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AHSAA shakes up area schedules

Though none of Butler County’s schools will have their own classifications changed, the reclassification guidelines handed down by the Alabama High School Athletic Association for 2018-2020 will affect them all to varying degrees.

Most notably, perhaps, is the descent of Class 2A titans Elba and St. Luke’s Episcopal School to Class 1A.  The former will join McKenzie and Georgiana’s region.

St. Luke’s was only just eliminated from playoff play last week as the team fell to Goshen in the third round 56-52.

And though Elba was eliminated earlier than expected this season, the team holds region championships from 2014-2016, and state championships in 2011 and 2015.

Georgiana head football coach Ezell Powell has more familiarity than most with one of the two teams, as the Panthers narrowly edged out St. Luke’s in an overtime win earlier this season.

“You’ve just added two really good football teams into Class 1A,” Powell said.

“So if you want to talk about difficulty of trying to win a state championship, it made it a little bit harder for everybody.

“Elba has traditionally been a really good football program. I thought they were pretty good again this year, so moving down into Class 1A I’m sure they’ll be hungry and ready to contend for a state championship just like they would if they were in Class 2A.”

McKenzie head football coach Tony Norris said that the decision caught him by surprise, though the other development—the rise of former region opponent Houston County to Class 2A—was one he suspected.

Despite the surprise, Norris said that his Tigers’ goal hasn’t changed.

“The biggest team I worry about is McKenzie—we have to take care of ourselves first,” Norris said.

“Putting them in our region just boosts the strength of our region.  I look forward to getting to know those guys a little bit more as they move into our region.”

For Greenville in Class 5A, the Tigers will lose a sizable contender as St. Paul’s joins Class 6A thanks to what the athletic association calls its new competitive balance system, which will cause successful private school teams to play against bigger schools in a higher classification.  The system would only require St. Paul’s to play Class 6A schools in football, however; the school’s other sports programs will continue to play in Class 5A.

Greenville head football coach Josh McLendon said that he believes the association is attempting to do what’s best for all schools by considering each case on a sport-by-sport basis.

Though he said the change impacts them less than the overall reshuffling of Class 5A Region 2, which will have three teams exit and three more join.

Eufaula has been bumped up to Class 6A, and Booker T. Washington and Headland are now Class 4A.

Replacing them are Tallassee, Valley and Beauregard. 

Tallassee and Valley last faced off with Greenville in 2011, while Beauregard opposed the Tigers twice just this past season.

None of them are unfamiliar opponents, though McLendon is excited for the shake-up.

“I still think we’re in a very competitive region with the teams that we gained,” McLendon said.  “Each week should be a good test to see where we’re at.

“It should be interesting—we’ll play three new teams now for the next two years, and I’m in the process now of trying to schedule some non-region games, and I’ll know more about that at the first of the year.”