The Alabama High School Athletic Association announced its latest reclassification and several teams across the county were affected by the changes. Elmore County and Holtville will make the jump to Class 5A in the 2020-21 academic year, joining Region 4 on the football field to reunite with county rival Tallassee.
The Panthers will be joined by Holtville and Tallassee while current region foe Talladega also makes the jump. Beauregard and Sylacauga will also be in the region but the biggest name that jumps out is back-to-back defending 5A state champion Central Clay County.
“There’s definitely been the talk of moving to 5A,” ECHS football coach Jordan Cantrell said. “It’s a difficult task. The defending state champion is in there and there are a lot of good programs. It’s something you want to challenge the team with and you hope it gives extra motivation.”
Cantrell said it was great to get Tallassee and Holtville back in the same region to give those rivalry games some extra boost. Tallassee, which turned in the lowest enrollment number in the region, is hoping to extend its winning streak against the Panthers but Tiger coach Mike Battles said the region aspect provides no extra motivation.
“There’s nothing extra,” Battles said. “It’s already Elmore County. It doesn’t matter if it’s a region game or if we’re playing a pickup game on a Saturday afternoon. It’s already a big game.”
Elmore County is coming off its worst season since 2000 after finishing winless in region play. The Panthers struggled with depth and numbers in 2019 but Cantrell hopes those issues can be solved before going up against bigger teams.
“That’s going to be our biggest test,” Cantrell said. “We have a really good younger group coming up and some of those guys will have to fill roles at varsity. We want have higher numbers but we also want to have sold out guys.”
Holtville is hoping to continue its resurgence under coach Jason Franklin as the Bulldogs have made the postseason in consecutive seasons for the first time 2005. It will not come easy though as the Bulldogs reach their highest classification ever.
“We knew it was coming,” Franklin said. “It was not a big surprise to us. We know our community is growing at a rapid pace. We feel good about our numbers to play at that level.”
Another area team making a jump is Reeltown, which moves from Class 2A to 3A and will be in Region 4 with rival Dadeville along with Beulah, Goshen, Montgomery Catholic, Pike County and Saint James. Five of those teams are coming off seasons with at least 10 wins.
“I don’t know a whole lot about any of them but their records are really good,” Reeltown coach Matt Johnson said. “This is the toughest region we’ve had since I’ve been here, but it wasn’t a surprise we went to 3A. The region is a little bit more surprising; there’s going to be some really good football but a whole lot of traveling.”
Wetumpka and Stanhope Elmore will stay put in Class 6A but they will see a shakeup to Region 3. Defending region champion Opelika moves out along with Selma but the region adds three more teams which will provide some longer road trips for the Indians and Mustangs.
Stanhope coach Brian Bradford will play against his former school, Chilton County, for the third straight season but for the first time in region play. Helena and Pelham also join the region as the longest travel times for games against Wetumpka and Stanhope.
Volleyball areas also saw some drastic changes with the reclassification. Holtville and Elmore County will stay together in Area 6 but Tallassee will not join them as the area is wrapped up with Jemison and Marbury.
“We’re going to have some high competition in 5A but I think we’re looking good to compete with them,” ECHS volleyball coach Kim Moncrief said. “This is our sixth time changing areas since I’ve been here so we should be okay competing against them.”
Moncrief said she believes the program has prepared well for the jump up as the Panthers have continued to play tough competition out of area against teams from higher classifications. Now it is in 5A, Moncrief said she will look for even higher competition to challenge her team.
“We’ll still schedule as many games as we can against upper level teams,” Moncrief said. “We want to prepare as much as we can. We want to be challenged.”
Wetumpka volleyball is hoping to keep its streak of area championships alive as well but Class 6A Area 3 got a little tougher for Wetumpka and Stanhope Elmore as Benjamin Russell replaces Selma. All three teams in next year’s area have made the super regionals the last two seasons.