Westlake football coach Todd Dodge counts himself as a big fan of the nine-school super district the Chaparrals now call home. Vandegrift’s Drew Sanders, though, has a decidedly different view of the similarly sized District 13-6A.
When the University Interscholastic League unveiled its biennial realignment of state high schools on Thursday, Class 6A teams in the Austin area were lumped into two large districts — 13-6A and 25-6A. For the past two years, they have been spread across three smaller 6A districts.
For Westlake, Vandegrift and every other Class 6A team in the Austin area, their non-district football schedules will include only a pair of games. By mid-September, every game will count in the race for a playoff berth.
“I like the fact that our third game of the season will be in district play,” Dodge, whose team landed in 25-6A, said Thursday during a gathering of coaches at Reeves Athletic Complex in North Austin. “The sense of urgency for your team comes a lot quicker.”
Dodge already has his non-district games set. The Chaparrals will play Belton and Cypress Ranch.
Vandegrift, which has spent the past two years in the same district as powerhouses Westlake and Lake Travis, now finds itself in 13-6A, a Williamson County-heavy district. So instead of lining up against the Chaparrals and the Cavaliers, the Vipers will have new rivals, including Round Rock, Cedar Ridge and Westwood.
But while Dodge favors a nine-team district, Sanders would prefer a smaller league.
“My personal feeling is that my team is equipped for success no matter what district we’re in, but playing fewer non-district games does give us less time to evaluate our talent,” Sanders said.
Most of the coaches gathered at Reeves Athletic Complex on Thursday were scurrying to find non-district games to fill out their teams’ schedule. Lake Travis head coach Hank Carter struggled to find two willing opponents because few teams want to play against a six-time state champion.
Rouse coach Joshua Mann said he understood Carter’s plight.
“It’s not fun to be good,” Mann said.
By Thursday evening, Carter said he had lined up one non-district game for the Cavaliers — a matchup against Arlington Martin.
Kicking off new programs: Pflugerville Weiss and Leander Glenn won’t be the only schools playing their inaugural varsity football seasons in the fall. Manor New Tech High also will be launching a varsity athletic program, and the school’s football team will compete in District 10-3A, Division I against Cameron Yoe, Jarrell, Lago Vista, Rockdale, Troy and Little River Academy. Previously, New Tech student-athletes competed for Manor High, which dropped from Class 6A to Class 5A in the latest realignment.
That’s a road trip: LBJ’s interim football coach, Jahmal Fenner, called on an old friend to fill out his team’s non-district schedule. Among the four non-district games for the Jaguars will be a matchup at Los Fresnos. The link? When Fenner was a cornerback at UTEP from 2001-04, one of his teammates was offensive lineman Jose Horner, now the defensive coordinator at Los Fresnos.
The Jaguars, who will travel roughly 350 miles to reach Los Fresnos, will open the 2018 season against Elgin. They also have non-district games scheduled against Waco La Vega and Manor.
Different-looking district: Dripping Springs football coach Galen Zimmerman said he “anticipated” his school moving into a new UIL district that included other Austin-area schools, but he didn’t know the likely lineup of new opponents. On Thursday, Zimmerman learned that the Tigers will play against five teams from the Austin school district, including LBJ, McCallum — a Class 5A, Division II state semifinalist this past season — and Reagan. Seguin also landed in 12-5A, Division I with the Tigers.
Dripping Springs, which played against such San Antonio-area schools as Alamo Heights and Kerrville Tivy these past two years, will have a competitive edge in football in its new district. The Tigers had a combined 185 players on their varsity and sub-varsity teams last season. In contrast, none of the Austin schools in his new district had as many as 100 kids participating in the sport.
“We can compete, for sure,” Zimmerman said, “but every team is different and every year is different. We should be in the top half of the district to make the playoffs, but you still have to play.”
REALIGNMENT’S WINNERS AND LOSERS
Which area schools benefited the most from the UIL’s latest realignment, and which already are looking forward to the next reshuffling in 2020:
Liberty Hill and Burnet. Liberty Hill was a combined 2-5 against China Spring and Waco La Vega over the past two football seasons while Burnet posted a combined 1-5 mark against those two schools and Gatesville during the same span. Now, Burnet and Liberty Hill will compete in a district far, far away from those Waco-area powers.
Bastrop County. During the 2015 football season, Bastrop qualified for the playoffs and Cedar Creek recorded its only postseason appearance. Along with Elgin, both schools once again will be playoff contenders after escaping from former district foes Hutto, Cedar Park and Georgetown to join East View, Marble Falls and two new schools — Pflugerville Weiss and Leander Glenn — in District 13 of Class 5A, Division II. The only downside could be a long road trip to face a talented Brenham team.
Dripping Springs. The Tigers will be district-title favorites in most every sport in their Class 5A, Division I district that includes Seguin and six Austin-based schools — LBJ, McCallum, Lanier, Travis, Crockett and Reagan. Plus, the Tigers’ travel budget will get a break after road trips to face San Antonio-area schools these past two years.
Lockhart. What will it take for the Lions to join Austin-area schools in a district? Five pounds of brisket from Smitty’s Market delivered to the UIL’s doorstep? For the second consecutive realignment, Lockhart will compete in a Class 5A district with such schools as Kerrville Tivy (106 miles from Lockhart), Boerne (82 miles) and Medina Valley (96 miles) instead of such nearby possibilities as Bastrop (32 miles), Cedar Creek (22 miles) and Weiss (42 miles).
The Austin school district. In Class 5A, the Austin schools go from their own self-contained district – a setup that landed four AISD schools in the postseason — to a district that also includes Dripping Springs and Seguin. In Class 6A, the Austin schools will trade competing against Del Valle, Manor and San Marcos in a six-team district to facing off against a nine-team district that includes Westlake and Lake Travis.
Wimberley. After years of frustration, the Texans finally vanquished their football nemesis, Geronimo Navarro, this past fall and made a run to the state semifinals in Class 4A, Division II. Along the way, they dispatched a gifted Cuero team 44-36 in a thrilling regional final. On Thursday, the Texans learned they must face both Navarro and Cuero in their new 4A, Division II district. Last season, the three teams combined for a 36-5 record.
— Thomas Jones