The Knights, who currently compete in Region 7AAAA, knew they would be moving up a classification based on enrollment numbers. River Ridge athletic director Mike Baker said he and other administrators were hoping to be placed into a region composed of teams closer to home.
The school got its wish Tuesday. River Ridge will soon be competing in a Region 7AAAAA field with fellow county teams Creekview and Sequoyah.
“We thought that we would be in the mix with the Cobb and Cherokee schools, and that is kind of what came out,” Baker said. “We thought a couple of other schools might have been slid in there. We weren’t sure where Dalton and Allatoona would end up, and we didn’t get put with either one of those. They are both really good athletic schools.”
River Ridge is making its second leap in classification since getting its start as a Class AA athletic program in 2010.
Baker said the new region will foster rivalries that are already in existence and allow fans to travel to see the Knights play more often. Currently, River Ridge must travel to schools such as Cedartown and Gilmer — both more than 50 miles away — in subregion competitions.
When considering the other half the current Region 7AAAA, River Ridge had had to travel as far away at Northwest Whitfield, which is more than 80 miles away from the school’s campus in Woodstock.
In their new region, the furthest the Knights will have to travel would be to Forsyth Central in Cumming, which is fewer than 30 miles away.
In addition to the three Cherokee County schools, Region 7AAAAA will be comprised of Cambridge, Forsyth Central, Kell, North Atlanta, North Springs, Riverwood and Sprayberry.
Like River Ridge, North Atlanta is another newcomer to the region. Current members Northview, Osborne and Pope are moving into Class AAAAAA.
“As far as the travel aspect, we are electric about it,” Baker said. “We think it’s a great region for us. It’s very compatible, very similar types of kids. It will be a nice step up and a nice challenge for our programs. Now, our fans and community are going to get to enjoy all the rivalry Fridays and all the good things like that.”
Sequoyah athletic director Todd Miller said River Ridge’s insertion into the region with his Chiefs and Creekview will only foster new rivalries in the community.
“It has the potential to fuel the fires,” Miller said. “With River Ridge being so close, they could be an even bigger rival (to us) than Creekview.”
Miller added that with 10 teams set for the region, as opposed to the 11-team alignment of this school year and last, the schools are considering doing away with subregions. For sports like basketball and baseball, a school will play each other school twice. In football, all but one of the games will be against region competition.
Region 5AAAAAA — including Cherokee, Etowah, Woodstock — will stay largely intact. The only difference will be the addition of Pope to create a nine-team alignment with Lassiter, Milton, Roswell, Walton and Wheeler.
Woodstock athletic director Scott Krug said the programs at his school won’t be affected much. The football team will have one fewer non-region game to use to prepare for region play, but will have an extra chance to prove itself deserving of a state playoff spot. Plus, Pope will give Woodstock a new challenge.
“I’m always looking to play new people,” Krug said. “Pope’s always got good programs.”
Woodstock football coach Brent Budde has been working to schedule a football game against River Ridge, since the schools are located within a few miles of one another and would make for natural rivals, but that will be more difficult now. In a region with 10 teams, River Ridge will have room in its schedule for just one non-region game.
“We haven’t played (the other county) teams in football in the past while,” Krug said. “I can’t remember the last time we played any of those guys if they weren’t in our region. It’s been a long time, but coach Budde has been working on it. I don’t know if (realignment) will hinder that now.”