Humble brag incoming: I love being a part of the Alabama Sports Writers Association. Getting to be a part of the voting committee for high school sports rankings is something I do not take for granted.
Of course, at the end of the day, the rankings do not mean much. Getting ranked in one of the ASWA polls can be a big deal for a program and that’s fine but you’re not winning any titles from having your name in the top 10.
That may be even truer when it comes to preseason rankings. We try our best to figure out what each team has returning but it really has a lot to do with what the players and the team did the prior season.
The 2019 high school football preseason poll came out this week and no one won any trophies for being ranked in the top spot for these rankings. But as much as they may not matter by December, it is still exciting for the writers to make predictions on who we expect to be the top teams in the state this season.
I am never shy about sharing my ballot and you are more than welcome to ask me for it any time you want but instead of just showing you my rankings, I feel like I need to explain some of them.
In Class 7A, there was really only one team who deserved a top spot and that’s Central Phenix City. Yes, it has a lot to do with what they did last season but the Red Devils have plenty of returning talent plus a lot of young guys who saw time in 50-point victories in 2018.
Hoover is still Hoover and it may have the best quarterback in the state this season so there was very little contest on who would take the No. 2 spot in 7A. Those two teams will face off in the state championship — I mean the season opener Aug. 23 in Montgomery.
There may not be as clear of a top two in 6A but the top six certainly separated themselves from the rest of the competition. I will be little surprised if someone outside of the top six wins a state championship this season.
Pinson Valley remains the No. 1 team after winning back-to-back state titles but without its star quarterback returning, the team may find it a little tougher to handle the pressure. Saraland has higher expectations than it ever has as a program and may find itself back in the state championship this year but both Spanish Fort and Wetumpka will be looking for a little revenge this season.
After two consecutive years of making at least the state semifinals, Wetumpka has eyes on the top three teams, who account for three of the Indians’ last four defeats. Wetumpka has every right to feel a little cheated by its ranking at No. 6, especially with the returning talent on offense, but things have to come together on the field before you will see the Indians rise in the rankings.
Personally, I had Wetumpka sitting in the No. 3 spot but it was not behind the two teams already mentioned. While I did have Saraland sitting on top of 6A, I had Hueytown at No. 2 and you should expect to see the Gophers have their best season since Jameis Winston left in 2011.
Class 5A may be the biggest mess of the preseason with five different teams receiving first-place votes and no one really knowing who is the favorite entering the season. Briarwood is currently ranked No. 1 but Ramsay got the most first-place votes while defending champion Clay Central has the second most but fell to fifth after being left off more than a quarter of the ballots.
It feels like UMS-Wright has won 50 games (it’s really only 19 somehow) and it took the top spot in Class 4A. Holtville also received votes in the poll, making it onto five separate ballots and ranking as high as ninth. The Bulldogs have seen 10 seasons of one or fewer wins since the last time they were ranked but this is certainly a deserved spot and do not be surprised to see them crack the top 10 this season.
Not every classification is as simple as ranking your top-10 teams as the AISA poll presents a challenge to rank three separate divisions into one poll. That’s how a team like Edgewood, which made the state semifinals last season and lost only three contributors off that team, is on the outside while a Lee-Scott team which went 0-11 last season is sitting at No. 10.
So no, these rankings may not matter to a team’s win-loss record but getting the recognition of being in a preseason poll certainly means something to a program. And if you are a part of a team that feels you deserved more in these polls, go out there and prove us wrong. I promise I won’t take anything personally.