With the AHSAA unanimously voting to expand to seven classes, there will definitely be a change in the Montgomery-area football scene.
Jeff Davis and Robert E. Lee both will move up from Class 6A to Class 7A, and will be competing in Region 2 together. G.W. Carver remained in Class 6A and will be joined in Region 2 by new school Park Crossing. However, with Sidney Lanier dropping to Class 5A, Region 2, both the Poets and the Wolverines do not have any of the other three historic city teams in the region with them.
Jeff Davis, Lee and Lanier are all in seven-team regions, which allows them to schedule four non-region opponents instead of the traditional three non-region games. Carver has eight teams in its region, leaving the Wolverines with three non-region games.
The biggest problems the city teams will face, however, is not who they are going to play, but where the games will be played.
With five schools all sharing Cramton Bowl, scheduling will be an issue. In previous years, at least one city team, and sometimes two, has played on Thursday and the other team has played on Friday. Having five teams sharing the same field has brought up talks of having Saturday games or playing at a different location.
Region teams will meet today to hash out the region schedules, and coaches hope to have the non-region schedules set during the weekend. But so far, the new AHSAA classification has left the city schools with more questions than answers.
“We come to the problem of scheduling now. You’re talking about five teams playing in one stadium now. Somebody’s going to have to give and play this day, or not play this day, and we’re going to have to work this thing out.,” Lanier coach C.J. Harris said.
“Having a fifth team now, who’s going to play which day? Adding a fifth team into the mix, somebody’s going to have to possibly play on Saturday. We’re going to have to do what we have to do.”
Another AHSAA change has been with one of the tiebreaker rules. In previous years, tiebreaker Rule L has been that only wins in equal class or above are taken into consideration.
The new rule gives teams a two-class wiggle room, meaning Class 7A teams can play teams as low as Class 5A and still have it contribute to the tiebreaking process.
This brings up an interesting situation for Lanier, who is coming off an 0-10 season. Wins against a team as low as Class 3A would still contribute to the tiebreaking process for the Poets. A team that is hungry for wins may be tempted to load the schedule with teams from lower classes, but end the city rivalries.
Harris said he hopes to preserve the city rivalries.
“If I could play all of the Montgomery schools as my non-region games, I would. That gives us two 6A and two 7A schools,” Harris said. “I’ve taken into consideration playing a Trinity or St. James or Catholic if they were able and willing to play.”
Carver is on the short end of the stick with the reclassification. The Wolverines traditionally played the three other city teams when they were in the same region as well as local rival Prattville and one out-of-state opponent. This year, Carver played Tri-Cities (Ga.).
With only three non-region games to work with, something’s got to give. Carver coach Billy Gresham said there will not be an out-of-state opponent this year, but still plans on playing Prattville. That leaves one of the three other city teams — Lanier, Jeff Davis or Lee — off the schedule.
” We’re going to have to figure out our schedules and when we can play each other,” Gresham said. “In a perfect world, it would be great to play all three of them and also Prattville. Carver and Prattville has been a great rivalry over these last few years, so we’re going to continue to play those guys. So I’ve got to figure out the other three schools, who we’re actually going to play.”
While the reclassification has caused some schedule issues for the city teams, the coaches are in favor of the move. Only time will tell how the non-region schedules and the difficulties with having five teams share a stadium will fall out.
“It’s hard to compete when you’re a small 6A with 950 students competing against a school like Hoover or Bob Jones that has close to 2,000 kids. I think this will make things a lot more interesting on the playing field,” Park Crossing coach Mike Shatzer said. “It’s a tall order for us, but hopefully we can be successful. There’s a lot of buzz in the hallways about us being 6A. I think our kids are excited about it.”