The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association announced Thursday new classifications for 2021-23, and one local school will see some new changes in three sports.
All three Loudon County schools will remain in the same classifications in all sports except for Lenoir City High School’s basketball, baseball and softball programs.
Lenoir City will remain in Class 3A in those three sports, while Bearden, Farragut, Hardin Valley, Heritage, Maryville, West and William Blount will move up to the newly established Class 4A.
“I’m excited about it because you get to play on a more equal playing field,” Tim Smith, LCHS head girls basketball coach, said. “You just have to deal with it, but I’m looking forward to what the districts will be and seeing how we’ll react to that. When you do stay where you’re at, expectations go up a little bit higher so that’s part of that. We’re excited to compete against people that are maybe a lot closer to our size and seeing how we do.”
Classifications are determined by school population, and TSSAA’s new regulations state schools with a population of 1,229 students or higher will be moved to Class 4A.
Lenoir City is the last team considered in Class 3A with a population of 1,228.
“I think it’s going to be fun because, obviously, the district that we’ve been in for a bit, I think those are some challenging opponents that make us better,” Josh Brannon, LCHS head boys basketball coach, said. “I think regardless the size of the school, we’ll play anybody that we’re asked to play ... we should always give ourselves a chance to win and we’ve got to believe in that process. I think the new district will be fun, but we’ll focus on what we’ve got on hand right now with this current district the way that it is. It’ll it neat to see our future opponents.”
The baseball program will benefit with powerhouses Farragut, Maryville and Hardin Valley moving up. The Panthers have gone a combined 1-51 in District 4-3A the last four seasons.
A new district could help jump-start first-year head coach Aaron Simmons’ tenure at LCHS.
“Staying 3A is a blessing in disguise I would say, but we’re going to go out there and compete either way,” Simmons said. “From what I’ve gathered from experiences in the past and things of that sort, it’s going to change things with the district alignments and maybe even travel-wise. From what I’ve seen, we’ll be one of the larger triple A schools in the state. However the alignment may occur, we’re still going to have to go in and compete day in and day out.”
The new districts have not been set up, but Lenoir City could potentially join schools such as Austin-East, Halls, Fulton, Clinton, Anderson County, South Doyle, Gibbs or Sequoyah.
“There’s about 12 teams I think, but I don’t know if TSSAA will go with a north and south districting or east and west districting because I can see it from both standpoints,” Smith said. “I’m not sure which one that we’ll be in. I did see the News-Sentinel did have us going to Austin-East, Fulton and Sequoyah. I feel like we’ll be stuck with Sequoyah either way, but I can see us playing Anderson County, Clinton and Halls even on that side. I’m just not sure.”
Loudon High School will see a slight change in the football region since Red Bank High School will move up to Class 4A. The Redskins competed with the Lions for the Region 3-3A championship in three of the last four seasons.