AHSAA leaves ECHS in 4A; recheck of attendance numbers requested
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Escambia County High School, rumored to have been heading down a classification for the next two school terms, will most likely remain instead in Class 4A, Region 1 for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years.
The Central Board of Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) announced the statewide region realignment, which is done every two years and based on average daily attendance, last week. Local school officials are questioning the accuracy of state-provided numbers used in grouping the state’s schools.
ECHS’s attendance data barely avoided making it the smallest school in 4A-1. With an ADA of 291, the Atmore high school just edged out Bayside Academy (290.99). Satsuma (397) and St. Michael (360.35) will be the region’s largest schools, followed by Jackson (320.75), Wilcox Central (320.35), intra-county rival T.R. Miller (304.25) and Orange Beach (300.75).
There appears the slim possibility that ECHS could still move down to Class 3A. Scott Mason, the local school’s head football coach and athletic director, said state education officials are looking into possible discrepancies between the state’s attendance numbers and the school’s numbers.
“The situation is currently being reevaluated by the Alabama Department of Education between ECHS and ECMS [Escambia County Middle School] because of number discrepancies that are out of our control,” he said. “We have 3A numbers, but something is not adding up. We feel like we have similar numbers as W.S. Neal, but there are some extenuating circumstances that drive us over the limit which are now being revaluated.”
If the school remains in Class 4A, Region 1, the Blue Devils will be one of just three teams from the past two years that remain in the tough athletic region. Jackson and St. Michael Catholic are the others.
Defending 4A champion Vigor, which was in the region last year, moved up to Class 5A, as did Williamson, which has been a thorn in ECHS’s Region 1 side for the past several years.
Mobile Christian and W.S. Neal (WSN) each moved down from 4A and will now play in 3A, Region 1, which includes Flomaton High School (FHS). WSN (281.85 ADA) and FHS (280.5) will be the largest schools in that league.
Mason said he’s glad to see two of ECHS’s toughest football opponents move out of the region. He pointed out, though, that the reclassification hits the school much harder in areas other than athletics.
“Of course, we are glad to eliminate tough opponents like Vigor and Williamson,” he said. “However, to us, it does not matter if we play 3A or 4A teams. What really matters is having teaching units for our teachers and staff.”
Joining ECHS this year and next in the region will be T.R. Miller, a state-ranked Class 3A team last year; Bayside Academy, which also moves up from Class 3A; Orange Beach, which jumps two notches from Class 2A; Satsuma, which steps down from 5A; and Wilcox Central, which played in Class 4A’s Region 3 last year.
“We are happy to pick up teams like Satsuma and Orange Beach,” Mason said, explaining that the addition of a local rival is the change he most likes in the new region setup. “However, teams like T.R. Miller are the teams that we want to play in region. We need local teams on our schedule. Those are the money-maker games.”
Mason promised updated information would be made public as it develops on the school’s request for a new comparison of state and local attendance numbers.
Atmore News staff member Josh Frye contributed to this article.