Some Chatham County firsts and realignment talk

BY DON BEANE, News + Record Staff
Posted 9/20/19

There were a lot of firsts on the Chatham County gridiron last Friday night.

Northwood coach Cullen Holmoka and Jordan-Matthews coach Sam Spencer picked up their first wins of their respective …

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Some Chatham County firsts and realignment talk

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There were a lot of firsts on the Chatham County gridiron last Friday night.

Northwood coach Cullen Holmoka and Jordan-Matthews coach Sam Spencer picked up their first wins of their respective tenures with the Chargers routing Western Harnett 31-7 in Lillington and the Jets rolling past Chatham Central 56-30 down in Bear Creek.

The two wins were also the first of the 2019 fall season in Chatham County on the gridiron, which was certainly a welcome sight for area sports fans.

Holmoka and Northwood have a week off and it couldn’t come at a better time, coming off the big win as the Chargers can heal some bumps and bruises while taking the momentum into the bye week and fine tune some things. The Chargers started off with a very tough schedule but have the real possibility of winning the next three against teams with a combined record of 1-10. This would set the Chargers up at 3-0 in the 3A Big Eight Conference and 4-3 overall entering what would be a huge clash with Southern Durham on October 18 away from home.

Jordan-Matthews, meanwhile, showed some real determination against rival Chatham Central. Spencer and the Jets came in with a game plan of attacking up the gut and around the edges and the result was Jaquez Thompson rushing for 271 yards and scoring five touchdowns. The young Jets certainly have some momentum heading into this Friday night’s game with Carrboro in Siler City, and it will be interesting to see how they handle some success.

Chatham Central has nowhere to go but up as the Bears continue to search for that elusive win. I predict this week will be the answer as the locals entertain the North Wake Saints from Raleigh. Now you never know what you are going to get from a team in Wake County that can draw players from basically all over, but given North Wake is a homeschool squad, this should be the week that CC breaks into the win column if they can shore up the defense and make some plays on that side of the ball.

Shifting gears a bit, there’s been a lot of buzz out at the games about the impending realignment which the NCHSAA in May shelved for a year until 2021. The reason for the delay is the NCHSAA is pondering adding a class 5A. I certainly have no problems with it, but if you are going to add a class, just add a 6A as well and cut out the two-champions in each class in football. The numbers will be closer for the schools which would, as of now, be 70 or so in each class.

Personally, that’s the best route to go and I and others have been promoting this for quite some time now. And to add on, continue to subdivide the 1A and 6A classifications where the biggest disparity is. You would still have eight state champions in football and the NCHSAA would earn just as much revenue.

Locally, some scuttle from the rumor mill that could affect Chatham County is that Eastern Randolph currently has only 577 students, and that Uwharrie Charter is going to add football, which every charter school is crazy for not doing, including Chatham Charter, with all the revenue produced.

So what does that mean for conferences? Your guess is as good as mine. In 2021, Chatham County will then have six high schools, likely a trio of 2A’s in Jordan-Matthews, Northwood and Seaforth, and three 1A’s in Chatham Central, Chatham Charter and Woods Charter.

Now if I were these schools, I’d be getting the heads together and promoting a split 1A/2A conference ASAP. While doing so I’m making a call down to Robbins and getting North Moore on board, then adding possibly Eastern Randolph and/or Carrboro. The travel expense versus gate and concession revenue alone make this a very attractive situation, and would certainly be beneficial for our student-athletes getting home from away games at much more reasonable hours.

Split conferences became more popular during the last realignment with five in 1A, five more in 2A, and six in 3A were split conferences.

Now when I proposed this the last realignment you would have thought the sun and moon were about to come crashing down, but given that the league would feature six Chatham County schools, it just makes sense. I would hope that there would be some interest, especially with the likes of North Moore, Eastern Randolph, and Carrboro right across the county line as potential added teams for an eight or nine team league featuring as many as seven football playing schools. And Uwharrie Charter could also play a factor in that conference.

Now for a more likely scenario because more often than not when it comes to realignment, choosing the most logical and economically sound solution often goes by the wayside.

In 1A, Chatham Central could remain in the 1A Yadkin Valley Conference with Eastern Randolph being added, with North Rowan rumored to closing, while Chatham Charter and Woods Charter would stay with the 1A Central Tar Heel. Needless to say both of those leagues require a great deal of travel.

Chatham Central would be with Eastern Randolph, Albemarle, North Stanly, South Stanly, North Moore, South Davidson, Uwharrie Charter, Gray Stone Day and North Rowan, if that does indeed happen.

Jordan-Matthews, Seaforth and Northwood could team up with Bartlett-Yancey, Carrboro, and Reidsville with Cummings and Graham being the x-factors with the continued rumors that both schools will be shutting down in the not so distant future.

As far as Eastern Randolph goes, it will all depend on what Randolph County does. Do they opt for a 1A/2A split conference with ER, Providence Grove, Randleman, Trinity, Wheatmore and HP Andrews while adding a Uwharrie Charter and Southwest Randolph which is rumored to be dropping to 2A, or do they leave Eastern Randolph and Uwharrie Charter out, and go with a split 2A/3A conference featuring Asheboro and Montgomery Central as the 3A teams to go with Providence Grove, Southwest Randolph, Trinity, Wheatmore, Randleman and HP Andrews?

And oh by the way, Trinity may end up 1A, which further complicates things.

Needless to say, factoring in what is likely to be five classifications come 2021, this realignment should be one for the ages when all the chips are on the table and the back room bargaining begins.


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