High school football coaches in the area shared their respective thoughts Tuesday after having a little over 24 hours to digest the latest University Interscholastic League realignment, which was released Monday morning and covers the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school terms for Texas high schools.
Collectively, at least a couple of the athletic directors/head football coaches displayed a “make it work” attitude.
Jacksonville was dealt a horrendous hand by the UIL, as the Indians were placed into District 16-5A along with Corsicana, John Tyler, Lindale, Nacogdoches and Whitehouse — the current District 16-4A cast — plus Lufkin and Ennis.
Lufkin is dropping down a notch due to enrollment declines while the Lions of Ennis went 14-1 last season and are a mainstay in post season play where Ennis has won state championships as recent as 2004 and 2001.
Jacksonville athletic director/head football coach Chris Taber said the addition of Ennis stunned him, but that he expected the Tribe to be included in a district with Lufkin.
“We thought that we'ed get Lufkin because they are attached to Nacodoches,” Taber explained. “Now we got a state-semi finalist (Ennis) from last year and a powerhouse (Lufkin) in our district.”
Taber admitted that he was disappointed at the hand the UIL dealt the Indians at first, but that his focus now is to accept the change and prepare to go out and compete.
“There's two things that we can do; mope around and pout about it or get our guys ready to go out and to battle,” Taber said. “All of the district are tough. Each year there are changes. For example, Whitehouse will lose a lot of talented kids (graduation) and Nacogdoches loses a lot on defense. Our kids will still be young, but they will have that valuable varsity experience under their belts from last year.”
Taber said one positive thing is the increase in size of the league, which will give the Tribe seven league games, instead of five.
“I like the larger districts because if you have a bad game it doesn't kill you,” Taber said. “With only five district games you can't afford to have an off night in district.”
Taber said that he has been able to build the Indians' non-district schedule in a seamless fashion.
“We will be playing (Longview) Pine Tree, Mount Pleasant and Palestine in non-conference,” Taber said. “Palestine is one of our historic-geographical rivals and we are looking forward to renewing series with Pine Tree and Mt. Pleasant.”
Jacksonville is 18-8-0 all-tine versus Pine Tree. The teams first met way back in 1954, and last hooked up in 2011.
The Tigers of Mt. Pleasant haven't faced the Tribe in 29 years.The Indians hold a 3-1-0 advantage in the all-time series.
Bullard was dispatched to Class 4A, Division 2, Region II, District 5.
That loop will also be home to Canton, Emory Rains, Gilmer, Melissa and Nevada Community.
While the move will give the Panthers four new district foes, Panther athletic director/head football coach Shannon Wilson said that the latest realignment news was easier for him to stomach than it has been in the past.
“I think that this year wasn't as crazy since the UIL released the enrollment cut off numbers early,” Wilson said. “It really helped us in non-district scheduling.”
Wilson said that he was not surprised that the Panthers will be traveling more of district games in the future.
“Obviously there will be more travel involved, but some of that was anticipated due to the split in classification.”
As for the new conference members, Wilson said that he has a lot of respect for all of the programs.
“Our new district really seems to be solid and competitive from top to bottom.”
Alto head football coach Paul Gould said that he was “a bit surprise” when he learned the latest news from the UIL.
The Yellowjackets were slotted into Class 2A, Division I, Region 3, District 11.
The circuit will also be home to Cayuga, Grapeland, Kerens, Malakoff Cross Roads and Price Carlisle.
Several of the 'Jackets' new conference mates are brand new, and Gould said that he has no problem with that.
“It will be nice to play against some new teams and we look forward to playing these guys,” Gould said. “I thought that we would be in a district with Grapeland...I know Cayuga, Carlisle and Kerens have been pretty good for quite some time and I know Grapeland and Cross Roads have been on the upswing as well.”
Monday's realignment also affected the state's non-football schools, such as New Summerfield.
The Hornets found themselves in Class 2A, Region 3, District 21, along with Alto, Cushing, Neches, Overton and Price Carlisle.
New Summerfield head boys basketball coach Sunny Hardy said that he had no qualms with the Hornets' new assignment.
“I think that realignment was very good for New Summerfield,” he said. “We kept some familiar opponents (Alto, Cushing, Neches) and with the addition of Overton and Carlisle, our travel situation is not a bad one at all.”
Hardy said that he was afraid that the UIL would ship New Summerfield westward toward Athens and Corsicana and the fact that that didn't happen was a positive thing for for his school.
“The close proximity of the schools in the new distirct will get the kids home earlier on game nights and save the school district costs in transportation,” Hardy said.
NOTE: Attempts to reach Rusk head football coach Ted Patton and Troup head football coach Dennis Alexander Tuesday were unsuccessful.