0714 Hoover Football
Hoover’s Bucs will find themselves knocking heads with Spain Park again in Class 7A, Region 3
High school football is a Southern tradition, and Alabama is one of its leading celebrants. It’s been that way for generations.
But this season finds Alabama high school football undergoing its biggest change in 30 years.
The Alabama High School Athletic Association, by unanimous vote of its central board, has added a seventh class for the largest 32 schools in the state. This creates entirely new regional and class alignments and affects rivalries, travel and, most importantly, whether your school will make the playoffs.
In the Over the Mountain area, the so-called “Region of Doom” returns in a slightly different form in highly competitive Class 7A, Region 3. Back-to-back Class 6A state champ Hoover — rated by some preseason sources as a national championship favorite — is grouped with sister Hoover school Spain Park along with Vestavia Hills, Mountain Brook, Thompson, Oak Mountain, Tuscaloosa County and Hewitt-Trussville. Six of those eight made the 2013 Class 6A playoffs; three were region champions. But only four of these teams will make the 16-field 7A playoff bracket in 2014.
“It doesn’t make a whole of difference to us, since we’re the largest school in the state, we weren’t going to be 6A,” said Hoover coach Josh Niblett. “We’re looking forward to it, we’re excited about it. Any time you get the chance to compete at the highest level for the highest honor, it kind of sets the stage for you and gets the focus right for what you want to do.
“It’s kind of getting back to the old region we used to have, [Class 6A] Region 6, to a certain extent,” Niblett said. “You lose Pelham, but you pick up Tuscaloosa County. You pick Vestavia back up, not as a non-region game but as a region game. Get Mountain Brook back on the schedule. … And of course Spain Park. So we’re definitely looking forward to that. Which means week in, week out, you’ve got to prepare, you’ve got to be ready to go. I always see it as the SEC of high school football within the state of Alabama.”
This is the first major classification change the AHSAA has adopted since 1984, when the governing body increased from four classes to six. This change affects all sports, but it’s King Football that has garnered the most attention.
AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese said the seven-class system allows the organization to group schools more closely in enrollment, reduces the need for nine-team regions in football and has created fewer five-team areas in sports such as basketball, volleyball, baseball and softball.
Some members of the media have taken to calling Class 7A a “super class,” but 6A may be even more competitive. Class 6A is comprised of 60 schools in eight regions. Class 6A, Region 5 is home to Homewood, Briarwood Christian and John Carroll. The other schools in their region include Pelham, Minor, Jackson-Olin, Hueytown and Walker. Moving to Class 6A, Region 3 is Chelsea. The Fighting Hornets now have a travel challenge, playing in a region with Alexander City’s Benjamin Russell, Opelika, Valley of Fairfax (north of Auburn near the Georgia line), Pell City, Oxford and Chilton County.
Class 1A, Region 5 is home to Shades Mountain Christian. The Eagles are the westernmost school by a long shot, placed with Appalachian, Donoho, Ragland, Talladega County, Victory Christian in Pell City, Wadley and Winterboro.
In all classes except 7A, 32 schools will make the playoffs. The Super 6 Championships now become the Super 7. The championships alternate between Tuscaloosa and Auburn, and this year it’s Auburn’s turn.
The AHSAA Central Board also voted to allow football teams 11 weeks to schedule 10 games. Schools may elect to play a non-region contest the week of Aug. 21-23 and then have 10 weeks to play the remaining nine regular-season games.
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 will give schools more flexibility to schedule non-region games.