MHSAA reclassification drops Hamilton down to 1A

Monroe JournalHamilton and Smithville both hoisted state championship trophies for slowpitch softball in October. Next year, they will have to face each other for the right to get back to Jackson.
After Friday’s MHSAA reclassification, Hamilton will drop to a Class 1A school and joins Smithville as a division rival in 1-1A in football and 1-4A in all other sports.
“We felt like we might have a chance to move down and were kind of expecting it. We think it will be an overall positive for the athletic program,” said Hamilton football coach Ray Weeks, who also serves as the school’s athletic director. “That’s what we’re wanting as a whole. Being one of the smallest 2A schools playing some of the teams we had to play we were outmanned and outnumbered at times.”
Hamilton goes from a division in football that also consisted of Ackerman, Eupora, East Webster, J.Z. George and Williams-Sullivan to a division that consists of Smithville, Vardaman, Falkner, Biggersville, Coffeeville, Coldwater, Houlka and Thrasher. Weeks said Hatley will continue to be one of the Lions’ non-division games.
“There are some good teams in this division, and they’re all well-coached,” Weeks said. “But most of these schools will have similar numbers to ours, and we’ll be on a level playing field. It will also be a relief to not have to play 3A and 4A schools as well.”
In softball, Hamilton will lose county rival Hatley in its division and gain Smithville, which has won back-to-back titles in slowpitch, the 2012 fastpitch title and made the state championship series two of the past three years in fastpitch.
“I would think we would probably be in the toughest division in softball just because us two are in there,” Hamilton baseball and slowpitch softball coach Lewis Earnest said. “You don’t often see two state champions playing together trying to get back. It should be a really good battle overall.”
Weeks said the realignment spices up an already fun rivalry in softball.
“It will add a little something extra to the game,” he said. “It will be an intense matchup because both of us have won some titles, and we always know they’re a great team. Coach (Jeremy) Duke always does a great job with them.”
Earnest said he hopes it’s a positive for the Lions in baseball, who won Division 1-2A last season.
“We’re still going to be in a really tough division with Smithville and TCPS, so it won’t be a cakewalk for sure,” Earnest said. “We’ve lost a lot of key guys in the past couple of years, so it will depend on how our kids come along in the next couple of years.”
Hatley stays in Class 1-2A but loses powerhouse division opponents Bruce and Calhoun City, which both made the North semifinals this season. Hatley keeps Baldwyn and Walnut as division opponents and adds New Site, East Union and Mantachie, which dropped down from 3A.
“Anytime you lose two teams like that out of your division, you have to be happy about it,” Hatley coach Marty Warren said. “And we also lost Okolona, which is a solid playoff team. This is a little more what our division used to look like, and hopefully it will give us a better chance to make the playoffs.”
Aberdeen and Nettleton move to Division 4-3A, along with fellow division South Pontotoc. The Bulldogs lose Water Valley as a division opponent but add 4A North runnerup Louisville along with Kemper County, the defending 3A basketball champs, and Winona.
“We didn’t get any relief there because now we go from a two-man race in our division to a three-man race,” said Aberdeen coach Mark Bray, who also serves as the school’s athletic director. “It also affects us travel-wise because now we’re making longer trips. It’s a positive that we beat Louisville this year though because now our kids know that we can compete with them.”
Bray said he thinks Aberdeen will be in an equally competitive division in basketball.
“We lose Mooreville, but we gain Kemper County, who lost a lot of what they had last season but is a school with great athletes,” Bray said. “It’s definitely going to be a tough division.”
Amory is the only school unaffected by Friday’s reclassification as the Panthers stay in Division 1-4A along with Corinth, Itawamba, Shannon, Pontotoc and Tishomingo County.

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