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Schools on the Move: AHSAA Central Board approves annual realignment

Story by Griffin Pritchard | Publisher

Photos by CAScoreboard Photography Staff

CENTRAL ALABAMA SCOREBOARD OFFICE – High schools across Alabama – Tuesday morning – had a few more experts in geography as the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s Central Board of Control approved realignment for the 2022-2024 athletic seasons. Nearly every school within the Coverage Community was affected by the decision. Opelika, for instance, moves up to 7A. Pike Road moves to 6A and – through competitive balancing – Montgomery Catholic moved up to 4A.

“We are excited for the challenge that 4A brings, but that’s what makes football so fun,” said Kirk Johnson, coach of the Knights. “It’s our jobs as coaches to coach and grow these young men. Hopefully we can continue to play at a high level and compete.”

The Knights – who played in the 3A championship game a year ago and lost in the semifinal this year – move into Class 4A Region 2 with Montgomery Academy (up due to competitive balancing), Andalusia (down from 5A) BT Washington, Bullock County, Dale County, Geneva and Slocomb. Andalusia lost in the 5A semifinal to eventual state champion Pike Road while Slocomb (up from 3A) lost to Hillcrest (Evergreen) in the quarterfinals.

Additional alignments can be found here: https://www.ahsaa.com/Schools/2022-2024-Alignments

The 2022-23 and 2023-24 football alignment places the 32 largest high schools in Class 7A and 57 in Class 6A, 56 in Class 5A, 62 in Class 4A, 60 in Class 3A, 60 in Class 2A, and 62 in Class 1A.

“I want to thank the Classification Task Force, Central Board and AHSAA staff for their dedicated effort and time put in and the recommendations they made,” AHSAA Executive Director Alvin Briggs said. “As always, it was a difficult job, but everyone worked together to find the best solution as we move forward.”

Starting with 7A Auburn High (the state’s largest high school, surpassing Hoover and Bob Jones)  moves into a region that is somewhat more familiar to their years in 6A: Central-Phenix City, Dothan, Enterprise, Jeff Davis, Opelika, Prattville, RE Lee (Montgomery) and Smiths Station.

IMG vs Auburn
Auburn’s Bakari Dailey (9) runs with a catch in the first half. Auburn vs IMG Academy on Friday, Oct. 29 in Auburn, Ala.

“This is definitely going to be a tough region,” said Keith Etheredge, coach of the Auburn High Tigers,” but we are excited for the opportunity to play some of the best teams in the state. The region is loaded and the only nine-team region in 7A.”

Opelika – who lost to eventual 6A runner-up Hueytown in the third round – is no stranger to the teams in this region having played all of them (with the exception of newly minted Dothan High) in the past. The Bulldogs and Lee Generals were actually in the same 6A region and advanced to the playoffs as champion and runners up.

“I thought we would move up,” said Eric Speakman, coach of the Bulldogs. “It’s going to be a challenge moving up and back into our old region.”

Moving down a classification to 6A, it appears that rivals Wetumpka and Stanhope Elmore were slotted into Region 2 to replace the 7A departures and are now competing against: Carver (Montgomery), Park Crossing, Pike Road, Russell County and Sidney Lanier.

“(Realignment) turned out like I figured,” said Brian Bradford, coach of the Stanhope Elmore Mustangs. “It’s fine with me because we’ve been in that region more times than not. But it was good to see different people the past two years.”

For Dillon Griggs and Russell County, new teams bring new expectations: “It’s going to be a very challenging region once again for us. We are excited to see some new teams, and look forward to hopefully making a push to the playoffs this fall.”

Those new teams Bradford mentioned – for the most part – stuck together with the addition of Briarwood Christian and Homewood. For Benjamin Russell High School the theme of going back to the future remains. The Wildcats – competing in 6A Region 3 – have at one point played all the teams throughout the years. Region 3 is comprised of Benjamin Russell, Briarwood Christian, Calera, Chilton County, Helena, Homewood and Pelham.

“We’re excited about the challenge this region will place in front of us,” said Aubrey Blackwell, coach of the Wildcats. “These are all great schools and communities that will create awesome atmospheres for Friday nights. I look forward to getting to compete with some of the best coaches in our state.”

Class 5A is where things start to get interesting. Tallassee and Elmore county remain region foes competing in Region 4 against Beauregard, Central-Clay County, Sylacauga and Valley. Holtville – however – moves into a region requiring a roadmap and an understanding of pigtrails. The Bulldogs will face: Demopolis, Jemison, Marbury, Shelby County and Selma this fall.

Trinity Presbyterian and Prattville Christian remain slotted into Class 3A region 3 but will have some new faces on the schedule this fall competing against: Alabama Christian, Greensboro, St. James, Southside-Selma and Sumter Central. Maybe the Wildcats and Panthers should borrow Holtville’s road map.

“We are excited to be a part of another extremely competitive region,” said Trinity Coach Granger Shook. “(And compete against) some top notch talent coupled with excellent coaches. This should be one of the top regions in our respective classes.”

Trinity – for the majority of the past season – was one of the top teams in 3A.

On the other side of the coin, Class 3A Region 4 Beulah finds themselves in an interesting spot competing against: Childersburg, Dadeville, Randolph County, Saks, Walter Wellborn and Weaver.

“I’m very excited about this region,” said Beulah Coach Matt Roberts. “I feel good about our team and hope we can compete against some really good teams.”

Reeltown drops back down 2A and is set to compete in a region featuring: Barbour County, Goshen, Highland Home, Horseshoe Bend, Lafayette, Lanett and Luverne. In 2A Region 4, the travel doesn’t get any easier as the league is comprised of: B.B. Comer, Coosa (County) Central, Fayetteville, Isabella, Ranburne, Vincent Middle/High and Woodland.

Class 2A – and AHSAA for that matter – newcomer Tuscaloosa Academy comes into the mix after leaving the Alabama Independent School Association where they lost in the Class AAA state championship game to Pike Liberal.

TA kickoffs their inaugural season against Aliceville, Cold Springs, Greene County, Lamar County, Sulligent and Winston County.

 “More than 190,000 student-athletes are expected to participate in AHSAA sports activities during the upcoming classification period,” Central Board President Van Phillips, principal at Center Point High School, said. “These recommendations came after many hours of study and discussion. Everyone involved gave of their valuable time to evaluate our classification system thoroughly and provided valuable input in ways to improve that system,” he said. “On behalf of the Central Board of Control and our member schools, I want to thank Mr. Briggs and his staff for their hard work. I also want to thank our Central Board for their commitment and dedication to providing a first-class athletic program to all our student-athletes, and for making decisions that are best for all of our member schools.”

The realignments affected more than just football – The Central Board also approved plans for Volleyball and Cross Country and will release the remaining sports once they are available.

Founder/Publisher of Central Alabama Scoreboard. Former sportsguy, managing editor, currently working for the City of Tallassee as a Public Information Specialist and grant writer.

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