As we enter the 2017 football season, there is always plenty of preseason talk about who will be the top teams in each classification. But which region is the toughest region in the state of Alabama for each classification? And which region will be the most competitive regardless of classification this fall?
1A- The toughest group in 1A is Region 2. Last year’s region champion Georgiana will be challenged by the always tough Brantley Bulldogs which had what is for them a down year in 2016, going 7-5. Brantley always plays a challenging non region schedule, including Straughn and Luverne. McKenzie always has some quality athletes and finished third at 7-5. 4th place finisher Houston County is improving and should make some noise as they try and move up in the region race. A close second is Region 3, dominated by Maplesville, but has Isabella (11-2) and Notasulga (7-5).
2A- If you are looking for an easy schedule in 2A, you don’t want to be in Region 5. Lafayette dominated the region, scoring big points all year before running into eventual champion Fyffe in the third round. Lanett had a great 2016, losing in a tough game to 4A Champion Handley and being outscored by Lafayette 66-26 in the region championship game late in October. The Panthers then reeled off three payoff victories before running into Fyffe themselves in the semis, losing 33-20. Reeltown finished third and is not what they once were under Jackie O’Neal, but is still a solid top twenty 2A squad. Horseshoe Bend (6-5) finished fourth, going from 0-10 to 6-5 in one season.
3A-This may be the most competitive class where several regions have 5 and 6 teams capable of winning playoff spots. They all vie for a chance to knockoff Piedmont. But the Bulldogs played in the toughest region last year, Region 5, where four teams, Piedmont (15-0), Ohatchee (12-2), Randolph County (10-3) and Weaver (9-4) won at least 9 games and made it to the quarterfinals of the playoffs. Five of the nine losses suffered by Ohatchee, Randolph County and Weaver were to Piedmont. The fifth place team, Walter Wellborn, was a solid team at 5-4 that took Randolph County to overtime before losing. Walter Wellborn looks to be improved this season. A quality team in this region will not make the playoffs in Class 3A.
4A-Although Region 3 has some quality teams, Region 1 with Andalusia, UMS and Thomasville is the toughest region in 4A. Region champ Andalusia (12-2) went to the semifinals, and UMS Wright and Thomasville have battled tooth and nail for years and both went 9-2. Fourth place Satsuma was 6-5, but the program is on the rise behind Coach Justin Thomas. W.S. Neal had an off year last year but behind former Linden coach Andro Williams, there is a sense of optimism with the Eagles. This one will be a battle again.
5A- We have to go south again to find the toughest region in 5A. Vigor was Region 1 champion in 2016, but St. Paul’s has a load of college prospects on their 2017 team and Jackson challenges to make a playoff run each year. Citronelle was the fourth place team, but is still a notch away from the big three. Look for one of the first three to make a deep playoff run this season.
6A- It’s the Mobile area again as Spanish Fort, Daphne and Blount will fight it out for the Region 1 championship. They were all 7-1 in the region last season, and this year looks to be even tighter. Saraland is an excellent fourth place team that can beat any of the big three on a given night and will be improved in 2017. Look for B.C. Rain to be more competitive as well. Chances are the top dog in this region will be in the championship game in December. Region 6 with Minor, Pinson Valley, Gardendale and Clay Chalkville is a close second.
7A-Region 2 proudly boasts Central Phenix City, Enterprise, Lee Montgomery and Auburn to become the toughest 7A region. All were one of the top 15 7A squads last fall. Central and Enterprise were both 10-2, and both appear to be on a collision course for the region championship this season.
And the toughest region in the AHSAA this season will be 3A Region 5. Expect Piedmont to win it, but there will be a dogfight for second place between the four other teams. This region could go deep into the playoffs until they start playing each other.