Southeast Whitfield opts out of playing a region football schedule for next 2 school years

Matt Hamilton/Daily Citizen-News

Southeast Whitfield has opted out of playing a region schedule in football for the next two school years.

Southeast Whitfield High School has opted out of playing a region schedule in football for the next two school years, effective through the upcoming classification cycle.

Athletics director Mark Lentych said after the school finished this football season 0-10, 0-6 in Region 6-4A, he wanted to make sure he made a decision based on what was best for its students and faculty. The Raiders were listed as the third largest school in Class 4A based on its enrollment numbers for 2020-21 and 2021-2022 after reclassifications were released last week by the Georgia High School Association. By playing a non-region schedule, Southeast forfeits the chance to make the playoffs and win a state championship in football.

"Those decisions are always tough," Lentych said. "We were definitely letting our student services department and the central office know what we were thinking and we ultimately had to look at where we are at as a program."

Lentych confirmed the decision to opt out of region-play on Wednesday, one day after head football coach Sean Gray stepped down from the program. Lentych said the two events were not in related.

Also on Tuesday, schools appealing their reclassification assignments were heard by the GHSA's Reclassification Committee which then solidified the organization's new region alignments -- also effective for the next two years.

Southeast was placed in Region 7-4A with Cedartown, Central-Carrollton, Heritage-Catoosa, Northwest Whitfield, Pickens and Ridgeland. Southeast will play all other sports with these region teams for the next two school years. The region drops to six teams in football.

Lentych said after Gray led the football team -- serving for the past eight seasons -- to the most success its had in more than two decades, he doesn't want to see it go below the radar again.

The Raiders finished with its best season in recent years in 2017 with a 7-3 record. After that, however, it finished 2018 at 3-7 and this season winless.

"We have to put ourselves in a position to be competitive," Lentych said. "We were also looking at our sub-varsity levels, which have struggled for a couple years, too. We've struggled with getting kids out, so at this point we need to try to get our numbers up. When we finally had some success -- we don't want to go through that cycle again.

"We feel like we can make a schedule that builds our confidence. We've had a lot of people reaching out wanting to play us."

Lentych said after making the decision, the school needed to notify the GHSA within 30 days of ending its season. He said then he notified the schools in its region so they are able to fill that empty spot.

Lentych said the only confirmed opponent the Raiders will have scheduled for the next two football seasons is Northwest Whitfield.

"We felt like it was a good decision to keep that rivalry for the kids," he said. "As soon as we can confirm dates with the other schools that want to be on our schedule, we can send out contracts to get them approved.

"We just feel like right now we need a reset."

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