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December 17, 2014

Joe Medley: Oxford vs. Anniston: Wouldn’t it be nice?

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Posted: Tuesday, August 19, 2014 8:13 pm | Updated: 8:18 pm, Tue Aug 19, 2014.

The high school football season kicks off this week, with intriguing jamborees and some regular-season games, but let’s dream about what could be.

Oxford playing at Southside sounds like an interesting matchup, but imagine if we had something better. Something like a true rivalry.

Anniston doesn’t play this week, but what if the Bulldogs’ season opener was what it once was, not so long ago?

We can imagine Anniston and Oxford breaking the ice and resuming their rivalry again, because the AHSAA made a rule this year that removed one reason for it not to happen.

The AHSAA football coaches committee recommended to the central board that region tie breaker L in football be adjusted. It now reads: “The team whose defeated non-region opponents within two classes (above or below) have the most victories, if all teams involved in the tie play an equal number of games.”

The rule previously read “in class or above.”

The change, suggested by Glencoe coach Lee Ozmint and approved in the spring, allows schools to schedule rivals in classifications no more than two below them and count the wins of that defeated opponent, if locked in a tie for a region playoff berth.

“This is an important step in (that) some schools that have grown at different rates gave up important rivalry games due to the old tie breaker application,” AHSAA spokesman Ron Ingram said.

Oxford has been Class 6A since 2006. Anniston bumped down from 5A to 4A in 2008 but inched back up to 5A with this year’s reclassification.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we were starting with a big rivalry game this week or next, when the season starts in earnest?

Imagine an Anniston-Oxford crowd.

Imagine an Anniston-Oxford gate.

Would eight years and, say, a $42,000 gate be enough to consider that a frightening event in 2006 was an anomaly?

Word is Oxford doesn’t see gates like that now, and it’s hard to see this season’s home opponents bringing big enough crowds from as far as Valley, Opelika and Decatur. Pell City and Vestavia Hills will probably bring Oxford’s best gates.

Oxford continues to play Gadsden City, despite the Titans’ move up to the newly created 7A, but they play at Gadsden this year. Having Anniston at home would sure help the coffers.

Sure, there are bigger issues, and it’s hard to forget gunfire. It’s hard to forget the scene of players and coaches from both teams and referees crouched on Oxford’s Lamar Field in 2006.

A 21-year-old man was shot in the abdomen on the visitors’ side, leading to two arrests. Neither the victim, who survived, nor the 21- and 19-year-olds arrested were students, but we understand safety concerns.

We especially understand concern for the safety of young people.

That’s why Oxford stopped playing Anniston in all sports, outside of Calhoun County tournaments or meets in various sports. There is no county tournament in football, so the two schools that formed one of the area’s top rivalries haven’t played in that sport since that 2006 game.

There was also a pre-existing competitive matter for Oxford in 2006. Anniston had moved down to 4A in 2004, so the two were no longer in the same classification. Oxford already gained nothing by beating Anniston.

This year’s rule change alleviated the tiebreaker issue. Beating Anniston can help Oxford in the event of a playoff tiebreaker, and the point of the rule change was to encourage the rescheduling of lost rivalries.

As for the 2006 shooting, time continues to pass without such scares during Anniston football games. Here’s hoping that enough time will soon pass, such that we can have an Anniston-Oxford opener again.

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