Briarwood moves up, others shift regions in AHSAA football reclassification

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

Reclassification shook up the sports landscape on Tuesday, Dec. 17, as the AHSAA Central Board approved changes to classifications and regions for fall sports that included shifts in several regions and areas, as well as a major change for Briarwood, who has jumped up from Class 5A to Class 6A.

Below, each AHSAA team’s new home for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons is listed and broken down. 

Class 7A

Oak Mountain, Spain Park and Thompson

The county’s three Class 7A teams (Oak Mountain, Spain Park and Thompson) will remain in the 7A classification for the next two school calendar years, and in football, each will remain in Class 7A, Region 3.

That region will feature those three teams, as well as Hewitt-Trussville, Hoover, Tuscaloosa County, Vestavia Hills and Gadsden City. One noticeable difference is the absence of Mountain Brook and the addition of Gadsden City.

The Spartans have moved down to the 6A classification following reclassification due to enrollment numbers, while the Titans moved into Class 7A, Region 3 to replace them.

Class 6A

Briarwood and Chelsea

The biggest shift for local teams this season came from the Briarwood Lions, who have once again made the leap from Class 5A up to Class 6A, where competition will be steep.

Briarwood will join Chelsea in Class 6A, Region 5, which will feature the Hornets as a county foe and rival, as well as newly added Mountain Brook from Class 7A, Homewood, Huffman, Shades Valley and Woodlawn.

The only two teams that were in this region last year were Chelsea and Homewood, while the others are all new additions.

With the change, Briarwood will go from competing against 5A teams, to competing against a former 7A team that finished third in one of the most difficult regions in the state this year with an overall record of 8-3.

Woodlawn also made the jump up from 5A after a difficult 2-8 season, while Shades Valley and Huffman will both remain in 6A after difficult seasons as well.

Briarwood made one other trip to the 6A classification during the 2014 and 2015 seasons. During that stretch, the Lions went a combined 9-14 with back-to-back losing seasons and didn’t advance past the second round of the postseason.

Pelham, Helena and Calera

With the changes to Region 5, that left Helena and Pelham both looking for new homes, which sent them into Class 6A, Region 3 where the Calera Eagles have been the last two seasons.

In that region, the three county teams will square off against Benjamin Russell, Chilton County, Stanhope Elmore and Wetumpka.

The noticeable difference in the region aside from the addition of the Huskies and Panthers, is the departure of Opelika and the entrance of Chilton County.

Formerly a 5A team, Chilton County will be making the jump into the 6A classification and into a difficult region at that.

But, with Opelika gone, several teams in the region can breathe a sigh of relief. The Bulldogs won the region championship last year with an overall record of 11-2 and a trip to the semifinals of the class 6A playoffs where they lost a three-point game to Spanish Fort.

Stanhope Elmore and Wetumpka, however, are both dangerous teams to watch in this region right now.

Overall, the region shouldn’t be too much more difficult than what Helena and Pelham had to deal with the last two years, as both should still be able to contend for one of the top four seeds to earn a playoff spot. 

Class 5A

Shelby County

The Shelby County Wildcats will remain in Class 5A, Region 3 for the next two seasons, and will be joined by familiar foes Central-Tuscaloosa, Demopolis, Jemison and Marbury.

All of those teams were in that region a season ago, but new additions include Selma and Sipsey Valley, while Bibb County and Chilton County have departed. Bibb County won last year’s region crown with a perfect 6-0 record, while the Choctaws finished the regular season 10-0, before falling 7-3 in the quarterfinals of the playoffs to Briarwood. Chilton County finished second in the region with a 5-1 record in region play.

That leaves the top two spots in the region open moving into the next two seasons.

Selma and Sipsey Valley will enter the region from different classifications. Selma will move down from Class 6A, while Sipsey Valley will be making the move up a classification from Class 4A.

This a region that now suits Shelby County well moving forward. The Wildcats should be able to not only make the playoffs but compete for one of the top two spots.

Class 4A

Montevallo

The Montevallo Bulldogs will remain in Class 4A, Region 3 for the next two football seasons, and it’s a region that has gotten even more difficult.

Already including American Christian, Dallas County, Sumter Central and West Blocton, the region will now add Bibb County, Holt and Wilcox Central.

Bibb County will instantly be the favorite to win the region crown after making it to the quarterfinals of the 5A playoffs this past season and going 12-1.

Now at the 4A level, they’ll be a strong contender for a state championship and should be locked into one of the top two spots with American Christian depending on talent level coming back.

Those two will be the teams to beat, but Montevallo should still be one of the top contenders in the region. They’ll lose a lot of offensive talent going into next season, so it may take some time, but playoff spots will be up for grabs. 

Class 2A

Vincent 

Vincent will also face a more difficult path despite remaining in Class 4A, Region 4.

While region champ Reeltown has departed the the region, Lanett re-enters after dominating this region a few years ago before moving down to Class 1A, where the Panthers just won a state championship.

The rest of the region will feature LaFayette, B.B. Comer, Fayetteville, Horseshoe Bend, Ranburne and Randolph County.

Two of the top three teams from this past season’s region standings, Reeltown and Thorsby, have departed, but Lanett, LaFayette and B.B. Comer (a new addition from Class 3A), will be strong contenders for playoff spots.

If that plays out, it would leave one spot to battle for. Either way, it’s one of the most difficult Class 2A regions to compete in and one Vincent will have to be prepared for going into the 2020 football season.