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Joe Medley: Reclassification toughened potential playoff roads for local powers

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Piedmont head coach Steve Smith gets the Powerade dunk at the end of the game. Piedmont played Mobile Christian Thursday for the 3A state football championship at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn. Piedmont won the game 26-24. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)

Let’s take a break from COVID-19 and pretend, for a few hundred words, that we’re not all worried whether high school football will happen this season. Let’s do what press and fans do … look ahead.

Coaches won’t, so somebody has to.

Tuesday marked the voting deadline for the Alabama Sports Writers Association preseason poll. Voting on the statewide poll makes us pull back from the teams and regions we cover and take the 30,000-foot view.

We have three state champions around here. We also have a state runner-up. A glorious 2019 season, with six coverage-area semifinalists and four finalists, gave us all reason to look beyond regions and down the championship roads in various classifications.

Reclassification sure made the playoff road look harder.

Oxford reigns in 6A, and reclassification took the Yellow Jackets from one of the state’s toughest regions to, arguably, 6A’s weakest. As for the postseason road, 6A picked up Mountain Brook and Lee-Montgomery, down from 7A. Briarwood Christian and Jasper jumped from 5A.

Clay Central is a two-time defending champion in 5A, and Alexandria came one win away from playing the Vols in the playoffs last year. Nine-time champion UMS Wright moved up from 4A, as did semifinalist Andalusia and second-rounder Fairview.

Imagine a playoff coaching clash between Clay Central’s Danny Horn and UMS Wright’s Terry Curtis, who have eight state titles apiece.

On to 4A, where Jacksonville finished runner-up and Anniston was a semifinalist last year. We see Bibb County and Etowah down from 5A, along with Madison Academy, Madison County and 2018 runner-up Vigor. Reigning 3A runner-up Mobile Christian moved up, as did quarterfinalist Gordo.

Class 3A might have upgraded the most of any classification.

Defending champion Piedmont returns a lot, and its potential road beyond a brutal region could include 2019 4A quarterfinalist Catholic Montgomery or Hillcrest-Evergreen, down from 4A three years after beating Randolph County in the 3A final.

Fyffe, a state champion four of the past six years, leads the contingent of top 5 teams up from 2A. That list includes runner-up Reeltown, semifinalist Collinsville and once-again region foe Ohatchee.

Sports Writer Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter: @jmedley_star.

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