NEW LONDON — After eight years of competing at the 1A level, the North Stanly Comets will be moving back up to the 2A region beginning next fall.
The athletic realignment is included in the first draft of a 2021-25 proposal released by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association last Friday.
The Comets will be joining West Stanly as the only 2A schools in Stanly County. Albemarle, South Stanly and Gray Stone Day will each remain competing at the 1A level.
“It was a surprise,” North Stanly football coach Scott Crisco said of learning about his school’s move to 2A. “We heard that this could happen, but with everything going on this year, it slipped up on us. We got the word a couple weeks ago that this might happen, so we’re just going to deal with it.”
The NCHSAA is set to announce proposed conferences on Dec. 10. Next March, the NCHSAA Board of Directors will make the final vote on the Realignment Committee’s final proposal, which is set to go into effect on Aug. 1, 2021.
“I would think that we will be in the Rocky River Conference because that’s the closest 2A. … I’d imagine that’s the logical place to put us,” Crisco said. “All of our nonconference games that we’ve been playing for the last five years have been mostly 2A and 3A schools, so that won’t affect us too much.”
According to the new classifications, North Stanly is the only Yadkin Valley 1A Conference member who has been moved up to 2A. However, North Moore and Chatham Central have now been shifted to the 1A Eastern Region.
In the Rocky River 2A-3A Conference, West Stanly will remain a 2A school, along with Anson County, Forest Hills, and Mount Pleasant. Central Academy will move up to 3A, and Montgomery Central will remain 3A.
Every four years, the NCHSAA realigns its school classifications based on a statistical formula. In the past, Average Daily Membership ratings (student enrollment levels) have been the primary deciding factor.
Going forward, the NCHSAA will align schools based on three different factors: ADM numbers, a three-year average of State Cup scores, and a three-year average of Individual Student Percentages (amount of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches).
Out of the five Stanly County schools, West Stanly had the most Wells Fargo State Cup Points last year with 157.5. South Stanly had 155 points, while Gray Stone Day (120), Albemarle (115) and North Stanly (112.5) rounded out the rankings.
On Dec. 3, the NCHSAA Board of Directors agreed to modify the ISP data component that will factor into school classifications alignment, where each school’s highest data point will be eliminated to compensate for anomalies and natural disasters.
The NCHSAA also announced changes to the high school football season for next fall: the regular season will be adjusted from 11 games to 10 games, and the playoff format will produce four state champions instead of eight.