Local teams stay put in reclassification

Tuesday, July 20, 2021
The Berryville Bobcats run a play from the Shotgun formation during a recent summer practice. The Bobcats will remain in Class 4A through the 2024 football season, although they may have some new conference rivals.
Charles Chappell / CCImages.PhotoShelter.com

Berryville, Eureka Springs and Green Forest will be staying put in the Arkansas Activities Association’s 2022-24 classification cycle, but that doesn’t mean they won’t see some changes.

The AAA recently released its ’22-’24 classification numbers for the state’s public high schools Berryville will continue to compete in Class 4A for all sports, with Eureka Springs in Class 2A. Green Forest will remain in Class 4A for football and Class 3A for all other sports.

Classifications are determined by enrollment figures using three-year averages for students in grades 9-11. Berryville High School’s annual average enrollment of 437 students ranks fifth among the 48 schools that compete in Class 4A for football but 22nd among the 47 schools placed in Class 4A for other sports.

Green Forest, meanwhile, is tied 30th among Class 4A football schools with an average enrollment of 307. Green Forest’s enrollment is the highest, however, among the 59 Class 3A schools for all other sports.

Eureka Springs, with an average enrollment of 147.67, ranks 33rd among 60 Class 2A schools for sports besides football.

Berryville and Green Forest have been conference rivals in the 4A-1, one of the state’s most rugged Class 4A football leagues. But traditional conference power Prairie Grove will be moving to Class 5A in football for the ’22-’24 cycle and it’s likely that Shiloh Christian, a Springdale private school, will be placed in Class 5A as well as a result of the “Competitive Equity Factor” rule approved by AAA members this summer. The new rule, designed to alleviate concerns over private schools being disproportionately successful as compared to public schools, will use a points system based on conference championships and postseason success to determine whether a particular private school team should be placed in a higher classification. Private schools already are placed one class higher than their enrollment would otherwise dictate.

Shiloh Christian, which won the Class 4A state championship game last fall to earn its seventh state football title, seems likely to be placed in Class 5A in 2022.

“It looks like we’re probably going to lose Prairie Grove and Shiloh,” said Greg Tibbitt, head football coach and athletic director at Green Forest. “And if everything shakes out right, probably replace them with Lincoln and Ozark. Shiloh, defending state champion, they are what they are, year in and year out. So losing them makes you feel a little bit better conference-wise. I’m kind of different than everybody else. It doesn’t bother me that they’re in our conference. It kind of sets a bar for you. You kind of get to see where you need to be for the rest of the state, in my opinion.”

Similarly, private schools like Harding Academy and Central Arkansas Christian that have dominated Class 3A soccer — except, of course, for Green Forest’s recent Class 3A state championship victory over Harding Academy — seem likely to be required to compete in Class 4A.

Berryville’s basketball teams have competed in a nine-team conference the past two seasons. That, too, will change in 2022-24 as Harrison will compete in Class 5A for all sports. Currently, Harrison is a 5A football school but its other sports teams all compete in Class 4A.

“It brings us back down to eight conference schools, which will get us back to a normal schedule,” said Berryville boys basketball coach and athletic director Brent Compton.

AAA assistant executive director Derek Walter said specific conference will be assigned each year after a particular season ends, so that the competitive equity factor formula can be applied. He said a particular class may have more than the typical number of schools for a specific sport — for instance, if Shiloh Christian is moved to Class 5A for football, there will be one more 5A school and one fewer 4A school; no team would be moved up from Class 3A to fill the vacancy left by the Saints.

For his part, first-year Berryville football coach Bryan Hutson says he has more pressing concerns than the conference alignment for 2022.

“Honestly, it is what it is, and it’s a season away,” Hutson said. “That’s the last thing I need to worry about, is what will happen in 2022.”

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