happy with the Mississippi Private Schools Association’s latest realignment.

The new plan calls for eight conferences, an increase from the current seven, and groups schools geographically. It should decrease travel time, rekindle old rivalries and help schools financially through better gates.

“Travel-wise, there’s a lot of things that’s good with it. (Sharkey-Issaquena) is probably the farthest trip,” said PCA football coach and athletic director Bubba Mims. “That really helps out with travel, and not as much expense-wise. A lot of times it’s not the money, it’s the hours you get back at night.”

PCA will move from Conference 5-A to 4-A, and will shift from the South to the North for the playoffs. Sharkey-Issaquena will make the same move, and they will be joined by Rebul, CM&I, Veritas and Tri-County. Covenant Christian will also play in Conference 4-A, but does not field a football team.

The new conference is similar to one PCA played in for years until the 2000 realignment, when it was mixed in with a group of Louisiana schools. PCA moved again in 2002, to a new conference that included several Mississippi and Louisiana schools.

Those Louisiana schools are now coming back together in the new Conference 7-A, which will include Briarfield, Tallulah Academy, Franklin, Tensas, Huntington, and River Oaks. Those schools played together for years before being split up in the 2002 realignment.

“It’s kind of like going home,” Tallulah football coach Jacky Thames said. “We’ve always had a really good relationship with the schools close by. Unfortunately, it’s going to be a pretty strong district, but it’s going to be good competition-wise.”

The last alignment was unpopular with many coaches because of its seemingly haphazard approach to geography.

Greenville Christian, for example, played in the same conference as PCA for the last two years. It sent its playoff teams to the South region and even hosted the South State basketball tournament this year.

Under the new plan, the only Class A school south of I-20 that will play in the North is Rebul which is located only 20 miles south of Vicksburg. Briarfield is the only team in the South located north of I-20, but is closer to schools in its new conference than its old one.

“We were striving for the best situation from a travel standpoint. We don’t think anybody was put in an adverse situation in terms of travel,” said MPSA director of activities Les Triplett. “We do have a little more of a north-south scenario that makes sense.”

The geographic alignment made the entire process go smoother, Triplett said. In the last realignment, there were numerous appeals that delayed approval of the final plan until April. This time, the process was completed by mid-February.

“It’s been much smoother ever since we went to the system of predetermining a set number of schools in each classification,” Triplett said, adding that the 2004 football schedule also has been completed.

The new format also will change the structure of the postseason in Class A. The Central region has been eliminated entirely in basketball and baseball, leaving just North and South.

In football, the addition of an eighth conference will mean the end of the two wild-card berths. Instead, the top two teams from each conference will make the postseason.

“I think people realized that the same number of teams will still be in it,” Triplett said. “To be honest, there were some inequities in the wild-card system. Strength of schedule had a lot to do with your success.”

There were few changes for the Class AA schools in the Vicksburg area. Chamberlain-Hunt and Central Hinds will both stay in Conference 3-AA, although Adams County Christian will drop from Class AAA to Class AA and be added to the mix. Copiah, Prairie View and Riverfield also will be in Conference 3-AA.