Outside the linesPublished 10:33pm Wednesday, November 16, 2011
By Robert Hudson
The Selma Times-Journal
With the Alabama High School Athletics Association completing its bi-annual reclassification of all members for 2012-2013 and 2013-2014, the process has somewhat mimicked the recent shake up with realignment in college football.
Some moves have fallen perfectly into place, while others have traditional geography taking a backseat.
For Southside High School, it’s the latter, as the school’s athletic teams will soon be in a position where its closest region opponent will take the Panthers on a 160 mile, four-hour round trip as they will drop down from Class 4A to Class 3A Region 1.
“The travel is just horrible,” said Don Willingham, assistant superintendent of Dallas County Schools.
“It’s tough to make ends meet now with finances. I know they (AHSAA) put a lot of work into it and try to make it equitable to everybody … but travel is going to be an issue for all of our sports and not just football, but the band, the cheerleaders and all the boosters that follow our team. It puts a hardship on everyone.”
Southside now joins a region with opponents who all reside south of the Black Belt including, Excel (85 miles away), Straughn (located in Andalusia, 112 miles away), T.R. Miller (108 miles), W.S. Neal (109 miles), Opp (109 miles), Cottage Hill Christian (166 miles) and Bayside Academy (172 miles).
Willingham said, that while the school is excited about dropping down to 3A from a competitive standpoint, the travel situation could also affect the money earned at Panthers’ home games.
“On the flip side of travel, when you have those games at home, typically schools traveling that far don’t bring a crowd, so your home gate suffers,” Willingham said. “You kind of suffer at both ends because … those schools have to travel that distance, too.”
Willingham said Southside will maintain its non-region rivalries with teams such as Selma High School. Southside won’t be the only school on the move, starting in fall 2012, local school Ellwood Christian Academy will make the move from the Alabama Independent Schools Association to AHSAA Class 1A Region 3, where it will join local Keith High School, Maplesville, Akron, Autaugaville, Billingsley, Holy Spirit and Sunshine.
Keith athletic director Tommy Tisdale said the move is something will be beneficial to the Bears and the community.
“For football and basketball … I know it’s going to help us with travel,” Tisdale said. “That’s one of our biggest things, travel and the crowd being able to follow you. I noticed that Ellwood Christian Academy is in, so that in itself could create a rival by default. Hopefully, we can develop a good little rivalry that’ll add to what we already have with Southside, Dallas County, Selma, R.C. Hatch and Francis Marion.”
Selma High School will remain in Class 5A and will play in region 3, where it’ll face familiar foes Demopolis, Greenville and Chilton County and welcome new faces in Satsuma, Citronelle and Sumter Central.
“I see teams, like Jackson and Sumter County … and all of these teams have a history of being competitive,” said Patrick Evans, athletic director of Selma High School. “I think it’s probably going to be one of the toughest 5A regions in the state. I know our coaches and fans are ready to accept the challenge.”
For Dallas County High School, it will remain in Class 4A and will be a member of region 4 joined by Bibb County, Calera, Corner, Dora, Jemison, Oak Grove and West Blocton. Dallas County High School athletic director Willie Moore said the school will be in a region of traditional football powers.
“Our reaction is basically the same, it was going to be tough either way we would have gone,” Moore said. “Football wise, our region is a lot tougher next year than it was this year because every school we have to play is really good at football and has a winning record. They’re football schools. We’re excited about staying 4A. From a basketball standpoint, it’ll be about the same.”
No schedules have been set at this time and the moves will not be effective until fall 2012.