E.A. Sports Today

Golden Eagles flying South

UPDATED: Jacksonville, Calhoun County 4As moving to South in reclassification; Ohatchee returns to 3A with all county 3As plus two late additions: Glencoe, Hokes Bluff

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today
Nobody will ever confuse Jacksonville, Ala., with Jacksonville, Fla., but the way the new classifications for high school football in Alabama turned out Tuesday it might be hard to tell.
As the AHSAA completed its biennial reshuffling of the classifications and regions for all teams in the state, the Golden Eagles were placed in Class 4A Region 4 for football, an alignment that will have this year’s 4A North champion making postseason plans (for the next two years at least) in the south. 
The good thing is they were put there with a lot of familiar opponents for the regular season: Anniston, White Plains, Cleburne County, Cherokee County, Munford and Handley. Now, a ride from Centre to Handley might be long enough (approximately 90 miles), but the real difficult part is when it comes to the playoffs, a couple teams might be required to take a long bus ride to the coast.
“I think region wise travel turned out OK, I don’t think any of those are deal busters, but the playoffs are where it’s going to turn into a possibility of a lot of travel,” Jacksonville athletics director David Clark said shortly after the reclassification was announced. “I know it falls that way, but it creates some travel issues for our football team; it’s going to be a long ride if they’re fortunate to get in the playoff, it’s going to be a long ride if we’re not home.”
AHSAA executive director Steve Savarese explained the “primary goal” in the reclassification process is to “reduce travel as much as possible.” He recognized there were schools that might have a little more travel than others, but generally speaking travel is minimize.

Cherokee County is by far the northernmost South team in the state in any classification (80 miles from the Tennessee line, 287 from Florida), and five of the seven region teams are north of I-20. For his part, Warriors coach Jacob Kelley hasn’t really looked into the ramifications of the alignment yet, but he was “excited” about the prospects it brought.

“(The kids) are like me, they’re excited,” he said. “A lot of them don’t realize what being in the South kind of means long term. If we’re blessed enough to do what we’re supposed to do and make the playoffs I don’t think they’ve grasped that we could be going to Mobile in the first round, we could be going to Dothan or Montgomery or whatever the crossovers are.

“I don’t know if they know exactly what being in South Alabama means. Up here in Centre you don’t really think about it like that … You don’t really think about it in a negative aspect when it comes to (the playoffs).”

The only other significant change within football in the county is Ohatchee will be returning to Class 3A after playing in Class 2A these last two seasons. The Indians will play in a football region with county rivals Piedmont (the reigning state champion), Pleasant Valley, Saks, Weaver and Wellborn and Childersburg.
How tough a league is the Indians getting into after dominating 2A Region 6 the last two years? Here are the records of the seven teams that will compete in 3A Region 5 since 2016: Piedmont 53-6, Ohatchee 41-7, Saks 33-13, Wellborn 24-19, Weaver 23-23, Pleasant Valley 16-24, Childersburg 14-27. Those teams were a combined 39-38 in 2015.
“We’re excited to be back in our local proximity 3A league,” Ohatchee coach Scott Martin said. “It definitely helps with traveling. It helps with the rivalries … I knew our 3A league was as tough as any league we had ever been in. When we went down to the Double-A there were some good schools in 2A but from top to bottom the region wasn’t as strong. I think the region in 3A is a lot stronger from top to bottom. It makes for more competitive games on a week-in week-out basis.”

(In a late-breaking development, Childersburg is out of 3A Region 5, replaced by Glencoe and Hokes Bluff, making it an eight-team league. The revision is expected to impact several regions. Childersburg is now is Region 4, in the South. The revision, which thé AHSAA pegged on a ‘’miscalculation in data’’ for two private school, impacted 13 football teams statewide and scheduling agreements for many others.)

The volleyball, swimming and cross country alignments also were revealed Tuesday. While the Jacksonville football team is heading South, Clark’s Lady Golden Eagles volleyball program will remain in the familiar North, paired with Anniston, White Plains and Cherokee County.
The winter sports reclassification will be announced after the basketball season concludes and the spring sports will be announced after baseball/softball concludes. The delays are being done to accommodate the competitive balance formula for private schools into the equation.
Three private school football programs – 1A runner-up Mars Hill Bible, 3A runner-up Mobile Christian and 4A champion UMS-Wright – will move up one class from their current classification. Two schools bumped up in the first Competitive Balance application – Madison Academy and St. Paul’s Episcopal — did not meet the threshold to remain in the higher class during the current classification period and will drop back one class to 4A and 5A, respectively in the new classification period.
Other public school programs have moved in classification based on their attendance figures. Six of the eight football state finalists in Class 1A through 4A are changing classifications for various reasons, with the only ones staying put being Piedmont and Jacksonville.
A total of 104 schools changed classifications largely due to the AHSAA’s new system of counting attendance in grades 9 through 11 as opposed to the traditional 10 through 12, accounting for all students that would be eligible through the two years of the classification cycle.

