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Officials expect positive experience in move to Piedmont District

Much work has been done, and there is still some work to do for Halifax County High School officials and those of other high schools across the state as they transition for competition this fall under the Virginia High School League’s new structure.

In a nutshell, the Virginia High School League has moved from a three-classification system to a six-classification system, and has altered district make-ups to create more “neighborhood” districts that include schools of multiple classifications.

Along with that, the VHSL created conferences and regions within each of the six classifications to allow schools to compete against other schools that are closer in size for conference, regional and state titles.

A new format for post-season play was also created.

The current Western Valley District will go into extinction with the end of this school year. This fall, Halifax County High School will move into the Piedmont District, a district in which a majority of the schools it will face will be familiar competitors.

As with any move, there are changes, and there will be questions. Some questions have not yet been answered, but, Halifax County High School Athletic Director Allen Lawter says he and Halifax County High School are ready to move forward.

“I think we’re ready to go,” Lawter said when asked how preparations were going with the new Piedmont District.

“We feel it is going to be a very positive experience. Most of the principals and athletic directors in the Piedmont District feel it will be a very positive experience. Everybody, the principals and athletic directors, are committed to making it a positive experience.”

The bottom line, Lawter says, is what is best for the student-athletes.

“That is what everybody’s concern is,” he pointed out.

“What concerns everyone is what is best for the kids and how we can do the best by the them. That’s what it is all about.”


Shorter, better travel 

for high school

Competing in the Piedmont District will help Halifax County High School student-athletes as far as travel is concerned.

In the Western Valley District, Halifax County High School has had to face travel to Roanoke for games against Patrick Henry High School and William Fleming High School, face trips to Rocky Mount to play Franklin County High School and make a short trip to Danville to face GW High School.

In the Piedmont District, the Comets’ worst regular-season trip will be to Stuart to face Patrick County High School. They will still go to Franklin County High School, which is in the new Piedmont District alignment. Trips to GW, Tunstall High School, Martinsville High School, Bassett High School and Magna Vista High School are not unreasonably long and entail trips up and down the Route 58 corridor on better roads.

“I have not sat down to do a full cost comparison,” Lawter said, “but we feel there will be some (cost) savings. Because just about all of the trips will be up and down Route 58, we feel it will definitely be safer travel.”

The shorter, better travel can also help in another way. 

“The other area we hope will see a difference in is attendance,” he noted.

“We hope that by playing schools that are closer and travel being easier, we will get more fans from other schools coming here to the games. If that happens and we can generate more revenue, that, combined with the whatever savings we find in travel expenses, will be better for us financially.”


The competition

As far as competition is concerned, Lawter says the competition in the new Piedmont District should be very similar to that which Halifax County High School faced in the Western Valley District.

“I think it’s going to be a very competitive district,” Lawter pointed out.

“The Piedmont District has traditionally been pretty good in pretty much every sport. We already play a lot of those schools. We play Magna Vista, Bassett High School and Martinsville in non-district games. We played GW and Franklin County which were two of the best teams in the Western Valley District, and we’ve played Tunstall in some sports at times in the past. All of those games have been competitive.”

There are some people that say Halifax County High School will fare better in the Piedmont District because it will be playing smaller schools. Lawter disagrees with that viewpoint.

“I think we’ll be more competitive because we’re getting better, not necessarily because we’re changing,” Lawter said.

“It’s not going to be much unlike the Western Valley District where you have certain schools that are stronger in certain sports. There were a few schools that were strong across the board.

“You’re going to have that in this district as well,” he added.

“I think that’s true regardless what district you go to or look at.”


HCHS to play full slate of Piedmont District games

One of the criteria Virginia High School League officials set in creating the multiple-classification neighborhood districts is that smaller schools will not be required to play a school that is three or more classifications above them.

Halifax County High School, in at least the first two-year cycle of the new alignment, will be playing all of the district schools.

“The only school that has that option with us is Martinsville High School,” Lawter pointed out.

“They have chosen to play us in every sport across the board. We’ve played Martinsville High School in most sports anyway, so that’s nothing new. It just now becomes a district game. We’re playing all seven schools across the board.”

Playing all of the other seven Piedmont District schools is easing Lawter’s problem of having to find numerous schools to fill out Halifax County High School’s sports schedules.

In football, instead of having to find six non-district games to fill the schedule, Lawter now has to fill only three spots. Ditto for basketball, baseball, softball and several other sports.

“We’ve pretty much got all of our schedules set for next year,” he noted.

“Of course, the schedules always have to be tweaked with the school calendar, but we’re in good shape.”


Ready to play

For the most part, Lawter said Halifax County High School and the Piedmont District schools are ready to get started. There are still a few issues, primarily logistics issues, that remain to be settled, but things are pretty much in place for the transition.

“We’ve still got some logistic matters to settle,” Lawter said, “but I think we’re pretty solid. I’m not wishing this coming spring season away by any means, but I’m anxious to see how we do. I think everybody is.”