The Alabama High School Athletic Association reclassifies its schools every two years, and the event is highly anticipated each time.
It’s easy to see why. Leading up to it, there is so much for high school sports fans to speculate. Will their team move up/down or stand pat? Who will be their team’s area/region/section opponents?
Here are a few things I found most interesting about the latest round of AHSAA reclassification:
› NSM on the move —NSM has become the school in our county most likely to move on a cycle to cycle basis. After spending the last four years as one of Class 3A’s smallest schools, NSM is now the second largest 2A school. The Bison dropped into a doozy of a football region, which also features powerhouse Fyffe, rivals Section and Ider, traditionally strong Sand Rock and Collinsville and adds 1A power Cedar Bluff, which NSM beat 20-13 in overtime this past season.
› Scottsboro stays in 5A — Scottsboro’s enrollment number that the AHSAA uses to determine reclassification was up by some 25 students from two years ago, but the Wildcats slid in under the Class 6A cutoff and are the third-largest 5A school. The Wildcats have thrived in numerous sports the last two years since dropping back to 5A after a two-year stint in 6A, so staying 5A is great news for the schools’ athletic programs.
› Go west, Woodville — Since beginning football in 2006, Woodville has played in a Class 1A Region that involved teams to our south. But the Panthers will compete in a new 1A Region 7 that extends from Gaylesville to Courtland. Traditional Woodville region foes Coosa Christian, Gaylesville and Valley Head are now joined in region play by north central and northwest schools Falkville, Decatur Heritage and R.A. Hubbard.
› Softball area shakeup for Scottsboro — In baseball, basketball and volleyball, sports that use the “Area” format, Scottsboro is paired with Arab, Brewer and Guntersville. But in softball, the Wildcats are paired in 5A Area 16 with Ardmore, East Limestone and Madison County. I assume that Scottsboro’s softball area is different from those other sports because of the new Competitive Balance rule affecting Madison Academy.
› ‘Competitive Balance’ system now in place — For years the Public vs. Private school debate has raged. Thursday, the AHSAA Central Board of Control voted to institute a “Competitive Balance” system for private schools that uses a point system based on postseason finishes to move teams up in classification in particular sports while other sports play in another. One example of this is Madison Academy, which is a 4A school but will play in 5A in basketball, volleyball, baseball and football but will compete in 4A in softball and cross country. Madison Academy is part of Scottsboro’s football region.
Some will argue this is not fair. Some will argue the AHSAA didn’t do enough. But the fact that the AHSAA addressed this issue is a win for those that land on the public school side of the debate.
› Another three-team area for North Jackson — For the second straight reclassification cycle, the North Jackson basketball teams will play in a three-team area. The Chiefs will be paired with DAR and Randolph in 4A Area 14, with Randolph replacing 5A bound Sardis from the current area.
› Scottsboro learns its area foes — The inaugural Scottsboro soccer teams begin play this coming spring, but they won’t be part of the championship format and won’t be in an area.
But starting in 2019, the Wildcats will compete in Class 4A-5A Area 12 vs. Crossville and Cherokee County.
› Hello again — The new regions have some schools resuming series with teams that had fallen off the schedule. The most notable locally is Section-NSM, which as members of 2A Region 8 will face off after not playing the past two seasons after playing each season from 1988-2014. NSM will also resume its series with Fyffe and Sand Rock. Other notable games back on local teams’ schedule will be North Jackson vs. Fairview, Priceville and SJPII, Scottsboro vs. Brewer and Pisgah vs. Susan Moore. After playing the last two years as non-region foes, Woodville vs. R.A. Hubbard is now a region game.
› First-time meetings — The new football regions will provide plenty of interesting first-time matchups. The most anticipated will be Scottsboro vs. Madison Academy and Scottsboro vs. East Limestone in 5A Region 8. Others include North Jackson’s meetings with new 4A Region 7 foes Danville and 2016 3A Region 8 champion West Morgan and Woodville’s matchup with Falkville, a 2016 2A playoff team.
› What will the non-region football games look like? — Some teams had annual non-region foes become region foes (i.e. Scottsboro vs. Madison County and NSM vs. Ider) and usual region foes become likely non-region foes (NSM vs. Pisgah). Filling those three or four non-region games on the schedule isn’t a simple chore. Once the region alignments were released, coaches have been on the phone either finalizing deals they’d already been working on or having to work on new ones all together.