Prep football: Community School, Estero to petition for changes after latest FHSAA reclassification

St. John Neumann's Brian Davenport (34) is tackled by Community School's Jimmy Fleming (45) in the second half of the Community School-St. John Neumann football game Friday, Sept. 14 at St. John Neumann High School.

Photo by COREY PERRINE // Buy this photo

St. John Neumann's Brian Davenport (34) is tackled by Community School's Jimmy Fleming (45) in the second half of the Community School-St. John Neumann football game Friday, Sept. 14 at St. John Neumann High School.

The Florida High School Athletic Association recently announced the tentative football districts for the next two seasons, and "tentative" is the key word for two local coaches.

Community School and Estero plan to petition the state to move out of their current districts. Both teams want to move into districts with closer opponents, while the Seahawks also want to move down in classification to be more competitive.

In Class 2A the past two seasons, Community School is in 3A under the FHSAA's reclassification, which was posted on its website Dec. 21 and would be good for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 academic years.

Estero moves from 5A to 6A, but that's not what bothers the Wildcats. Estero wants to move from its seven-team district of mostly Lee County teams to the district of three Collier County teams which are closer to the Wildcats geographically.

"I was afraid that this is how the state would try to solve their overcrowding in 2A," Seahawks coach Damon Jones said. "Just change the population parameters without any thought process."

This past season 47 football teams played in 2A, while 31 were in 3A. The new FHSAA alignment lowers the student population minimum for 3A from 281 to 228. Community School has an enrollment of 279 (the FHSAA wrongly listed the enrollment at 349 in November when it included CSN's middle school enrollment).

It's a big jump, Jones said, to ask the Seahawks to play in 3A with schools as large as 690 students. Community School's new 3A-District 6 consists of Bishop Verot (620 students), Sarasota-Cardinal Mooney (475), Moore Haven (233), Sarasota-Out-of-Door (228) and Bradenton St. Stephen's (259). The latter three have been in CSN's 2A district.

"It doesn't make sense travel-wise," Jones said. "It's expensive. You have to take a charter bus that costs $1,500 to go to Bradenton."

Instead the Seahawks want to be in 2A-6 with fellow Collier private schools First Baptist and St. John Neumann. Second-year program Marco Island Academy also is in 2A-6 for the first time.

Estero also wants to play closer to home. The Wildcats are in 6A-12 in the reclassification with five Lee County teams and Port Charlotte. Estero also is in Lee County, but it's closer to Barron Collier, Naples and Palmetto Ridge — the three teams in 6A-13 — than the two Cape Coral schools in 6A-12 as well as Port Charlotte.

"From a travel perspective, I can't see the FHSAA denying us," Wildcats coach Rich Dombroski said. "I can't believe Collier County has its own little district with three teams."

Schools have until Jan. 18 to send a letter of petition to the state. FHSAA officials will review the requests and come out with their final reclassification in late January.

There could be a change come the postseason if the tentative districts hold up.

The Lee County 6A-12 and Collier County 6A-13 districts are in separate regions. The past few years the champion of the Lee district has played the Collier runner-up and vice versa in the first round of regionals. Under the new alignment, the teams from 6A-12 and 6A-13 wouldn't meet until the state semifinals.

The 6A-12 winner and runner-up would face teams from Polk County's District 11. The 6A-13 teams would play teams from District 14 which runs along the East Coast from Stuart north to Melbourne.

Gulf Coast would cut out two long road trips in the proposed districts. The Sharks would stay in a four-team 7A district, but instead of playing with three Charlotte County teams, they will get Fort Myers and Riverdale in the new 7A-11.

* * *

FHSAA TENTATIVE DISTRICTS

FOR 2013-14, 2014-15

7A-DISTRICT 11

(4 schools)

Charlotte (Punta Gorda)

Fort Myers

Gulf Coast

Riverdale (Fort Myers)

6A-DISTRICT 11

(4 schools)

Lake Gibson (Lakeland)

Lake Region (Eagle Lake)

Sebring

Winter Haven

6A-DISTRICT 12

(7 schools)

Estero

Ida Baker (Cape Coral)

Island Coast (Cape Coral)

Lehigh Acres

North Fort Myers

Port Charlotte

South Fort Myers

6A-DISTRICT 13

(3 schools)

Barron Collier

Naples

Palmetto Ridge

5A-DISTRICT 13

(4 schools)

Cape Coral

Cypress Lake (Fort Myers)

Lemon Bay (Englewood)

Mariner (Cape Coral)

5A-DISTRICT 14

(3 schools)

Golden Gate

Immokalee

Lely

3A-DISTRICT 6

(6 schools)

Bishop Verot (Fort Myers)

Cardinal Mooney (Sarasota)

Community School

Moore Haven

Out-of-Door Academy (Sarasota)

St. Stephen's (Bradenton)

2A-DISTRICT 6

(6 schools)

Evangelical Christian (Fort Myers)

First Baptist

Imagine School (North Port)

Marco Island Charter

Southwest Florida Christian (Fort Myers)

St. John Neumann

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