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Reclassification puts Devils in new league

Months of planning and work to shift the high school football landscape in Tennessee could come to an end this week.
The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) released its football region alignment recommendations for the 2015-2016 season on Friday, Nov. 7. The organization is scheduled to vote to make each regional alignment official on Thursday, Nov. 13.
The move by the TSSAA is one of the final pieces for completing the “Super 6” or “Super 32” plan voted on at the beginning of the football season. In the plan, the state’s largest 32 teams are placed in class 6A with automatic playoff berths for every school inside the division. The remaining five classes will split into eight regions with the top four finishers within each region qualifying for its postseason within its classification.
Unicoi County High School is set to join region one for class 3A. The region, according to the recommendations, will feature eight teams: UCHS, Chuckey-Doak, Claiborne, Elizabethton, Johnson County, Northview Academy, Pigeon Forge and West Greene.
The projected region for the Blue Devils was a little more than expected, according to a school official.
“I was kind of shocked,” said Michael Smith, UCHS athletic director. “I wasn’t expecting them to bring Northview and Pigeon Forge in region one. They were region two, district three, for everything else. … I was surprised they sent them up this way. But, I was also surprised by how some of the other regions were divided.
“Other than the two Sevier County schools, I expected the other schools for our region. It will make our travel a bit harder. When we draw our home and away games for the region, there is a chance we could have four consecutive away games and they could be against Johnson County, Claiborne, Pigeon Forge and Northview.”
Reclassification does have an aura of excitement, according to Smith, with the Blue Devils keeping just two rivals – Elizabethton and Johnson County – from the Three Rivers Conference inside the new region.
“You never know how a team could be,” Smith said. “And it is exciting to a certain extent. They don’t know much about you, you don’t know much about them and that’s the way it is with Pigeon Forge and Northview. Elizabethton looks like they’ll be at the top of the league, but we feel like we can compete with Claiborne, West Greene, Chuckey-Doak and Johnson County. It will be interesting next season.”
With an eight-team league, the Blue Devils will have seven league games on their TSSAA allotted 10-game schedule. The remaining three games will be against non-conference opponents.
The full listing for each projected region is featured on the TSSAA website, tssaa.org. The Erwin Record will feature the decision passed on Thursday online with a full recap set for the Nov. 19 print edition.