Monday, July 25, 2016

VHSL: Patrick Henry May Move To 4A In Next Realignment

When the Virginia High School League (VHSL) released its newest set of "ADM Numbers", which is essentially a list of student population totals of each member school, Patrick Henry High School in Ashland found itself amongst a new group of institutions.

At 1,435 students, Patrick Henry was listed as the ninth highest populated school in the 4A classification. The Patriots have been in the 5A classification, and in the 5A North Region, since the VHSL began working under a new six-classification system, eschewing districts in the playoffs for conferences in 2013. Patrick Henry has fifteen less students than the lowest populated school listed for 5A, Warwick High, who has 1,450 students.

When you look at the ADM report, however, you'll notice some disparity. Six of the eight schools listed above Patrick Henry have actual attendance figures higher than Warwick, but are listed as proposed 5A schools (Woodgrove, Deep Creek, Midlothian, King's Fork, Dominion and Huguenot). This is not special to 4A as each classification has some crossover in an attempt to keep the number of schools in classification, and, to a lesser extent, to their regions, as even as possible.

The VHSL released its agenda for the latest Alignment Committee meeting scheduled for August 4 in Charlottesville on Monday. Atlee is one of several schools asking for a change to the original plan, moving from the new 5A North to the new 5A Central Region. The committee recommended by vote in January to approve the move, but at the time, the move included Patrick Henry, too.

Now, with the Patriots proposed to move to 4A, joining Hanover, here are the proposed regions that will affect Hanover County beginning with the 2017-18 school year:

5A Central: Atlee, L.C. Bird, Deep Run, Douglas Freeman, Glen Allen, Mills Godwin, Henrico, Hermitage, Highland Springs, Lee-Davis, Matoaca, Meadowbrook, Prince George, J.R. Tucker, Varina

4A Central: Caroline, Chancellor, Courtland, Dinwiddie, Eastern View, Hanover, Patrick Henry, Huguenot, King George, Louisa, Midlothian, Monacan, Powhatan

Some important notes:

--All four county schools will continue to be in the Capital District for regular season scheduling, meaning a continuation of home and home series between all schools in most sports that began this past year when Patrick Henry was moved from the Colonial District to the Capital in exchange for Glen Allen.

--Conferences will be no more under the newest realignment plan. District Tournaments, last held in the 2012-13 school year, will be resurrected in Metro Richmond. In depth details on if, and if so, how, district results would affect individual region seedings are not yet known. They may have no effect whatsoever.

--For Atlee and Lee-Davis, there were be no significant travel during 5A Central Region tournament play. The Raiders are the northern most school of the fifteen proposed, while Prince George is at the southern end. Travel will come into play again at just the state level, a move which should help the financial budgets of both school's athletic departments.

--For Patrick Henry and Hanover, the proposed thirteen-team 4A Central Region will pose some travel at the region tournament level. Chancellor and Courtland are both in Spotsylvania County, King George lies to the east of there, and Eastern View poses the biggest trip, a ride to Culpeper, Eastern View is 65 miles from Patrick Henry, 78 from Hanover. The fringe counties of Louisa, Dinwiddie, Caroline and Powhatan are included as well.

Here are the next steps:

1) The VHSL Alignment Committee votes on appeals at its August 4 meeting.

2) The committee's final recommendation will move to the Executive Committee, who is currently set to vote on September 21.

The 2016-17 high school season does not change. Patrick Henry and Atlee remain in 5A North Region, Conference 16, Lee-Davis continues in 5A South Region, Conference 11, while Hanover is still in 4A East Region, Conference 20.

But this year, if you win a conference championship, you're likely going to be able to retire the trophy.

(Patrick Henry softball celebrates in May, 2015 in the 5A North Region. The Patriots would move to the 4A classification effective the 2017-18 school year in the latest realignment proposal being worked on by the VHSL.)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Four Out Of Five: Mechanicsville Post 175 Wins American Legion Crown

It's hard to believe now that, just four years ago, on a humid night in Powhatan County in 2012 when, after many years of trying, Mechanicsville Post 175 baseball finally won an American Legion District 11 Championship, in the midst of a record-setting unbeaten season where Mechanicsville didn't suffer its first defeat until the State Tournament in Stafford County.

Thursday night at Shepherd Stadium in Colonial Heights, Post 175 head coach Bobby White thought back for a moment to that program-changing event.

"175, with all the great players that had come through before, had never won a district title before 2012," White recalled. "To be a part of that run, then be here as a part of this run when it's now been four out of five years, and to be in the finals five straight years, and win the winners bracket final five straight years, it's been a pretty fun five years for Post 175."

