Schools embrace new conferences

Aside from Asheboro, county schools clustered together

ASHEBORO — Randolph County schools largely got what they’ve been hoping for in the latest realignment involving the North Carolina High School Athletic Association.

The new sports season begins this week and that means the area teams are clustered together in one conference, with the exception of Asheboro High School.

But with seven in-county schools all in the same league, the benefits are numerous.

“We have wanted this for a while,” said Charlie Chapman, a longtime athletics administrator and coach in the county. “This worked out real good.”

Chapman will be the commissioner for both the Mid-Piedmont Conference and Piedmont Athletic Conference.

Asheboro’s Khyland Hadley-Lindsay throws a ball during their first day of football practice for the 2021 season at SAMS in Asheboro, NC on August 2, 2021. PJ WARD-BROWN/NORTH STATE JOURNAL

As a Class 3-A school, Asheboro will be in the Mid-Piedmont Conference, joining out-of-county schools.

The other Randolph County schools are in the Piedmont Athletic Conference, a combined Class 1-A / 2-A league. The big shift there is the addition of Uwharrie Charter Academy, which previously hadn’t been slotted with other Randolph County schools and often had issues scheduling games against area teams.

In some past NCHSAA realignments, Randolph County schools squawked about being assigned to various conferences. So this Piedmont Athletic Conference could work out to their liking.

“It should be pretty competitive in most schools,” Chapman said. “I think it will be great for travel, the gates will be good.”

Regardless of what happens in competition, Uwharrie Charter Academy could be the big winner.

“It’s pretty exciting, being able to keep within the surrounding area,” said UCA superintendent Sharon Castelli said. “We can compete within our own district.”

UCA has about 680 students in high school, so Castelli said that makes the school a good fit for this level even with larger schools in the mix. No longer will a league commitment require a roundtrip commute of more than two hours.

“The logistics, that common community,” she said. “At least now it’s going to be more local.”

Castelli, whose background includes time in schools in Montgomery County and Scotland County, began her stint at UCA last October.

UCA doesn’t compete in football and it has fielded golf teams off and on, but Castelli said the Eagles intend to be regular participants in most PAC sports.

“All the Randolph County schools have welcomed them with open arms,” Chapman said.

Chapman, an ex-football coach at Southwestern Randolph who previously held roles overseeing athletics at Southwestern Randolph and Asheboro, said Southwestern Randolph should have significantly reduced travel with its new conference partners.

Asheboro will have conference matchups for the first time with Oak Grove and Montgomery Central.

“We had decent crowds with our last conference, but these Davidson County teams travel,” Asheboro athletics director Steve Luck said. “Everyone is biting at the bit to get out and see some high school sports.”

None of Asheboro’s conference members from the past four years remain in a league with the Blue Comets.

Gone are Southwestern Randolph, Eastern Guilford, Southern Alamance, Southeast Guilford, Southern Guilford and Burlington Williams. Southern Alamance and Southeast Guilford moved to 4-A (though not in the same conference). The others remain in 3-A, though Burlington Williams no longer is in a league with Eastern Guilford and Southern Guilford.

“I think Asheboro is in a very good league,” Chapman said. “Those people travel well. It will be good competition.”

From a gate receipts standpoint, the Blue Comets also should benefit from some of their non-conference matchups. Those will largely come against Randolph County schools in the PAC.

“They want to play us. We want to play them,” Luck said. “That generates interest and people show up.”

Meanwhile, the Randolph County schools in the 2-A level are no longer joined by High Point Andrews and Jordan-Matthews.

Chapman said coming off a school year that included restructured schedules because of the pandemic that there will be different types of challenges with the new conference set-ups.

“First year in any conferences there are changes to be made,” he said, though noting the bylaws are generally similar for most leagues.

Meanwhile, the goal will be keeping things on a regular path this school year.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed that everything will stay normal,” Chapman said.

Piedmont Athletic Conference (Class 1-A / 2-A): Eastern Randolph (1-A), Uwharrie Charter (1-A), Providence Grove (2-A), Randleman (2-A), Southwestern Randolph (2-A), Trinity (2-A), Wheatmore (2-A).

Mid-Piedmont Conference (all Class 3-A): Asheboro, Central Davidson, Ledford, Montgomery Central, North Davidson, Oak Grove.


By Bob Sutton

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