The Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) last week announced the new athletic classifications and alignments for the next two academic years.
Classification numbers are for students in grades 10- 12 plus ninth-grade holdbacks. These numbers were provided for each school by the Alabama Department of Education.
Five of Blount County’s eight high schools will stay in the same classification but three – Locust Fork, J.B. Pennington and Southeastern – will change classes.
First up, Locust Fork and J.B. Pennington drop down in classification from 4A to 3A, joining Susan Moore. Enrollment in 3A ranges from a high of 296.75 (West Morgan) to a low of 228.15 (Houston Academy). Susan Moore (290.1) and J.B. Pennington (283.55) were on the upper end of the scale for the class while Locust Fork (273.5) was just about in the middle.
Southeastern moves down from 2A to 1A, but just barely. Actually, Southeastern is the largest 1A enrollment wise in the state with 152.6 students. By comparison, Red Bay is the smallest 2A school in the state with 154.25 students.
Hayden remains the largest school in the county with 543.55 students. Class 5A ranges from a low of 394 students (Pleasant Grove) to a high of 598.05 (Arab).
With Locust Fork and J.B. Pennington dropping down, Oneonta is the only school in the county in Class 4A. The numbers in 4A range from 297.3 students (Dadeville) to 388.8 (Haleyville). Oneonta has an enrollment of 323.75, much closer to the bottom of the class than the top.
Cleveland (196.6) is now the only 2A school in the county. They are also right in the middle of the 2A numbers which range from 154.25 (Red Bay) to 227.65 (Sheffield).
Finally, Appalachian remains in 1A with an enrollment of 125.35. Southeastern (152.6) is at the top of the 1A numbers but this class contains several schools that do not field full athletic programs. Paint Rock Valley is the smallest sanctioned school in the state with an enrollment of just 22.5. A.L. Johnson is the smallest football-playing school in the state with a reported enrollment of 56.
With the new classifications come new regions for football and areas for other sports.
Starting with the largest school in the county and working our way down, we find a ton of change for some schools and not much change for others.
5A Hayden – Keith Register’s Wildcats made it to the second round of the playoffs, coming out of a tough Region 6 that included rival Mortimer Jordan, which finished as the state runner-up. The Wildcats remain in Region 6 with Mortimer Jordan and Springville but the new region has Corner (welcome back, old friend), Curry, Fairview and West Point. Mortimer Jordan is always tough and Springville will eventually turn the corner but this isn’t exactly the SEC West. Definitely an improvement for Hayden.
4A Oneonta – the Redskins have been decent the last couple of years but this is not the same program that went to three straight 4A championship games and won the 2013 title. The Redskins move out of Region 7 and will renew some old acquaintances (and rivalries) in Region 5. Say good-bye to Priceville, North Jackson, DAR, Good Hope and Westminster Christian. Say hello to Anniston, Ashville, Cherokee County, Hokes Bluff, Jacksonville, Saks and White Plains. Overall, probably a sideways move but not having to drive to South Tennessee to play North Jackson is a good thing.
3A Locust Fork, J.B. Pennington, Susan Moore – all three teams are in Region 6 and that is a win all the way around for Hornet, Tiger and Bulldog fans. Not to make too big a deal of it but the other teams in the region – Fultondale, Hanceville, Holly Pond and Vinemont – were a combined 10-31 last year. Having three Blount County teams in the same region is huge and all three have legitimate chances to win the region.
2A Cleveland – Gardner Gilliland’s Panthers set all kinds of records last year in Region 7. They are back in Region 7 but this is a totally different group of playground buddies. It’s probably a case of going from the frying pan to…well, the other side of the same pan? Out goes Fyffe, in comes Tanner…that’s a wash, really. West End comes along for the ride but new foes include Cold Springs, Falkville, Tarrant and Winston County. Really not much difference for Panther fans, although not having to go to Ider to play a region game is a plus.
1A Southeastern – the Mustangs struggled as a 2A for the last two years, so the move to 1A should be a little bit of help. However, Region 7 features a couple of the teams (Addison, Sumiton Christian) that have given Mike Burkett’s team so much trouble. Add in up-and-coming Decatur Heritage, along with R.A. Hubbard, Meek and Lynn and this doesn’t look like much fun at all. Addison and Decatur Heritage are the big dogs here but there is no Tanner on the schedule and that’s a good thing. Slight improvement for the Mustangs.
1A Appalachian – no change for Zach Jones’s Eagles and that’s not a good thing. The old Region 5 becomes the new Region 4 with no changed in the teams. The Eagles still have to contend with the long region trips to Wadley, Winterboro, Donoho and Talladega Central. Only now these teams will be in the South Bracket when playoffs roll around. Jones will have the Eagles ready to play this year – and further along as a program – but no change in this case is not good. Not good at all.
The new alignments have also been released for all other sports sanctioned by the AHSAA. We’ll look at those new areas next week.