The AHSAA released its new high school football regions for the 2020-21 seasons just before Christmas, sending coaches into the mode of frantically trying to complete their 2020-21 schedules.
Now that the dust has settled on both the region and non-region scheduling process, local coaches react to their new regions and schedules:
Scottsboro moves to 6A
The Scottsboro Wildcats, fresh off of a 9-3 season and a Class 5A second-round playoff appearance, will try to make waves in Class 6A next season.
Scottsboro, which returns to Class 6A after spending the last four years in 5A, will play in 6A Region 7 against Arab, Fort Payne, Pell City Springville, Southside and defending Class 6A state champion Oxford.
“We’re not real concerned in (moving up),” Jacobs said. “You can’t help where you’re put. All you can control is your effort, attitude and performance. I think it’ll be a competitive region.”
Scottsboro isn’t the only team joining 6A Region 7 after a stay in 5A. Arab, Southside — two former longtime region rivals of Scottsboro — and Springville will also move up. Meanwhile, Fort Payne is an annual opponent of Scottsboro’s either as region or non-region opponent.
“Really only three of them were 6A schools (the past two seasons),” Jacobs said. “Obviously you’ve got Oxford there that stands out, the defending state champion.”
There are three extremely long-distance road games in the region, and Scottsboro hit the trifecta in 2020 by having to travel to Oxford on Sept. 4, Springville on Sept. 18 and Pell City on Oct. 23.
“We’ll make up for having to (make all three trips in the same season) the next year,” Jacobs laughed.
Scottsboro’s non-region slate includes another defending state champion and one of Jacobs’ former teams.
The Wildcats will play defending Class 2A state champion Fyffe in the regular-season finale Oct. 30. It will be the first ever meeting between Scottsboro and Fyffe, which is making the move up to Class 3A next season.
“Both us needed a Week 10 game,” Jacobs said. “(Fyffe) coach (Paul) Benefield and I talked, and both of us were looking at having to (schedule a team from) Birmingham, so (scheduling each other) made sense for both us.”
Jacobs’ Wildcats will host his former team, Oneonta, on Oct. 9. Jacobs coached Oneonta to a Class 4A state championship and three state finals appearances during his seven seasons (2010-16) at the school. Oneonta head coach Phil Phillips was Jacobs’ offensive coordinator throughout his OHS tenure.
Scottsboro’s other non-region games are Aug. 28 against Madison Academy and the annual “Battle of the Valley” rivalry at North Jackson on Sept. 25.
County rivals land in same region
Jackson County rivals North Sand Mountain, Pisgah and Section will all compete in the same region for the first time since the AHSAA instituted region play.
Pisgah will drop from Class 3A to join NSM, Section, Ider, Falkville, Tanner and Whitesburg Christian in the new Class 2A Region 7.
Pisgah head coach Luke Pruitt believed based on the school’s attendance figures that it might drop to Class 2A — Pisgah has been in 3A since 2005 — but admitted he was surprised with how the region looked..
“I’d drawn a few maps, and one included Tanner and Falkville, but I really thought we’d go (southeast) with Sand Rock and Gaston and some others,” Pruitt said. “It was a little bit of a shock to go west. For us, there’s a lot of new faces we haven’t played.”
Only NSM and Section were on Pisgah’s schedule the last two seasons. Re-alignment also means that Pisgah and Ider will play for the first time since 2009.
NSM head coach Keith Kirby and Section head coach Chris Hammon were not expecting a westward going region, either.
“It shocked us a bit. We’ve got schools right next to us then schools way past Huntsville,” Kirby said.
“I was pleased with (the region),” Hammon said. “The travel isn’t too bad because we’ve got some teams that are really close. I think it’s neat to have us and Pisgah and North Sand Mountain all in the same region. Those are good rivalries and now there’s a little more on the line.”
All three teams have interesting non-region schedules.
NSM plays out-of-state rival Dade County (Georgia) in the season-opener along with Cedar Bluff in Week 5, defending 2A state champion and now 3A team Fyffe in Week 7 and Sylvania in Week 10.
Pisgah plays Sand Rock, Plainview, DAR and Douglas in non-region play while Section plays Collinsville, Valley Head, Hanceville and Woodville.
“(Scheduling) was crazy,” Pruitt said. “It’s like trying to get a date, you’re trying to talk people into playing. Then we had some other games possibly scheduled, and the (AHSAA) changed the regions, so we had to change and schedule two other games. That’s how some of those new teams ended up on there. It’s a relief when it’s done.”
North Jackson lands in ‘Huntsville Region’
The North Jackson football team will play in Class 4A Region 7, which could otherwise be known as the “Huntsville Region.”
Six of the region’s eight teams — Madison Academy, Madison County, New Hope, Randolph, St. John Paul II and Westminster Christian are located either in Huntsville or in its metro area, with North Jackson and DAR the lone exceptions.
North Jackson, DAR, Randolph and SJPII were in the region a year ago, while Madison Academy and Madison County both move down from Class 5A and New Hope and Westminster Christian move up from 3A.
“One good thing about it is the travel isn’t as bad (as the previous region),” said North Jackson coach Chandler Tygard. “We’ll have to go to Huntsville a few times, but there are no West Morgan or Danville (type) trips.”
Tygard said “on paper it’s more competitive” than the Chiefs’ previous region. Three of the region’s newcomers were playoff teams a year ago, including Madison Academy, where Tygard was the offensive coordinator prior to coming to North Jackson.
"I’m excited about playing the Mustangs,” Tygard said.
The coach is also excited about North Jackson’s non-region schedule.
The Chiefs play Scottsboro in the annual “Battle of the Valley” rivalry in Week 5 and renew its rivalry with Fort Payne in Week 10. North Jackson will also turn back the clock to the Bridgeport and Stevenson High Schools days and their tradition of playing teams from neighboring Marion County, Tennessee when it travels to play Whitwell (Tennessee) to start the season on Aug. 28.
“I think that’s a game that’s going to draw a lot of community interest on both sides,” Tygard said. “We’re really excited about our non-region games. We’re a 4A playing two 6A teams (Scottsboro and Fort Payne). Those are games everybody wants to see and games that our good for our community.”
Woodville facing old, new foes in new region
The Woodville football team remained in Class 1A Region 7, but the makeup of the region looks very different than the previous two seasons.
Woodville will be joined in the seven-team region by holdovers Coosa Christian, Gaylesville and Valley Head. Cedar Bluff, a longtime past region foe of Woodville’s, moves back into the region after spending two seasons in Class 2A. Appalachian, which Woodville has played in non-region games the past four seasons, moves into the region from Region 5 while Sumiton Christian, located near western Birmingham, was in Class 2A Region 5 a year ago.
“The region is kind of spread out. We’re kind of on the edge instead of in the middle of it like we were last time, so there’s going to be some added drive time,” said Woodville head coach Jay Powell. “But it’s nothing too bad. We’re playing some teams we’re familiar with. I think it’s going to be competitive. Cedar Bluff is always really good, and now they’re dropping down from 2A. We were surprised Appalachian was in there, but I see how they fit. We were planning to play them again (in non-region play) before the regions came out.”
As of now, Woodville only has three of its possible four non-region games scheduled. The Panthers play Ider in Week 0, Decatur Heritage in Week 5 and Jackson County rival Section in Week 10. The Panthers currently have byes for Week 1 and Week 7.
“We’re still looking, just seeing if we can find something that makes sense for us,” Powell said.