Jahmal Fenner spent last fall as Andrew Jackson’s co-pilot, handling various football matters at LBJ as Jackson, the Jaguars’ head coach, navigated a debilitating struggle against cancer.
Jackson died in early December after a 10-month battle against esophageal cancer, and Fenner became the Jaguars’ interim head coach. On Thursday, when the UIL announces the results of its 2018-20 reclassification and realignment of the roughly 1,300 public high schools in Texas, Fenner will take the lead on another important football matter.
For the first time, Fenner, 35, will be responsible for crafting LBJ’s nondistrict schedule in advance of the coming season. He won’t be alone in his role.
Among Austin-area high schools, Anderson, Hays, Lehman, Pflugerville and Giddings all will look to set their nondistrict schedules before embarking on the 2018 season with a different head coach.
In some cases, the 2018 nondistrict opponents have already been settled. In other instances, assistant coaches from those schools will join dozens of area coaches at such spots such as Reeves Athletic Complex in North Austin or the Texas High School Coaches Association office in San Marcos to do some game shopping.
“We’re going to play two teams — Bowie and Manor — that we played last year,” said Fenner, a former Reagan Raiders cornerback who’s considered a prime candidate to become LBJ’s permanent head coach. Fenner added that the Jaguars also have opportunities to sign agreements for games against Hendrickson and Waco La Vega.
“Is there pressure? Absolutely, there is pressure,” Fenner said. “You want to set your team up with the right opponents, teams that will give you some early adversity. So when you get out of district, you’ll have already played against some teams you might see when the playoffs start.”
Leal Anderson, athletic director for the Austin school district, said Tuesday that the head coaching positions at LBJ and Anderson remain open to candidates.
“We don’t want to speed up the process, but we’d like to hire (the new coaches) as soon as possible,” Anderson said.
When Giddings’ head coach, Chris Jones, resigned Jan. 18 to take a similar position at Pecos High, responsibility for finalizing the Buffaloes’ 2018 schedule shifted to the school’s new athletic director, Neal Majewski; Giddings defensive coordinator Jay Hellums; and Buffs offensive coordinator James Dixon.
Jones, who met his new players at Pecos for the first time Tuesday, said some of the heavy lifting involved in building a schedule has already taken place. Giddings has nondistrict games pending against Rockdale, Wimberley, Taylor, Cameron Yoe and Geronimo Navarro.
Football coaches in Texas share one obstacle when it comes to scheduling nondistict games for 2018. They won’t know until Thursday how many teams will be in their new UIL districts. Therefore, no schedule will be complete until a coach learns how many district games his team will play this fall.
Former Hays head coach Neal LaHue, who announced last week that he was leaving coaching, said the Rebels will be ready when Thursday arrives. Led by defensive coordinator Julius Scott, Hays assistants will be at three locales when the UIL unveils the results of realignment and reclassification.
LaHue said Hays has tentative nondistrict matchups scheduled against Dripping Springs and Harker Heights.
At Pflugerville, Jeff Rogers, the Panthers’ offensive coordinator last season, has become the interim head football coach, replacing George Herrmann, who retired. Todd Raymond, the Pflugerville school district’s athletic director, said Tuesday that the Panthers’ tentative nondistrict schedule for 2018 includes Bowie, Anderson, Leander and McNeil and was created before Herrmann left.
READY FOR REALIGNMENT?
The University Interscholastic League, the state’s governing body for public high school athletics, will release its biennial reclassification and realignment at 9 a.m. Thursday, and we’ll be quick to share the results with you on our Varsity News blog at preps.blog.statesman.com. We’ll review the 2018-20 UIL districts that include Austin-area schools and discuss interesting developments.
Every two years, the UIL regroups its member schools based on their revised enrollment numbers. Schools are separated into six classifications, with Class A comprising schools that play six-man football and Class 6A containing the state’s largest schools by enrollment.
Here are the enrollment cutoffs in use for the 2018-20 process:
- Class 6A: 2,190 students or more
- Class 5A, Division I: 1,840 to 2,189 students
- Class 5A, Division II: 1,150 to 1,839 students
- Class 4A, Division I: 790 to 1,149 students
- Class 4A, Division II: 505 to 789 students
- Class 3A, Division I: 335 to 504 students
- Class 3A, Division II: 225 to 334 students
- Class 2A, Division I: 161.5 to 224 students
- Class 2A, Division II: 105 to 161 students
- Class A: fewer than 105 students
Once the districts for 2018-20 have been released, schools will have the opportunity to appeal their placements.