By David Knox
TRUSSVILLE — The Alabama High School Athletic Association approved through its Central Board of Control the new reclassification and alignments for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years last week.
The AHSAA retains its seven class makeup (in most sports) ranked by school enrollment and then aligned by geography. Class 7A retains 32 schools with varying numbers in each class down to 1A. Class 6A has 55 football-playing schools, for example.
Several area schools are greatly impacted this time around by the biennial process. The biggest news is that Hewitt-Trussville has been moved from Class 7A, Region 4 to 7A-3.
Regions are not conferences or leagues in that they don’t continue but are reconfigured every two years, but as a group often have several of the same schools due to location and minimal fluctuation in school enrollment over time.
Hewitt-Trussville was in a Class 7A, Region 3 during the first two years of the Josh Floyd era. The Huskies competed against the likes of Hoover, Spain Park, Vestavia Hills, Oak Mountain, Mountain Brook, Thompson and Tuscaloosa County. The Huskies had reasonable success, finishing fourth and third, making the playoffs both seasons in what Alabama high school fans like to call the “SEC West” of Alabama high school football due to its high level of competitiveness.
The past two years have seen Hewitt in Region 4, primarily filled with schools from the Huntsville metro area plus Gadsden City and Hewitt. The Huskies dominated, taking two region titles and going unbeaten in region play.
The new 7A-3 will consist of Hewitt, Hoover, Spain Park, Mountain Brook, Vestavia Hills, Thompson, Oak Mountain and Tuscaloosa County. Hewitt is the only “newcomer.” Huffman dropped to Class 6A and will join a region with Clay-Chalkville and Pinson Valley.
Trussville City Schools Athletics Director Lance Walker said the move back brings positives and challenges, but his position and that of the coaches and players is that wherever Hewitt is placed, the Huskies are ready to go and compete and enjoy the experience.
“Coming back to Birmingham, I think people are kind of excited,” Walker said. “Our kids grew up in youth sports playing the Mountain Brooks and Vestavias and now they’ll be able to recapture those rivalries.
“From a fan’s standpoint, it’s easier on our supporters going to region games and for our home games we’ll have more fans there just because of the proximity to the other schools.”
Hoover is playing for another state football championship Friday, and the Bucs were runner-up in the region to resurgent Thompson. There are no misconceptions about the difficulty level.
“It’s certainly going to be a challenge, but I think it’ll bring out the best in us. To get where you want to be, you’re going to have to eventually beat these teams.”
The new 7A-4 doesn’t add a Birmingham area team; Florence and Austin both moved up from 6A and join Gadsden City, Bob Jones, James Clemens, Sparkman, Huntsville and Grissom. Buckhorn dropped to 6A.
Other sports are affected, even though they play in subregions or areas. Hewitt will now compete with some powerhouses in basketball and volleyball, for example. In basketball, the Huskies will now battle Mountain Brook, Spain Park and Vestavia Hills. In volleyball, they’ll compete with John Carroll Catholic, Mountain Brook, Spain Park and Vestavia Hills. In baseball, softball and soccer, it’s with Vestavia Hills, Mountain Brook and Spain Park.
“And with a four-team area in some of our sports, as opposed to an eight-team football region, sometimes only two schools advance to the playoffs, so that makes it very difficult. But again, our kids are used to and look forward to competing with, for example, Vestavia Hills in baseball,” Walker said.
Hewitt-Trussville is the 28th largest school in the state with an enrollment of 1,105.75. Enrollment figures are based on Average Daily Membership figures furnished by the State Department of Education for public schools for the upper three grades plus night-grade students that are retained in the ninth grade. AHSAA member private schools supply that same data directly to the AHSAA, which applies an index multiplier of 1.35 per private school student.
Elsewhere, Clay-Chalkville, as the 40th largest school in the state (991.45), remained in Class 6A as did rival Pinson Valley, which is playing for the state championship Friday.
They’ll both be in 6A-6 with Gardendale, Shades Valley, Oxford, Pell City and Huffman, which returns to 6A after two seasons in 7A.
Among the schools that were region mates for them in 2016-2017 that moved elsewhere are Minor, Carver and Jasper and Center Point (both down to 5A).
At first glance, it appears 6A-6 could be even more difficult, with more depth, than it is now, even with a state finalist and semifinalist. Oxford reached the quarterfinals, Shades Valley advanced to the second round and Pell City and holdover Gardendale also made the playoffs.
Huffman was overmatched in 7A-3, but did beat region foe Tuscaloosa County, lost by just six to Mountain Brook and nine to Spain Park. It swept all three 6A schools it played — McAdory, Bessemer City and Parker — to go 4-6 overall. The Vikings also went 4-6 in 2016, beating Tuscaloosa County and Oak Mountain in region play.
In the previous seasons in 6A in 2014 and 2015, the Vikings were 5-7 in region play, making the playoffs once.
Center Point, which struggled mightily in 6A football, drops to 5A. The Eagles are in Region 5 with Moody, Mortimer Jordan, Munford, Sylacauga, Central High of Clay County, Springville and its archrival St. Clair County, a state semifinalist under former Pinson Valley coach Matt Glover.
Two new facets of the reclassifying: Home-schoolers and other “non-traditional” students were factored in for the first time since the AHSAA made sports available to those groups in 2016-17. Also, the AHSAA used a new tool to determine which private schools should move up or down due to success. One result of this “competitive factor” system is that John Carroll is 7A in volleyball but 5A in football.