E.A. Sports Today

Impact of winning

Sacred Heart basketball moves up in AHSAA class; Saks, Ohatchee, Cleburne County drop down; realignment puts Calhoun County schools together

Saks will move from Class 4A into what has been the toughest Class 3A football region in the state. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

You can call Sacred Heart a victim of its own success.

The Alabama High School Athletic Association released its biennial reclassification for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 academic years Thursday and the three-time state basketball champion Cardinals found themselves in a new home.

Sacred Heart is one of the state’s smallest Class 1A schools by population, but because of the Cardinals’ recent success on the basketball floor, they — and their girls team — were bumped up to Class 2A as the state’s governing body implemented rules to seek a competitive balance among its public and private schools. The Cardinals will now play in a basketball area with Ohatchee, which dropped down from Class 3A, Westbrook Christian and Gaston.

The full classifications can be found at:

“I must say I’m more happy we are 2A,” Graves said. “I can’t say that I’m mad. You basically get moved up because of your success.

“We’re doing something right in our program that you have to do something to get us to a place where we are. This is what the AHSAA realigned. They’re going to do the best they can to make it fair and even; you can’t get mad at that at all.”

Among the other highlights of this year’s realignment, Ohatchee (to 2A), Saks (to 3A) and Cleburne County, Lincoln and Talladega (all to 4A) all dropped in classification – as East Alabama Sports Today reported Wednesday. Now, Calhoun County has at least one school in each classification from 1A to 6A.

Additionally, with the exception of Class 4A basketball, all the Calhoun County teams will play together in their areas/regions in their classifications.

“It’s a lot of fun that way,” Saks principal Jody Whaley said. “We all know each other — all the principals and staff and faculty, all these assistant coaches know each other. It’s a healthy kind of situation for competition.”

It’s a competitive balance the AHSAA went looking for when it considered the impact of the private schools, which have been the subject of jealousy and debate for several years. The Central Board considered several proposals but ultimately settled on the elevation of teams based on an evaluation of success over the last three years. Public schools changed classifications based on their attendance figures. (See listing below)

“The oil goes to the squeaky wheel,” Graves said. “When everybody complains you have to do something. I think the AHSAA did the best they could do for right now and just see how it plays out for the sake of the whole association instead or a few or one team.”

The Cardinals, installed as the No. 1 team in Class 1A in the season’s first statewide basketball poll despite a 3-4 record, haven’t lost to an instate Class 1A team since the 2014 Final Four (49 straight) and have regularly beaten teams from the highest classifications. Graves is confident they will continue to be successful in their new element.

“I’m kind of happy we moved up, to be totally honest,” he said. “Do I think basketball is better in 2A than 1A? Yes, I do. It’ll be interesting to see because the South is better also.

“We’re still going to prepare the same way we always prepare. A lot of our success has to do with our scheduling that we do outside the classification and a lot of others’ non-success comes because they don’t play people outside their classification.”

Expectedly, much will be made in the coming days about the new configurations, about who “won” and “lost” in the draws and whose roads to the playoffs in any sport got easier or tougher.

How soon will it be, perhaps, that folks start calling Oxford’s Class 6A Region 6 football league the “group of death” with six of the seven teams making this year’s playoffs and the other dropping down from 7A? And while Ohatchee moves out of Class 3A Region, Saks replaces it in what has been the toughest football region in the classification the last two years.

“The region was already tough and then it pretty much stayed the same and we dropped into it,” Saks coach Jonathan Miller said. “I don’t know if we’ll make it any tougher than it already is; you definitely have to be a good team to get in the playoffs.”

“On the outside looking in right now it looks like it’s going to be a very tough region, so if you like competition and tough games it’s the best region in the state,” Oxford coach Ryan Herring said. “It’s going to be fun, no doubt; if you’re a fan you’ve gotta love it. It’s like Alabama playing the SEC West and then USC, Texas and Notre Dame for their non-conference games.”

