There were few local surprises in the latest AHSAA Reclassification approved and released by the association Thursday for the next two academic years, starting in 2018-19.
Eufaula, in perhaps the biggest surprise, moved up to Class 6A after Average Daily Membership enrollment figures provided by the State Department of Education pushed the Tigers out of 5A and up a classification.
Enrollment figures are counted for the upper three grades and ninth-grade holdbacks at schools plus non-traditional students, which gained eligibility for the first time in the 2016-17 school year, including home-school and virtual school students that enroll in at member public school.
In addition to Eufaula, other local changes included Houston County moving up and Headland, Daleville and Elba moving down. Houston County went up from Class 1A to 2A, while Headland went down from 5A to 4A, Daleville from 3A to 2A and Elba from 2A to 1A.
For Elba, the new class marks the lowest division the program has been at in the AHSAA.
Daleville, meanwhile, dropped to 2A for the first time since 1977, but that was back when the AHSAA had only four classifications compared to its current seven-class format.
Houston County and Headland were in their new classifications as recently as two years ago.
In addition to those changes, two Providence Christian sports – girls volleyball and boys golf – bump up a classification to Class 4A after the AHSAA Board of Controls approved a new competitive balance factor against private schools. The measure is designed to offset those schools’ wide geographic range of potential students compared to public schools.
All of the sports at PCS outside of volleyball and boys golf will compete in Class 3A as they have the last two seasons.
The biggest local news in the reclassification was Eufaula’s rise to Class 6A. It marks the highest classification in Eufaula history. The Tigers have been in Class 5A since 1984.
In football, the Tigers were placed in Class 6A, Region 2 with Dothan, Northview, Russell County and Montgomery schools, Carver, Sidney Lanier and Park Crossing.
The Tigers will renew a rivalry with Dothan, a team it has played 45 previous times, mostly in the 1980s and 1990s with the last meeting in 2009. EHS has played Northview 10 times, the last in 2011.
“We sort of got wind of it (happening) a couple of weeks ago,” Eufaula football coach and athletic director Bryan Moore said. “I have mixed emotions. I am excited to play new teams in this region. It is better competition. We have played Dothan and Northview teams in junior varsity and freshman (football) ever since I have been here, so it is good to have some of those rivalries that go back.”
On the flip side, Moore said he has concerns facing some of the teams because of numbers. Eufaula was listed with an average of 789 students because of virtual students – students who learn via online courses and participate from anywhere in the state.
“Our (enrollment) numbers are inflated because of virtual kids,” Moore said. “We have a total of 547 students in the school (building). In our region for example, Northview has 1,028 students, so we will be playing against teams we are half the size of, but we see it as a challenge and we will do the best we can.”
Moore indicated Eufaula, which has one of the biggest virtual school programs in the state, had 250 virtual students – creating roughly 32 percent of its average -- some of whom are as far away as Huntsville. Only eight live in close proximity of Eufaula, said Moore.
Headland moves down
After two years of futility in Class 5A (4-16 football record), Headland drops back to 4A, where it was from 2010-15. The school had an average of 368.8 students, making it the eighth biggest 4A program.
The Rams were placed in a football region that includes nearby Dale County and Ashford, Montgomery schools of Alabama Christian, Montgomery Catholic and Trinity Presbyterian plus Booker T. Washington in Tuskegee. The past two years, the school competed against B.T. Washington, Carroll, Charles Henderson, Eufaula, Greenville and Rehobeth.
“We are pleased to be going down to 4A,” said Headland football coach Danny Raines. “It gives us a better chance. Obviously, nothing is for sure. That region we were in last year was brutal to say the least.
“We look forward to playing new teams. There are several good teams in that region. Just being honest, we have a better chance in that region than we did in the 5A region we were in.”
Daleville, Elba continue downward
Just 10 years ago, Daleville and Elba were competing in Class 4A and 3A, respectively. Next year, the two will compete two classes below that.
After 10 years in Class 3A, Daleville fell further to Class 2A. Elba, after 10 seasons in 2A, dipped to 1A.
In the reclassification two years ago, Daleville had an average enrollment count of 277.9. It had 204.5 in the latest figures, a drop of 73 students. The program went from the 16th biggest 3A program to the 16th biggest in 2A.
