Who’s up, who’s down in new regions

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 30, 2005

There’s not much point in guessing right now about the impact of last week’s new AHSAA alignments for next year’s football season.

It’s nine months away. At this point, rosters are pure, undiluted conjecture. Spring practice is still just a gleam in the coaches’ eyes. I doubt the cow that will be next year’s Wilson has even become tonight’s beef tips yet.

But there is some point to the speculation: namely, it’s fun. So understanding that the following designations are, like a folding chair to the back of the head in WWE, strictly for entertainment, here’s who got a Hand Up and a Push Back from the AHSAA in the new football alignment:

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Hand Up: Linden. Which would you rather be? The smallest school in 2A, or the largest one in 1A? Would you rather be in a region with a brand-new bunch of teams, two of which happen to be this year’s 2A semifinalists in Southern Choctaw and Leroy, or in your same old region with your natural rivals like John Essex and A.L. Johnson? Linden was getting the former until the Alabama School for the Deaf changed their minds about competing as a full member of the AHSAA. The ASD’s departure created a hole in 1A which Linden was slid back to fill. Maybe the Patriots will add ASD to their Christmas card list.

Push Back: Demopolis. Not for the move to 5A, necessarily: Demopolis was one of the state’s larger 4A schools and has grown consistently, making the move up in class one the program has known was coming for quite some time. What might not have been expected was that Tuscaloosa schools like Northridge and Paul Bryant would move up to 6A while Central-Tuscaloosa dropped all the way to 4A after the ASD reshuffling. Demopolis’s new 5A Region 3 now stretches all the way to Columbiana (Shelby Co.), Clanton (Chilton Co.), and McCalla (McAdory). Long travel times aren’t that big a deal, of course, but after the uptick in competition that comes with the move to 5A it’ll be one more hassle Doug Goodwin and his staff would likely have preferred not to deal with. It could have been worse for Demopolis, though: old 4A foes Bibb and Dallas Co. moved up alongside the Tigers.

Hand Up: Livingston and Greene Co. Four of last year’s top five finishers in 4A Region 4–Demopolis, Greensboro, Southside-Selma, and Bibb Co., who compiled a 7-1 record against the Panthers and Tigers–are gone. In their place are teams like 1-9 Central-Tuscaloosa, 3-7 Oak Grove, 4-6 Holt, and 2-8 (in 3A) Northside. Playoff berths sure aren’t exactly guaranteed, but they should be more likely than they have been for the two basketball powers. And speaking of basketball powers…

Hand Up: Sumter County and Francis Marion. Things were already better for the area’s only 2005 3A teams when the move from Region 3 to Region 1 took them away from three of the four playoff teams ahead of them this season (Midfield, West Blocton, and Aliceville are elsewhere, but they will still face Clarke Co.) Then after the ASD-induced revision, 4A playoff team Greensboro was replaced by 1-9 3A also-ran Calhoun. Other new regional opponents for Sumter and FMHS include new AHSAA member Mobile Christian (5-4 in AISA AAA) and 2-8 Choctaw Co. There will still be plenty of work to do for either the Wildcats or Rams, but the playoffs will be a much more realistic goal in 2006.

Push Back: Greensboro. You might have thought the AHSAA was doing the Raiders a favor by dropping from 4A to 3A, but it’d be hard to think it after looking at Greensboro’s new region. There’s no reason coach Michael Reynolds can’t get his improving team back to the playoffs, but it won’t be easy. The Raiders’ 3A Region 4 is loaded. Seven of the eight teams made last year’s playoffs: Greensboro in 4A, Winfield (state semifinalist), Aliceville (10-0 regular season) and West Blocton in 3A, and Gordo, Cordova, and Lamar Co. in 2A. It’s a good thing Greensboro’s getting better. Only being as good as last year won’t cut it with that group.

To Be Determined: 1A Region 4. You could forgive the coaches of 1A Region 4 for wishing that rapidly-growing American Christian would hurry up and make the jump to 2A, what with their running undefeated through the region each of the last three seasons. But in South Lamar, ACA has been replaced by a team almost as fearsome. The Stallions have gone 20-4 the past two seasons, with their only regular season losses coming to–you guessed it–ACA. With the Patriots having lost 17 seniors off of this year’s semifinalist team including All-Everything quarterback Chris Smelley, come the close of 2006 it’s at least possible the rest of Region 4 will have been better off seeing ACA stick around.