On the positive side, Herring believes seeing the new region alignment, especially as it includes the Clay-Chalkville team that just eliminated them from the playoffs, will be a “good shot in the arm” for his team and its motivation into the offseason.

Jacksonville Christian was not included in any of the Class 1A football alignments because the Thunder did not play football this past season. Headmaster and head coach Tommy Miller is considering bringing back the program in the fall, but even if the Thunder returned they would not be eligible for region play.

Region 5: Appalachian, Donoho, Ragland, Spring Garden, TCC, Victory Christian, Winterboro.
CLASS 2A – Region 6: Cleveland, Gaston, Ohatchee, Ranburne, Westbrook Christian, West End, Woodland.
CLASS 3A – Region 6: B.B. Comer, Glencoe, Piedmont, Pleasant Valley, Randolph County, Saks, Wellborn, Weaver.
CLASS 4A – Region 4: Childersburg, Elmore County, Handley, Holtville, Leeds, Lincoln, Talladega. Region 6: Anniston, Ashville, Cherokee County, Cleburne County, Hokes Bluff, Jacksonville, Oneonta, White Plains.
CLASS 5A – Region 5: Center Point, Clay Central, Moody, Mortimer Jordan, Munford, St. Clair County, Springville, Sylacauga. Region 6: Alexandria, Boaz, Crossville, Douglas, Etowah, Sardis, Southside-Gadsden.
CLASS 6A – Region 6: Clay-Chalkville, Gardendale, Huffman, Oxford, Pell City, Pinson Valley, Shades Valley.

Area 11: Coosa Christian, Donoho, Faith Christian, Jacksonville Christian, Spring Garden.
CLASS 2A – Area 11: Gaston, Ohatchee, Sacred Heart, Westbrook Christian.
CLASS 3A – Area 11: Piedmont, Pleasant Valley, Saks, Wellborn, Weaver.
CLASS 4A – Area 9: Anniston, Cleburne County, Lincoln, Talladega. Area 10: Cherokee County, Hokes Bluff, Jacksonville, White Plains.
CLASS 5A – Area 7: Clay Central, Munford, Sylacauga. Area 12: Alexandria, Etowah, Southside.
CLASS 6A – Area 13: Albertville, Fort Payne, Oxford.
NOTE: All other sports with area alignments follow the assignments for basketball. They are subject to change from fall, winter and spring declarations.

(School, enrollment, classification)
(Schools in bold indicate movement)

Alexandria High School 464.45 5A
Anniston High School 338.6 4A
Donoho School 144.45 1A
Faith Christian School 71.55 1A
Jacksonville High School 342.5 4A
Jacksonville Christian Academy 41.85 1A
Ohatchee High School 218.35 2A (Was 3A)
Oxford High School 922.7 6A
Piedmont High School 254.5 3A
Pleasant Valley High School 245.15 3A
Sacred Heart Catholic School 74.25 1A (2A for basketball)
Saks High School 291.1 3A (Was 4A)
Walter Wellborn High School 287.5 3A
Weaver High School 277.55 3A
White Plains High School 321.8 4A

Alabama School for the Deaf 78 1A
Alabama School for the Blind 39 1A
Cedar Bluff High School 170.65 2A (Was 1A)
Central High School of Clay County 443.4 5A
Cherokee County High School 358.45 4A
Cleburne County High School 371.35 4A (Was 5A)
Etowah High School 458.25 5A
Gadsden City High School 1133.7 7A
Glencoe High School 258.55 3A
Handley High School 361.35 4A
Lincoln High School 375.3 4A (Was 5A)
Munford High School 403.75 5A (Was 4A)
Randolph County High School 235.15 3A
Ragland High School 114 1A
Ranburne High School 173 2A
Southside High School, Gadsden 591.4 5A (Was 6A)
Spring Garden High School 147.6 1A
Sylacauga High School 515.9 5A
Talladega Co. Central High Sch. 92.3 1A
Talladega High School 367.8 4A (Was 5A)
Wadley High School 123.35 1A
Westbrook Christian School 211.07 2A
Woodland High School 159.95 2A

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