Some local schools move up, some down in re-classification

Published 5:34 pm Thursday, January 23, 2014

Chilton County High School will be moving up to Class 6A, and rival Jemison will move up to 5A in a revised classification system announced by the Alabama High School Athletic Association on Wednesday.

The AHSAA Central Board approved a new seven-classification system for all sports beginning with the 2014-15 and 2015-16 academic years.

Since 1984, schools across the state have been grouped into six classifications based on enrollment.

Class 7A will include the state’s 32 largest schools, including Hoover, Baker and Sparkman.

“The seven-classification system will allow more student-athletes to participate in championship events and more will experience first-hand what it means to play in some of the best venues in our state,” AHSAA Central Board President Lamar Brooks said in a release. “With the addition of an extra championship game, revenues should increase which will mean much-needed additional money for all schools through the AHSAA revenue sharing program.”

AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese said the seven-class system allows the AHSAA to group schools more closely in enrollment, also reduces the need for nine-team regions in football and has created fewer five-team areas in sports like basketball, volleyball, baseball and softball.

“It also will allow more schools to make the state playoffs and will crown more state champions than at any other time in the history of our organization.”

Re-classification is conducted every two years and is based on average daily enrollment numbers provided by the state Board of Education. Member private schools supply the same enrollment information for their schools or school systems.

After 7A was set, the remaining six classes were divided as equally as possible with 60 schools in 6A, 61 in 5A, 60 in 4A, 60 in 3A, 58 in 2A and 58 making up Class 1A.

Chilton County High School, with a reported average enrollment of 583.25, will be the fourth-smallest 6A school.

Other changes for local schools include Thorsby dropping from 3A to 2A and Isabella dropping from 2A to 1A.

Billingsley, Maplesville and Verbena will remain in 1A. Billingsley is the largest 1A school with an enrollment of 144.7.

In varsity football, Billingsley, Isabella and Verbena will all compete in Region 3 (along with Autaugaville, Loachapoka, Notasulga and St. Jude), while the area’s other 1A school, Maplesville, was placed in Region 4 with A.L. Johnson, Akron, Ellwood Christian, Keith, Linden and Sunshine.

Thorsby’s Region 4 in football will include Fayetteville, Francis Marion, Holy Spirit, Pickens County, R.C. Hatch and Vincent.

Jemison’s Region 4 will include Calera, Central-Tuscaloosa, Dallas County, Demopolis, Helena, Sumter-Central and Wilcox-Central.

JHS football coach Jake Hogan said travel will be an issue in the new region but that he is excited about the school moving up in classifications.

“I feel like it’s an opportunity for us,” Hogan said. “Maybe we’ll be able to get the kids more exposure.

“The one thing you knew when they started talking about realignment was you’re not going to be able to keep everybody happy.”

In Class 6A, Region 5, CCHS is joined by Benjamin Russell, Chelsea, Opelika, Oxford, Pell City and Valley.

Prior to the implementation of a six-classification system in 1984, schools were grouped in a four-classification system from 1964-1983 and a two-classification system from 1947-1964. Prior to 1947, the AHSAA had just one classification system.

The Central Board also approved a recommendation by the Football Committee that will allow football teams 11 weeks to schedule 10 games. Schools may elect to play a non-region contest the week of Aug. 21-22-23 and then have 10 weeks to play the remaining nine regular-season games.

Maplesville football coach and athletic director Brent Hubbert said he was a member of the Football Committee that made the recommendation, at least in part so teams could have more flexibility in scheduling traditional opponents.

“It opens up an extra week for somebody to play a rivalry game,” Hubbert said.

Schools can still agree to play a non-counting jamboree or regulation game that first week but would then have the remaining 10 weeks to schedule the maximum 10 regular-season contests. This format is intended to give schools more flexibility to schedule non-region games.