Messenger file photo by Gary Wells
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
When the dust settled following the release of the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s reclassification for the 2020-21 to 2021-22 academic semesters on Tuesday, Dec. 17, one local school moved up, two moved down and eight stayed put.
Class 5A Southside moved to 6A, where it will be the classification’s ninth smallest school with
601.5 students. The Panthers are not strangers to 6A, as they competed in that classification from 2014-2017. The SHS football team will share Region 7 with Arab, Fort Payne, Oxford, Pell City, Scottsboro and Springville.
For the first time in 36 years, Etowah will compete in a classification other than 5A. With 366.25 students, the Blue Devils dropped to 4A. The last time Etowah belonged to 4A was in 1981. The Blue Devils’ Region 6 football competition includes Ashville, Dora, Fultondale, Good Hope, Hanceville and Oneonta.
“It’s kind of the same scenario with both our new region and dropping down to 4A in that we don’t really know much yet,” said Etowah head football coach John Holladay. “There’s a lot of question marks in terms of preparation. But we’re excited because there will be some new opponents and some new venues for us to play in. So, we’re excited to see what next year holds for us.”
Hokes Bluff returned to Class 3A following eight seasons in 4A. With 269.30 students, Hokes Bluff is the 10th largest school in 3A. Along with Etowah County neighbor Glencoe, the Eagles will face Ohatchee, Piedmont, Pleasant Valley, Saks, Walter Wellborn and Weaver in Region 5 competition.
Although head football coach Mike Robertson (pictured above) believes that Eagles traditionally have been a 3A school athlete-wise if not numbers-wise, he noted that the change affected his ability to schedule his non-region games for the 2020 season.
“I had some options before [the re-classification] and now I don’t have any. I had a few agreements in pace that I’ve had to get out of. We’ll still have to play some pretty tough teams [in 3A Region 5] but I’ve found that there is a lot more depth in 4A.”
Gadsden City (7A), Sardis (5A), Ashville (4A), Glencoe (3A), Westbrook Christian (2A), West End (2A), Gaston (2A) and Coosa Christian (1A) all remained at their current classifications. Gadsden City, who is the fourth smallest out of 32 Class 7A school with 1,059.55 students, will be a member of Class 7A, Region 3 in football, which consists of Birmingham-area schools Hewitt-Trussville, Hoover, Oak Mountain, Spain Park and Vestavia Hills along with Thompson and Tuscaloosa County.
GCHS head football coach Ali Smith noted that his program plays five of those region teams on a regular basis in freshman and junior varsity football, so he and his players are familiar with those teams.
“We kind of already knew that we were going to the [Birmingham area region],” said GCHS head football coach Ali Smith. “Our kids are excited about the opportunity. Plus, it’s great for us logistically in that most of those teams are [located] straight down the interstate instead of way up in the Huntsville area. So we won’t have to leave school as early and it helps us out financially.”
Sardis, who is 47th out of 60 5A schools with 398.80 students, will belong to Region 7 with Sand Mountain neighbors Boaz, Crossville, Douglas, and Guntersville along with Fairview and West Point.
Ashville, which will be the fifth smallest 4A school with 284.65 students, joins Etowah in Region 6.
Glencoe, which will be 42nd among 59 3A schools with 244.15 students, will compete in Region 5 with Hokes Bluff.
Westbrook will be the fourth largest 2A school with 219.51 students, West End is 34th in 2A with 178.95 students and Gaston is the fourth smallest 2A school (59th) with 145.30 students. All three football teams will be in Region 6 in addition to Sand Rock, Spring Garden, Cleveland, Locust Fork and Southeastern.
Westbrook athletic director and head baseball coach Matt Kennedy admitted that the Warriors dodged a bullet in narrowly avoiding 3A, especially since a private school’s enrollment is automatically multiplied by 1.35 per student.
“It will help us tremendously. Not to say that anyone on our region will be soft, but quite honestly, we’re thankful not to be in that group with Ohatchee and Piedmont.”
Coosa Christian is 67th out of 76 1A schools with 59.4 students. The Conquerors’ Region 7 competition will consist of Appalachian, Cedar Bluff, Gaylesville, Sumiton Christian, Valley Head and Woodville.