Jacksonville played for the Class 4A football state championship this year out of the North. Golden Eagles football coach Clint Smith has been in a Calhoun County football program that played in the South before – at Saks. At least he’ll be in a league with “a lot of familiar faces.”
“The biggest change is being in the South, you could end up playing a (playoff) game in Mobile,” he said. “It is what it is. I think it’s going to be a very competitive region. You’ve got to beat them all at some point. North, South, East, West, you just gotta load up and play who you’ve gotta play.”
Talk about familiar faces. Another quirk of the Region 4 realignment, White Plains will be matched with former Wildcats head coach Larry Strain and Chris White.
Here are the football regions impacting Calhoun County teams:
Class 4A Region 4: Anniston, Cherokee County, Cleburne County, Handley, Jacksonville, Munford, White Plains.
Class 1A Region 5: Donoho, Ragland, Talladega County Central, Victory Christian, Wadley, Winterboro, Woodland.
Class 3A Region 5: Childersburg, Ohatchee, Piedmont, Pleasant Valley, Saks, Weaver, Wellborn.
Class 5A Region 6: Alexandria, Center Point, Corner, Hayden, Leeds, Lincoln, Moody, St. Clair County.
Class 6A Region 7: Arab, Fort Payne, Oxford, Pell City, Scottsboro, Southside, Springville.
Others of note: 
Class 2A Region 4: B.B. Comer, Fayetteville, Horseshoe Bend, LaFayette, Lanett, Ranburne, Randolph County.
Class 2A Region 6: Cleveland, Gaston, Locust Fork, Sand Rock, Southeastern, Spring Garden, Westbrook Christian.
z-Class 3A Region 6: Glencoe, Hokes Bluff, Holly Pond, J.B. Pennington, Susan Moore, Tarrant, Vinemont.
Class 5A Region 4: Beauregard, Clay Central, Elmore County, Holtville, Sylacauga, Talladega, Tallassee.
z-AHSAA working on late revision that is expected to put Glencoe, Hokes Bluff in Class 3A Region 5.

Here are the volleyball alignments impacting Calhoun County teams:
Class 1A Area 10: Donoho, Faith Christian, Jacksonville Christian, Ragland, Sacred Heart.
Class 3A Area 9: Childersburg, Saks, Wellborn.
Class 3A Area 11: Ohatchee, Piedmont, Pleasant Valley, Weaver.
Class 4A Area 9: Anniston, Cherokee County, Jacksonville, White Plains. (Also, Cleburne County, Munford Area 7)
Class 5A Area 11: Alexandria, Lincoln, Moody, St. Clair County.
Class 6A Area 13: Oxford, Pell City, Southside, Springville.
Here are the cross country alignments impacting Calhoun County teams:
Class 1A-2A Section 2: Donoho, Faith Christian, Jacksonville Christian, Sacred Heart.
Class 3A Section 2: Ohatchee, Saks.
Class 3A Section 3: Pleasant Valley.
Class 4A Section 2: Anniston, Jacksonville, White Plains.
Class 5A Section 3: Alexandria.
Class 6A Section 5: Oxford.

Here are the official average daily enrollment figures for Calhoun County schools impacting their positioning in the AHSAA classifications:

Oxford 901.20 (No. 16 6A)
Alexandria 393.80 (No. 49 5A)
Jacksonville 362.10 (No. 9 4A)
White Plains 315.50 (No. 40 4A)
Anniston 315.45 (No. 41 4A)
Saks 258.20 (No. 25 3A)
Wellborn 257.70 (No. 26 3A)
Piedmont 250.65 (No. 31 3A)
Weaver 247.45 (No. 39 3A)
Ohatchee 245.65 (No. 40 3A)
Pleasant Valley 232.65 (No. 50 3A)
Donoho 140.40 (No. 5 1A)
x-Faith Christian 101.72 (No. 46 1A)
x-Jacksonville Christian 58.05 (No. 68 1A)
x-Sacred Heart 39.83 (No. 74 1A)
x-Does not play football
Rankings are based on information released at time of the realignment announcement.

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