Elba had a 161.55 average two years ago, placing it as the sixth lowest 2A. In the latest figures, the school had a 153.1 average, a decrease of eight students per average, but enough to make it the sixth highest in Class 1A.
Elba’s average from two years ago would have it made it the second smallest 2A in this year’s figures as Woodland’s 159.95 average was the lowest 2A.
Daleville was placed in 2A, Region 2 for football with Wiregrass programs Abbeville, Ariton, Barbour County, Cottonwood, Geneva County, Houston County and G.W. Long.
“We kind of had a feeling with our numbers that we may be down in 2A,” Daleville football coach Rob Armstrong said. “It is like anything else, though, there are still some good coaches and good players in that league. What we have to do is work now until the end to be prepared. There are a lot of teams that won a lot of games in that region we are going into.”
While Armstrong anticipated moving down, he was caught off guard how far the program moved down.
“I didn’t know we would be closer to more of the middle of the pack than among the top 10 schools,” Armstrong said.
Some of Daleville’s decreasing numbers is attributed to a migration of kids/families moving to Enterprise.
Over at Elba, a loss of a few industries and business has created its downward numbers.
The Tigers were placed in a football region with Brantley, Florala, Georgiana, Kinston, McKenzie, Pleasant Home and Red Level.
Houston County back up
After two years in Class 1A, Houston County moved back up to 2A where it was from 2004-15.
The Columbia-based school was the 11th biggest school in 1A two years ago with an enrollment average of 142.8. In the latest figures, the Lions shot up to the 34th biggest 2A with 184 students, an increase of over 41 students.
The school, which had long travels for region games the last two years with several hour-and-a-half plus trips to Covington County, are now in a region where every opponent is an hour or less away.
“We knew it was coming,” Houston County head coach and athletic director Mike Atkins said. “I think it will help us as far as travel and our home gates. The last two years, it killed us as far as money wise.
“The competition will be a little bit tougher. Hopefully, we are getting a little bit better than we were two years ago when we were in 2A and we can compete a little better.”
Two PCS sports move up
Providence Christian, a private school in Dothan, was affected by the ASHAA’s newest criteria -- the competitive balance factor.
As they have the last few years, private schools still have its enrollment calculated at a 1.35 multiplier rate compared to 1.0 for public schools. However, a new competitive balance factor has been added for a private school’s sport that meets the threshold on championship data from the previous three years.
In essence, points are calculated off a private school’s finish in a sport if they reach the quarterfinals (5-8 place finish), the semifinals (3-4 place finish) or the finals (1-2 finish). A quarterfinal appearance features one point, a semifinal appearance two points and a finals four points.
In non co-ed sports (football, volleyball, golf, baseball, softball, wrestling), if a sport had more than six points it bumped up a classification and for co-ed sports (basketball, soccer, swimming, tennis, cross country, indoor track, outdoor track and bowling), a combined 11 points bumped those programs up.
As a result of the competitive balance factor, Providence Christian’s volleyball and boys golf teams both moved up from the school’s current 3A status to 4A.
The volleyball team finished runner-up three straight years in the time frame and the boys golf team won two titles and finished runner-up in the other, resulting in 12 points for both, well above the needed seven to bump up.
All the other PCS teams remained in Class 3A.
Providence’s girls golf team was initially bumped up to 4A, but a counting error was later discovered that credited too many points. The team was below the mandated 7 or more points and was re-placed in 3A.
Teams move regions
Two Wiregrass schools stayed in their current classification, but moved into a different football region.
The two were Samson in 2A and Pike County in 3A.
Samson moved from Region 2 to Region 3 and now has Calhoun, Central of Hayneville, Goshen, Highland Home, Luverne, New Brockton and Zion Chapel has region foes. The Tigers basically took Elba’s spot in the region.
Pike County had a brutal travel region the last two years that ranged from Selma on the west to above Montgomery and Auburn in the north, but now has a Wiregrass region in 3A. It joins Geneva, Houston Academy, Opp, Providence Christian, Slocomb, Straughn and Wicksburg in Region 2. The Bulldogs essentially replaced Daleville.