Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer
The North Carolina High School Athletics Association Board of Directors recently voted to approve a realignment plan finalized in February, confirming new athletic conferences that go into effect over the summer and will be in place through the 2024-25 school year.
Both the Franklin High School Panthers and the Smoky Mountain High School Mustangs will be moving from their current 2A classification up to a 3A conference standing.
The realignment places both schools in Conference 54 (3A, WMAC/Mountain Six) which is made up of East Henderson, Franklin, North Henderson, Pisgah, Smoky Mountain, Tuscola, and West Henderson.
Like Franklin and Smoky Mountain which moved up a conference to make up Conference 54, East Henderson and Pisgah were also moved from 2A to 3A.
The new realignment means Franklin and Smoky Mountain will no longer be competing against Brevard or Hendersonville in conference play and will now face off against North Henderson, Tuscola, and West Henderson, in addition to the current conference rivals of Pisgah and East Henderson.
It will be up to member schools to vote on the new official name for the conference at a later date.
Swain County will remain a 1A school and was placed in Conference 43 (1A, Smoky Mountain Conference) which is made up of Andrews, Blue Ridge Early College, Cherokee, Hayesville, Highlands, Hiwassee Dam, Murphy, Nantahala, Robbinsville, Swain County, Tri-County Early College. Swain County will no longer compete against Rosman.
However the 1A conference could change again before the 2025 realignment plan is finalized, as Andrews High, Murphy, and Hiwassee Dam are all set to consolidate into one high school, which would remove them from the 1A Conference 43 and place them in a 3A conference.
Member schools of Conference 43 will meet and first decide on a conference name, which has historically been the Smoky Mountain Conference and then second, further divide the conference to separate out smaller schools like Highlands, Nantahala, and Blue Ridge School to the Little Smoky Mountain Conference.