Now Mechanicsville looks ahead, once again, at a trip to the Virginia State Tournament, looking to again make history, but this time at the next level. But first, Post 175 had to, once and for all, end a great rivalry with South Richmond Post 137 that began on opening night when Mechanicsville's defense collapsed, and so did a lead, as South Richmond won at Hanover 10-8, continued with Post 175's win at L.C. Bird High School, then saw round three become a crazy night in the tournament winners bracket final just 48 hours earlier, Post 175 seeing a 9-1 lead disappear before holding on for a victory.

White believed the freshness of that game drove his team in the championship round Thursday night to counterpunch when Post 137 mounted the expected comeback, as Mechanicsville saw an 8-1 lead dwindle to 8-5 in the fifth inning.

Enter Patrick Henry graduate William Strong, who, with two outs and runners at first and second, launched a key double to the left field wall for two critical runs. The lead was back to five, and South Richmond never threatened fully again.

Justin Bishop's middle relief work for starter Tyler Morgan weathered the final pushes from South Richmond, but this championship game belonged to the bats, as Mechanicsville scored at least once in every inning from the second to the eighth, the clincher belonging to second baseman and 2015 Atlee graduate Brandon Crosby, who launched a fly ball over the head of the right fielder to score the winning run to invoke the ten-run rule.

"If I went 0-for-8 tonight, that would be fine so long as we got the victory," Crosby said, admitting he had struggled at the plate during the regular season. "That's all I really look for. If we're winning, that's all that matters to me."

Another key performance, this one defensively, came from Aaron Saunders at shortstop. Saunders had struggled in some recent games at the position, but came up strong in the championship, especially in the fifth inning, ending the South Richmond rally at four runs when it could have been much more, and in the seventh, as he charged on a tough grounder off the bat of Jonathan Triesler, firing to first for the third out to strand two Post 137 runners and draw Mechanicsville closer to victory.

The 2016 Virginia State Tournament will begin Tuesday in Danville, a three-hour journey for Post 175, and finally, far enough away from Mechanicsville that they will be able to not worry about daily travel to and from the tournament site. By tournament rule last year, for example, as many of their opponents in Spotsylvania County traveled a few miles to a hotel, Post 175 had to make the one-hour each way trip day after day to the tournament site.

Coach White put his team's chances into succinct focus before leaving Shepherd Stadium to begin tournament preparation.

"We've got a really good team, but we're going to be challenged," White explained. "If we bring our 'A' game, if our pitchers can throw strikes and our hitters can do what they've done the last week or so, we're going to be okay. But if we don't take our best down there, we'll get beat."

Mechanicsville begins another charge at the elusive state championship Tuesday at the American Legion field in Danville.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

2016 High School Football Schedules Released

The Virginia High School League has released 2016 high school football team schedules. See the schedules for our county teams below:

Thursday September 1: at Deep Run, 7pm
Friday September 9: at Mills Godwin, 7pm
Friday September 16: Douglas Freeman, 7pm
Friday September 23: Hanover, 7pm
Friday September 30: Highland Springs, 7pm
Friday October 7: at Lee-Davis, 7pm
Friday October 14: Henrico, 7pm
Friday October 21: at Patrick Henry, 7pm
Friday October 28: at Varina, 7pm
Friday November 4: Armstrong, 7pm

Friday September 2: Caroline, 7pm
Friday September 9: at Glen Allen, 7pm
Friday September 16: at Mills Godwin, 7pm
Friday September 23: Henrico, 7pm
Friday September 30: Hanover, 7pm
Friday October 7: at Varina, 7pm
Friday October 14: Armstrong, 7pm
Friday October 21: Atlee, 7pm
Friday October 28: at Highland Springs, 7pm
Friday November 4: Lee-Davis, 7pm

Thursday September 1: J.R. Tucker, 7pm
Friday September 9: at Prince George, 7pm
Friday September 16: Glen Allen, 7pm
Friday September 23: at Varina, 7pm
Friday September 30: at Armstrong, 7pm
Friday October 7: Atlee, 7pm
Friday October 14: at Highland Springs, 7pm
Friday October 21: Hanover, 7pm
Friday October 28: Henrico, 7pm
Friday November 4: at Patrick Henry, 7pm

Friday September 2: Dinwiddie, 7pm
Friday September 9: at J.R. Tucker, 7pm
Friday September 16: Hopewell, 7pm
Friday September 23: at Atlee, 7pm
Friday September 30: at Patrick Henry, 7pm
Friday October 7: at Highland Springs, 7pm
Friday October 14: Varina, 7pm
Friday October 21: at Lee-Davis, 7pm
Friday October 28: Armstrong, 7pm
Friday November 4: at Henrico, 7pm