Lake Wales - Ridge Community football 3

A major talking point for the Florida High School Athletic Association – reclassification – gained some clarity this month and that included new districts and regions for the 2021 varsity football season.

On March 15, the FHSAA released the football classification for the 2021-22 school year with Ridge Community going from Class 8A to Class 7A and new Polk County school Davenport High landing in Class 4A.

Four Corners Upper School will be an independent program and not participate in the FHSAA playoff system, while Haines City was not on the 2021-22 FHSAA Football Classification list. In 2020, the Class 8A Hornets opted out of the state playoffs and had a 10-game schedule. Requests for clarification as to whether Haines City would be an independent again in 2021 were not returned in time for publication.

News regarding the 2021 football season came one week after the FHSAA Board of Directors voted to approve a one-year reclassification cycle, which stemmed from complications of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Per FHSAA Policy 12.2, enrollment numbers as of October 2020 (including non-traditional students from the 2019-20 school year) were used to make determinations.

Football is already starting to pick up momentum, with April 26 representing the first spring practice date for non-contact sessions.

Ridge Community went 5-5 last season and reached the Class 8A state playoffs, where the Bolts lost at home to Lutz Steinbrenner. The upcoming season will have Ridge in a highly competitive Class 7A-District 6 with Clermont East Ridge (also moving down from Class 8A), Orlando Edgewater, Wekiva and Winter Haven.

Schools within the four larger classes (5A through 8A) will have a required district schedule during the regular season. That follows the 2019 football model where district champions in each region automatically advanced to the state playoffs, while the remaining four regional spots were awarded to non-district champs with the highest RPI (Ratings Power Index) ranking.

The new system utilized in 2019 also featured six teams making the playoffs per region in Classes 1A through 4A. With no districts, all playoff berths in the smaller classifications were decided by the top finishers in the RPI standings per region.

Davenport is Polk County Public Schools’ newest high school and opens in August for the start of the 2021-22 school year.

The Broncos, who in late February announced the hiring of Jeff George Jr. as their first football coach, were placed in Class 4A-Region 3 with Delray Beach American Heritage, Clewiston, Belle Glade Glades Central, St. Petersburg Lakewood, Englewood Lemon Bay, Boynton Beach Somerset Canyons, Tenoroc, and former independent programs Discovery High (Lake Alfred) and Parrish.