New football classifications could revive old rivalries

OKEECHOBEE — The Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) released new football classifications for the 2019 and 2020 seasons on Dec. 14 and a number of teams in the Lake Okeechobee area will be affected by the changes.

The Glades Day Gators will still share a district with their rival Moore Haven Terriers, meaning junior quarterback Anthony McPhee will get another chance to knock down the Terriers. Moore Haven has had success against the Gators in recent years. Photo by Richard Marion.

One of the bigger changes involving the Lake Okeechobee area is the Clewiston Tigers moving down from their current 5A classification back into the 4A classification.

The Tigers had struggled after being placed into 5A classification starting in the 2017 season. Clewiston went 5-5 that first year, including 2-2 in their district. In 2018 the Tigers dropped to a 2-8 overall record, going 1-4 in district games.

Dropping back into the 4A class should allow the Clewiston football program to be more competitive than they were in the tougher 5A class.

Longtime Tigers coach Pete Walker is returning to coach the team after a two-year absence, but one has to wonder what Brad Garret, head coach for the 2017-18 years, would have been able to accomplish if the Tigers had stayed in their 4A class during his two-year stint.

Glades Central will be joining Clewiston in the 4A class region 4. The two teams have played each other multiple times in recent years, with the Raiders winning the last two match-ups.

But the extra intensity that comes with district games should make for an entertaining rivalry game for the next two years.

Okeechobee will remain in their 6A classification but will have a few new teams in their district. The Brahmans will now share a district with Fort Pierce Westwood, Port. St. Lucie, South Fork and returning district foe Sebastian River.

There will be no change for Pahokee, who remain in their rural 1A class.

The Moore Haven Terriers and Glades Day Gators will still share their 2A region 4 district, which means two more years of games between the two rivals. Recent games between the two teams have been thrillers, even though the Terriers have had the Gators number as of late. Moore Haven has beaten Glades Day three times in the past two years, including a victory in the regional semi-finals.

The classifications are based on schools enrollment numbers. One of FHSAA’s goals with this restructuring is to have an equal number of teams by classification, an even number of teams in each district and region and no three-team districts. With this goal in mind the FHSAA isn’t allowing schools to appeal their placement at this time. It’s a change from how the classification process has worked in the past. FHSAA has stated that allowing schools to appeal and change classifications would create uneven classifications, regions or districts.

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