Reclassification years always bring a little extra excitement to high school football.
We’ll see new teams, but also old rivalries. We’ll have teams in new classifications, but others sitting right where they have been in the past. There will be strong programs continuing their tradition of making the state playoffs, but we may also see a darkhorse make a magical run, as well.
The new football season comes with a lot of eagerness, but there’s also some negatives, including the fall of Class 4A, Region 5. That region was nothing short of a week-in, week-out war that featured Alexandria, Anniston, Cherokee County, Cleburne County, Jacksonville, Munford, Lincoln and others. No one ever knew what would happen week to week, but there was always at least one surprise.
Boy, was it fun.
With Alexandria, Anniston and Lincoln moving to 5A and Munford moving south in 4A, things have opened up for a ton of local interest to Class 3A, Region 6, which includes Piedmont, Wellborn, Pleasant Valley, Weaver, Ohatchee, Glencoe and others.
At the same time, don’t forget about Oxford’s journey south in 6A, Clay Central’s trip up to 5A or Ranburne being reunited for former foes.
It should go without saying the next two years should be a lot of fun. And it all starts in a couple of weeks.
Here are some thoughts about how each region involving a local team will go:
Class 6A, Region 3
Oxford initially appeared to have dodged a bullet by not moving up to 7A, but the move south is more than likely going to be harder than what 7A has to offer. Not only are the Yellow Jackets without Auburn signee Roc Thomas, but Region 3 features four teams besides Oxford who made the playoffs last year. Benjamin Russell has been transformed by longtime Clay County coach Danny Horn, and it’s possible the Wildcats will run the region. Oxford will need to find a new way to generate offense while continuing to play strong defense if it plans to make the playoffs this fall.
Region Favorite: Opelika
Also in playoffs: Benjamin Russell, Oxford, Chilton County
Darkhorse: Pell City
Trying to break in: Chelsea, Valley
Class 5A, Region 6
Alexandria, Anniston and Lincoln may have the smoothest transitions up a classification in the state. Of the teams in Region 6, only Mortimer Jordan made the 5A playoffs last year, and it went 4-7 on the year. St. Clair County made the 4A playoffs, but also posted a 5-6 record. Lincoln made the postseason out of the same region as Alexandria and Anniston. There are no definites out of Region 6 this fall, but teams have a good reason to be optimistic with the region title up for the taking.
Region favorite: Alexandria
Also in playoffs: Moody, St. Clair County, Lincoln
Trying to break in: Hayden, Mortimer Jordan, Springville
Class 5A, Region 3
Clay Central has seen nothing but success on the field in the last two years and doesn’t expect that to decline this fall. The Volunteers move to 5A was expected, and after finishing as a region winner and runner-up the last two years, it’s time for a new challenge. Beauregard, which finished last season 8-3, and Sylacauga, which went 8-4 last year, most like provide the biggest threat to Clay Central. However, don’t sleep on Tallassee or any of the veteran 5A teams.
Region Favorite: Clay Central
Also in playoffs: Beauregard, Tallassee, Sylacauga
Trying to break in: Marbury, Shelby County
Class 4A, Region 6
Saks moves up to 4A, but if its spring game against 5A Alexandria was any indication, the Wildcats are going to be fine without most of their starters from a year ago. If Cleburne County can stay healthy, it has a chance to push Saks for the region title, but after that, potential drops. Cherokee County is back on the rise after winning one game in 2012, and Jacksonville is looking to make its second straight postseason trip since 1998-99. Despite landing a huge hire in Larry Strain, White Plains is most likely still a couple years away from competing for a postseason spot.
Region favorite: Saks
Also in playoffs: Cleburne County, Cherokee County, Jacksonville
Trying to break in: Crossville, Hokes Bluff, White Plains
Class 4A, Region 3
Munford moved south with the realignment, and the Lions have their work cut out for them. A year ago, Dadeville and Munford won their respective regions and Leeds played for the Class 3A state championship. Handley and Childersburg also made the 4A playoffs. Munford lost of a number of key players, including quarterback Monteo Garrett and safety Tavon Lawson, but the Lions don’t have time to think about who’s not back if they plan on making a postseason run this fall.
Region favorite: Leeds
Also in playoffs: Dadeville, Munford, Childersburg
Trying to break in: Elmore County, Holtville
Class 3A, Region 6
Region 6 is split between having three preseason top-10 teams at the top and five teams that vary from so-so to struggling. No. 2 Piedmont, No. 5 Wellborn and No. 8 Glencoe are equipped to potentially put together deep-postseasons runs. Other than that, several teams will battle for the fourth playoff spot, including Pleasant Valley, which has a chance to have its first winning season since 2008 and first playoff appearance since 2010.
Region favorite: Piedmont
Also in playoffs: Wellborn, Glencoe, Westbrook Christian
Darkhorse: Pleasant Valley
Trying to break in: Weaver, Ohatchee, Ashville
Class 2A, Region 5
Ranburne moves back south and will face a lot of familiar foes. The Bulldogs, who made the playoffs last year for the first time since 2007, will be on the road for arguably its two hardest games. They will be pitted against a nearly overwhelming amount of athleticism with Lanett and will have to face Reeltown, which has made the playoffs every year since 2007. Ranburne is a favorite to make the postseason, but the difference between hosting and traveling in the first round may depend on those two games.
Region favorite: Lanett
Also in playoffs: Ranburne, Reeltown, Woodland
Darkhorse: Randolph County
Trying to break in: Horseshoe Bend, Lafayette
Class 1A, Region 5
Donoho enters a region that is hit or miss. The Falcons are one of four teams that made the postseason last year, joined by Ragland, Talladega County Central and Wadley. At the same time, Winterboro and Victory Christian went winless in 2013. Region 7 will feature a lot of speed from several teams that may put Donoho at a disadvantage.
Region favorite: Ragland
Also in playoffs: Donoho, Wadley, Talladega County Central
Trying to break in: Shades Mountain Christian, Victory Christian, Winterboro
Class 1A, Region 7
Jacksonville Christian has a legitimate shot to make its second postseason trip in school history. All seven teams in the new region shared a region last year and Valley Head, which went 9-2, was the only team that really made a statement. Gaylesville is the only other team in Region 7 that made the playoffs last year, and also the only other to finish with a winning record. The Thunder return star quarterback Daylon Backett, who was an all-state performer last year. If he has another strong season, JCA may be playoff bound.
Region favorite: Valley Head
Also in playoffs: Gaylesville, Cedar Bluff, Jacksonville Christian
Darkhorse: Spring Garden
Trying to break in: Coosa Christian, Woodville
Sports Writer Brandon Miller: 256-235-3575. On Twitter @bmiller_star.