Several area schools, including Ada High, were caught in the annual “OSSAA Shuffle” when the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association released its new list of classifications last week.
Ada heads the list of movers, going from one of the smallest schools in Class 5A to the largest in 4A for the 2010-2011 school year.
The drop won’t affect football, which, unlike other sports and school activities, is re-classified every two years. Ada’s last 4A season in any sport was the 2004 football campaign, but the school hasn’t been in the state’s third largest class for other sports since the end of the 2003-2004 school year.
“We’re in a two-year run right now — we’ll be in 5A in football this year and next year,” AHS athletic director Mike Anderson explained. “They re-districted last summer. This (re-classification) will affect every other sport and every other activity this school year.”
Anderson said nothing about the new classifications is carved in stone until the OSSAA board meets on Aug. 10, and he said some other sports and activities at the school could remain part of Class 5A, depending on the 32 schools in the class.
“It won’t be official until the OSSAA board meets in August and approves it,” he noted. “If somebody (in 5A) appeals their classification and wins the appeal, we could still end up in 5A. I don’t anticipat that happening, but it’s a possibility. It’s happened before.
“If one of the schools in 5A doesn’t play a particular sport, such as tennis, wrestling or golf,” Anderson said, “we would be the first one to move up in that sport to keep 32 teams in the class.”
Anderson, an Ada native who was the school’s boys basketball coach for over a decade beginning in 1994, said things have changed for the schools in Class 5A and said AHS is probably back where it belongs.
“When I was growing up in Ada, we were always in the second largest class, and that’s where I thought Ada should be, but times change,” he said. “Some of these metropolitan schools have grown, but we’re stuck down here by ourselves.
“The year before my first season as basketball coach, Ada played Plainview and Purcell in the playoffs,” Anderson recalled. “The year I got here, we played Tulsa Central and Tulsa East Central. You get caught in that kind of thing sometimes.”
Anderson said the drop back to 4A wasn’t necessarily expected but added that it wasn’t a surprise.
“I knew we could (drop) — I knew we were going to be right on the borderline,” he said.
“You just don’t know what everybody else is going to do, but we knew it would be close. We were 63rd (in average daily membership) last year; we’re 65th this year.”
He said a drop in class isn’t always a good thing in some sports.
“Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t — you never know until you get into it,” he said. “We’ve been in this position for a long time where we’re one of the smaller schools in 5A or one of the biggest in 4A. Some years you have as good a chance to win in 5A as you do in 4A. There are usually more good teams in 5A than 4A in most sports, but when you get to the top, there’s usually not a whole lot of difference.”
Ada was less than five students below Bishop McGuinness (which moved up a class from last year) on the border of Classes 5A and 4A, but things were cut much closer between some other classes.
In 6A, Del City — with an ADM of 1263.12 — ranks far below the state’s largest school, Broken Arrow (at 4608.79) but is just 2.08 ahead of 5A’s largest school, Tulsa Memorial. Ada’s ADM of 688.46 is almost twice that of the smallest school in 4A, Bridge Creek (379), which is just .26 ahead of 3A’s largest school, Inola.
The closest shaves came between Classes 3A and 2A — where Hartshorne, 3A’s smallest school, was just .12 ahead of 2A’s largest school, Washington, in ADM (245.94-245.82) — and between 2A and Class A — where Rock Creek (134.25) was 2A’s smallest school by a scant .06 in ADM over Class A’s biggest, Merritt.
While area schools Byng (Class 4A), Coalgate (3A), Sulphur (3A), Konawa (2A), Latta (2A), Vanoss (2A), Allen (A), Stonewall (A) and Tupelo (B) remained in the classes they occupied during the 2009-2010 school year, Stratford and Roff will both be moving up a class, although Stratford will remain in Class A for the 2010 and 2011 football seasons.
If Stratford had remained in Class A, the Bulldog basketball team — led by senior Dalen Qualls, Oklahoma’s leading scorer the past two seasons, and three other returning starters — would likely have opened the season ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the state. Veteran head coach Mark Qualls said the move up will now make his club just a face in the crowd at the top of its new class.
“2A is going to be loaded, with millwood, Talihina, Pawnee and Preston,” Qualls noted. “Millwood will surely be No. 1. They won it in 3A last year, and they’ve practically got everybody back. Talihina has four starters back, Pawnee is always good, and Preston won it two years ago and still has the nucleus of that team.
“It’s going to be a tough deal,” he admitted. “But I would like to think we’d still be in the top 10 somewhere.”
Roff’s move back to Class A for the first time since the 2005-2006 school year might have come at a good time for the Tiger baseball and basketball teams. After dominating Class B in both sports in 2009-2010 (when Roff became the first Oklahoma school to sweep fall and spring baseball and basketball in the same school year), the Tigers — who figure to be in rebuilding mode after heavy graduation losses — will get away from old rival Red Oak — the runner-up to Roff in all three sports last year and in baseball in the spring of 2009 — just as the Eagles appear ready to mount a “Triple Crown” run of their own this year.
“We’ve flip-flopped back and forth the last 10 years,” said Mike Stewart, who is entering his ninth year at Roff and his fourth as athletic director. “Class B won’t be as tough because there won’t be as many teams in it (97 this year compared to 127 in 2009-2010). That will obviously make it a little bit easier, because there won’t be as many teams in the playoffs.
“Year in and year out, it’s a toss-up as to which class is tougher,” he added. “We’re going to go compete in whatever one we’re in and do the best we can. I haven’t taken a real close look yet at all the schools. You would think Red Oak would be in pretty good shape, but you never know. We lost a good group, but I’m confident that we’ll go compete again and surprise some people.”
While the Roff boys teams are expected to drop off after an impressive run of 13 straight state tournaments (fall and spring) in baseball and six in seven years in basketball, the Roff softball team is heading into the most anticipated fast-pitch season in school history. The Lady Tigers return seven starters — including two of the state’s best young pitchers in sophomore Taylor Canida and junior J. J. Stewart — off a team that was runner-up to Sasakwa in Class B in fast-pitch last fall and reached the semifinals in Class 2A in slowpitch this spring.
“The softball team should be a contender in either class,” Stewart said. “There are some good teams in Class B, but Class A will be competitive, too.”
Stewart said that although Roff’s jump in class came as no shock, his school’s move past old rival Stonewall in ADM (98.57 to 96.60) was a little more unexpected.
“That surprised me,” he admitted. “We haven’t been bigger than Stonewall since I’ve been at Roff.”