By Gene Stanley/Sports Correspondent
Earlier this week, the Alabama High School Athletic Association voted to up the number of classifications, and Gadsden City is one of the schools affected.
Instead of the traditional six classes that were in use since 1984, there will now be seven classes, with the top 32 schools forming a “super class” which will be designated at 7A.
“The vote was unanimous,” said Gadsden City athletic director Carl Hunter. “The Central Board of Control has been meeting for the last couple of days and they voted on it today (Jan. 22). Around the state, there were a lot of people for it and a lot against, but there is such a big discrepancy between the biggest schools and the smaller 6As that it made sense.”
The Titans’ Class 7A, Region 4 mates will be almost the same teams – Bob Jones, Buckhorn, Grissom, Hazel Green, Huntsville, James Clements and Sparkman – as the last couple of years, except the dropping of Oxford and Pell City, which remain in 6A.
Buckhorn, Grissom and Huntsville will be Gadsden City’s area opponents in sports other than football.
“It may affect our travel in some sports,” Hunter said. “But we’re looking forward to the new challenge. Some people don’t like change, but it keeps it interesting. And of course, when you move up some schools, it will make other schools also move up.”
The other Etowah County schools affected are Southside and Westbrook Christian. The Panthers will now participate as a 6A school while the Warriors move up a class to 3A.
“We’re kind of excited and kind of anxious about it at the same time,” said Southside athletic director Chris Winningham. “I think we’ll be competitive in our region and areas. In fact, the football region is all the same except for a couple of schools.”
Fort Payne, Arab, Brewer, Scottsboro and Lee-Huntsville all moved up to 6A and will be part of Southside’s Region 7 along with Albertville.
“We had been dreading it but we all breathed a sigh of relief when it came out and we saw we weren’t part of that group with Birmingham schools,” Winningham said.
Westbrook is a member of Region 6, with schools that have been 3A for a few years, including Glencoe, Ashville, Piedmont, Walter Wellborn and Weaver. Ohatchee and Pleasant Valley moved up with Westbrook from Class 2A.
“Like anything else, we’ll do what the state says,” Westbrook athletic director Matt Kennedy said. “We’ll prepare the kids and go out and compete to the best of our ability. We’re in a tough region for football, but coach (Tony) Osborne has been playing Glencoe and Hokes Bluff and some of those other bigger schools, so it’s not too big a leap.”
In other sports, the Warriors will compete with Glencoe, Ashville and Ohatchee.
Westbrook is the second smallest school in 3A. The Warriors missed the cutoff for 2A by less than one pupil.
“I just wish the numbers had worked out differently so that we had remained in 2A,” Kennedy said. “But if we’re in 3A, we’ll do our best to represent our school.”
Etowah (5A), Sardis and Hokes Bluff (4A), Glencoe (3A), Gaston and West End (2A) and Coosa Christian (1A) remain in the classification they have played in for the past few years, but will be affected by other schools’ movements.
In terms of re-configured football regions, 5A, Region 7 features Boaz, Butler, Douglas, Fairview, Guntersville, Madison County and Randolph; 4A, Region 7 includes Hokes Bluff, Sardis, Cherokee County, Cleburne County, Crossville, Jacksonville, Saks and White Plains; 2A, Region 7 consists of Gaston, West End, Fyffe, Ider, Section, Cleveland and Collinsville; and 1A, Region 7 is made up of Coosa Christian, Cedar Bluff, Gaylesville, Jacksonville Christian, Spring Garden, Valley Head and Woodville.
The new change does away with nine-team football regions and balances out most other sports in that there will be less three- and five-team areas.
Another change is that schools will have 11 weeks to play 10 football games. If a school wants to play a re-gular game on the weekend that has traditionally been “jamboree week,” they may do so and play their other nine games during the next 10 weeks. However, they may still play a jamboree instead if that is their wish.