It was anticipated going into Thursday morning’s announcement that the University Interscholastic League would drop Lubbock High and Monterey to Class 4A.
It was still a bit of a shock seeing it in print, confirming for the first time in both schools’s history they would not be competing at the highest level in the state of Texas. At the same time, Lubbock High’s football coach said it will give the Westerners a chance to be competitive, which the school has sought for several years.
“We like it,” Westerners first-year head coach Jason Strunk said. “It levels the playing field a bit. Our numbers fit it. Monterey is still with us so we kept that district rivalry and that in-city rivalry. I think we match up better with those teams. But now on the flip side we’ve got Frenship and they’re the big boys on the block so we have to get ready for them.”
The every-other-year football and basketball realignment meeting — held at the Region 17 Education Service Center in Lubbock — becomes a frantic dash where coaches get stapled pages showing what district they’ll be in and then try and fill their non-district schedule.
Besides LISD’s three biggest high schools being split into two districts the changes also mean the Coronado-Frenship “Battle of Frankford Avenue” will end — at least for the next two years. Some coaches across the South Plains were happy with the changes, others were not.
When the UIL released its realignment numbers for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons at 9 a.m. Thursday, the landscape of football at the highest classifications changed drastically.
Not only did LHS and Monterey both drop to 4A and form a district (4-4A) with Frenship, Hereford, Plainview and San Angelo Lake View, but Coronado was also left as the only remaining 5A school in Lubbock and one of only two north of Interstate 20 between El Paso and Abilene.
The Mustangs were put into a district (2-5A) with Abilene, Abilene Cooper, Midland, Midland Lee, Odessa, Odessa Permian, Tascosa and San Angelo Central, meaning their only two non-district games will be against Monterey in Week 0 and Lubbock High in Week 1.
“It is what it is and you don’t have any control over it,” Coronado coach Kent Jackson said. “We’re going to stand up and fight and know we’re in a great district with great competition. That’s a deal that you know all those guys can play and it can’t do anything but raise your level. It’s got to if you’re going to compete with them.”
And for the first time, Frenship will be in the same district with an LISD school.
“It’s always a surprise to see what (the UIL) will do,” Monterey coach Todd Pearson said. “This is really what I think a lot of people thought was going to transpire and actually it’s pretty unusual for us and the UIL to do something that we can halfway plan for. With the fact that Coronado is still a 5A that put us in a bit of a bind on how we wanted to schedule our opponents but all you can do is try and get certain games scheduled.”
The new 4A district would seem to give the Tigers a competitive advantage as they and Monterey are the only teams in the district to make the playoffs last year. But head coach Brad Davis knows it will still be a grind. Plus, with Amarillo dropping to 4A as well and creating a separate district in the Amarillo area, it keeps Frenship from having to go east in the first round of the playoffs.
“(The new districts are) everything I’d hoped for except for that 5A being a nine-team district, and that knocked us out of a non-district game (with Coronado),” Davis said. “The district schedule I’m pleased with. I think it will be highly competitive.”
3A gets tougher
Not all the coaches, however, were pleased with the results.
Brownfield and Lamesa both dropped from 3A to 2A, which left the remaining members of District 2-3A — Estacado, Cooper, Shallowater and Levelland — open to two new teams. Those two new teams are last year’s District 4-3A champion Seminole along with a highly competitive Andrews team.
“Our district got a whole lot tougher, that’s for sure,” said Cooper coach John Windham, whose league-champion Pirates beat Andrews in the second round in 2010 and lost to Seminole in the second around last season.
“I thought we’d pick up Seminole and Snyder before we ever touched Andrews. But either way, they’re all tough. It was not a good trade for us, I know that. We’re going to have to really gear up for district play and it will be a battle every week.”
Not all the news was bad. For some schools, the UIL, for once, did them a huge favor.
One of those was Roosevelt, which dropped from Division I to Division II in 2A and got away from the district with Bushland, Muleshoe and Littlefield. Now, the Eagles are in 2-2A of Division II with Abernathy, Floydada, Post, Tulia and Olton, which was elevated from Class 1A.
“I’m really excited,” Eagles head coach Greg Poynor said. “It’s a much better district for us. Being a big, small-school 2A instead of a tiny, big-school 2A, it’s just so different. Put it this way, I’m a lot happier right now than I was two years ago at this time.”
Two other schools that benefitted are Crosbyton and Ralls. Instead of having to travel close to Abilene to play district games, the Crosby County rivals will go west to play Plains, Seagraves and Smyer in 4-1A, Division II. Four of those five teams made the playoffs last year.
“We feel like we can compete in this district with some good teams and it gives our kids an opportunity to be successful,” Ralls head coach Tim James said. “I just feel like the kids gained a lot of confidence this past year. They’ll have confidence going into district and it gives them a chance to compete for the playoffs.”
After having stayed relatively the same or even going down the last realignment in 2010, the cutoff numbers used to determine each classification went up significantly in 5A through 3A.
The cutoff numbers between 5A and 4A jumped 15 to 2,090 after it went down by 10 from 2,065 to 2,085 in 2010. The 4A/3A number also took a big jump from 990 to 1,005 and is now 55 students more than it was just six years ago. The 3A/2A number went up by 20 to 450, the largest jump of any classification this year and the largest since 5A went from 1,985 to 2,085 in 2,008.
That 3A/2A number caught Shallowater right on the edge. The Mustangs are now the smallest school in Class 3A with the exception of schools that asked to be elevated from 2A. Lubbock High, Monterey and Amarillo all rank in the top 10 of largest 4A schools.
“This district we’re in now is quality, just like we were in 5A,” Pearson said. “It’ll take hard work and we’re going to have to do things right. You’re definitely going to have to earn it no matter where you’re at.”
To comment on this story: