By Lee Davis
The Hoover Bucs’ 2014 football schedule includes a visit to Moultrie, Ga., but their most significant trip of the season won’t require a chartered bus or a box lunch.
That journey will come on Oct. 3, when Hoover travels across town to face Spain Park.
The revival of the Bucs-Jaguar rivalry comes courtesy of the new area Alabama High School Athletic Association alignments and reclassifications that begin with the opening kickoff next month. Few are probably sorry to see the old alignments go, as they led to some odd region pairings. For example, Spain Park played Wetumpka in a region game while not playing Hoover at all. That makes about as much sense as Alabama playing Oregon in a conference game and not playing Auburn.
Another big change is the creation of the new Class 7A, which will contain 32 of the state’s largest schools, with four eight-team regions. The revamped Class 6A will have 60 members split into eight regions.
The Class 7A circuit with the most local interest, of course, will be Region 3, which will place Hoover, Mountain Brook, Oak Mountain, Spain Park and Vestavia Hills with Hewitt-Trussville, Thompson and Tuscaloosa County.
As in the case with the previous setup, the top four teams will advance to postseason play. Unlike the previous setup, a traditional rivalry that was held intact–to the great credit of coaches and administrators at both schools–in the previous alignment, notably Hoover vs. Vestavia, will actually count in region standings again.
So the typical Class 7A schedule will include seven region games and three non-region games, giving schools the flexibility to play traditional rivals who aren’t in the same region and/or attractive out-of-area or out-of-state matchups. And of course, there’s room to pick a homecoming victim.
Hoover will open by hosting Central of Miami in a made-for-TV game Aug. 23 before traveling to Georgia to meet Colquitt County, which is coached by former Buc coach Rush Propst. Then the Bucs will play seven consecutive region games before closing the regular season with a visit from Blackman from Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Somewhat more typical will be Mountain Brook’s slate. The Spartans open with a trip north to play Huntsville and then play three consecutive region games before hosting James Clemens. Mountain Brook follows that with three more region games before closing the year with Huffman of Class 6A.
Buddy Anderson’s strongly-held belief that scheduling begins close to home will evidence itself again in Vestavia’s 2014 slate. Two of the Rebels’ three non-region games will come against nearby neighbors Homewood and Shades Valley.
In the new Class 6A, three former Class 5A rivals will find themselves again housed in the same region. Briarwood, Homewood and John Carroll Catholic are placed with Hueytown, Jackson-Olin, Minor, Pelham and Walker in an eight-team unit.
Since 60 will not divide into eight evenly, Class 6A regions don’t uniformly have the same number of members. For example, Region 1 in the Mobile area has nine schools, while Region 8 in the northern part of the state has seven schools.
As far as scheduling in the new Class 6A goes, nobody can accuse new Homewood coach Ben Berguson of sandbagging an easy slate. In addition to seven region games, the Patriots’ non-region dance card includes Class 7A heavyweights Vestavia and Tuscaloosa County.
Criticizing the Alabama High School Athletic Association is a popular off-season sport with many fans, but I think the new seven classifications and regional alignments are overall positive developments. While not exactly a “super division,” Class 7A does group the schools with the highest enrollment in what should be a competitive association.
Naturally, the big question in Class 7A will be the same one that schools in Class 6A faced for more than a decade: How do you beat Hoover?
The new region groupings will revive old rivalries, which in turn will raise overall attendance and gate receipts. This will also allow schools to continue to be creative or respond to their own needs in non-region scheduling.
But the best news of the day is this: Football season is almost here.
Kiwanis Club Honors…
The Kiwanis Club of Birmingham chose its top high school athletes of the metro area last spring, and as usual the Over the Mountain area was well represented.
Local winners included Jordan Sims of Homewood for football, Anna Claire Johnson of Hoover for volleyball, Ethan Simmons of Briarwood for baseball, Rebecca Blitz of Mountain Brook for softball, Connor Smith of Spain Park for boys’ golf, Tatum Jackson of Mountain Brook for girls’ golf, Marlon Humphrey of Hoover for boys’ track and field, Katie Brooks Boone of Westminster-Oak Mountain for girls’ track and field, Ziqi Wang of Vestavia Hills for boys’ tennis, Carlee Petro of Mountain Brook for girls’ tennis, Nate Dauphin of Vestavia Hills for boys’ soccer and Kathleen Dunn of Oak Mountain for girls’ soccer.