UIL Realignment 2014: East Texas Winners + Losers
The chaos that is biennial UIL realignment is now a day old, so we take a look at some of the winners and losers from the state's governing body's re-classification and re-districting efforts.
For a full breakdown of the region's new districts, click this link.
2014 UIL Realignment
East Texas Realignment Winners
Thanks to the UIL's early release of each classification's cutoff numbers, everyone knew that Lee's enrollment would make the Red Raiders the region's only team in the new Class 6A.
But Monday's realignment revealed that Lee will not be paired with perennial big-school powers such as DeSoto and defending state champion Cedar Hill, but will play in a district with six Garland ISD schools plus Rockwall. Only two of those teams -- Garland Sachse (11-1) and Rockwall (6-6) -- won more than five games in 2013, when the Red Raiders fell 43-33 to Rockwall. Lee's lone district win came against the Mesquite team (61-54) that Sachse beat 63-56 in the first round of the playoffs.
Lee didn't make the playoffs in 2013, but plenty of groundwork was laid thanks in part to a strong 2016 class that should make the Red Raiders not only a playoff team, but a possible district title contender during the next two years.
Like Lee, Longview's snapshot day enrollment figure and the UIL's late-fall release of the new cutoff numbers meant that the Lobos knew they would "stay down" in 5A. The Lobos found out Monday that not only would they avoid rival Lufkin in their new district, 15-5A, but also rival John Tyler, a Whitehouse program that has won 22 games in the last two years, and Ennis, which moved into the new 16-5A after reaching the state semifinals in 2013.
Longview's new district is the same league -- with the addition of Greenville, which went 0-10 this past fall -- that the Lobos dominated in 2008 and 2009, when they reached the 4A Division I state championship in back-to-back seasons. Longview's new district mates went a combined 1-4 in the playoffs in 2013. While Texas High, Sulphur Springs, and Marshall return plenty of key talent for 2014, the Lobos will undoubtedly be a heavy favorite to win the new 15-5A.
Diboll benefited from a five-team district to earn a playoff berth in 2013 despite a 1-9 regular-season record. The Lumberjacks' new district has six teams, but none is Carthage or Jasper, which Diboll played the last two years.
Two of Diboll's new District 7-4A Division II opponents -- Cleveland Tarkington and Huntington -- were 1-17 in 2013 with the lone win being Huntington's two-point season-opening victory vs. Tarkington. Diboll beat Huntington 41-6 to snag the old 20-3A's final playoff berth. Another new district foe, Shepherd, beat Diboll only 7-6 in non-district before finishing 6-4, but missing the postseason.
Diboll's other two new foes are Madisonville and Coldspring-Oakhurst. Madisonville beat Diboll 41-12 in non-district, but went 5-6 and lost in the first round. Coldspring-Oakhurst will likely be the district's favorite after finishing 10-2 in 2013 and reaching the 2010 Class 3A Division II state title game.
The travel budget may increase for Alto in the new District 11-2A Division I, but the Yellow Jackets will almost certainly be a clearcut favorite to win the district football championship in 2014.
A strong Alto team went 9-4 and reached the third round of the playoffs in 2013, but fell 28-10 to district champion West Sabine during the regular season. Alto took care of business against San Augustine, but the Jackets won't have to deal with either of those typically strong opponents the next two years as both went to the new District 10-2A Division I.
None of the other five teams in Alto's new district won a playoff game this past fall, going a combined 0-3 in the postseason. Alto loses some serious playmakers in Zac Sturns and Jacolby Whitaker, but has the talent returning to be the favorite to win the league title entering 2014.
East Texas Realignment Losers
Reaching the postseason for the fourth consecutive season just got a lot harder for the Palestine Wildcats.
UIL realignment placed Palestine in the latest incarnation of the "District of Doom," which will be District 9-4A Division I. Defending state champion Carthage, 2013 state runner-up Kilgore, 2013 state quarterfinalist Chapel Hill, and a Henderson program that won the 2010 state championship and played 13 playoff games from 2010-12 join Palestine and Brownsboro in the new District of Doom.
Palestine went 7-4 and lost in the bi-district round for the third consecutive year this past fall. Carthage, Kilgore, and Chapel Hill graduate a ton of talent, but there's no doubt that Palestine's new district is much, much tougher than its old league, which featured state finalist Fairfield, but not a lot of depth.
Same story, different school. Brownsboro, which missed the playoffs for the third consecutive year in 2013, saw its road to a postseason return get much harder Monday, when the Bears found out they would be part of the new District of Doom.
Another thing Brownsboro and Palestine have in common, other than going to arguably the state's toughest new 4A district, is an increase in travel. Three of the Bears' football opponents are more than 50 miles away, while all five are 54 miles or further for Palestine.
Brownsboro went 2-8 in 2013 and is 8-22 in the last three years, so the Bears face an uphill battle betting back to the playoffs.
An already competitive league slate got harder for Winnsboro, which won't have to face Malakoff, Lone Oak, and Eustace the next two years, but must face perennial powers Daingerfield and New Boston, which have owned their Region II bracket in recent seasons.
Daingerfield and New Boston took turns beating each other for the Region II crown each of the last two years. Daingerfield's 2012 run to a state title appearance included a lopsided third-round playoff win against Winnsboro.
On top of facing those two programs, Winnsboro will see district matchups with Mount Vernon -- a team Winnsboro edged 15-14 in 2013 and lost to 42-7 in 2012 -- and Redwater, which beat Winnsboro 27-7 in the first round of the 2013 playoffs.
Where Alto benefited from leaving a district that contained San Augustine and West Sabine, Joaquin suffers as one of the teams to be placed in that league.
Joaquin joins Beckville, Cushing, and Shelbyville as the schools that round out the new District 10-2A Division I, which will likely see San Augustine, West Sabine, and Joaquin as the top three contenders entering the 2014 season. Had Joaquin stayed in its old district with Carlisle, Harleton, Beckville, Timpson, and Big Sandy, the Rams had a good shot of being preseason district favorites considering a 2013 playoff berth and the return of 1,000-yard rushers in Jonathan Rico and Nate Belrose.
Joaquin could still wind up winning the district this coming fall. After all, the Rams lost 49-46 in a bi-district game to San Augustine in one of the region's most exciting games of 2013. Plus West Sabine graduates a lot of talent from its 10-1 regional semifinalist squad.
But the road to a district crown appears to be significantly tougher in this league.
The Jury's Still Out ...
Everyone in the region was happy to see Lufkin return to an East Texas district. Well, except maybe coaches of the teams in the new District 16-5A.
Lufkin will join old rivals John Tyler and Nacogdoches in the new district, plus fellow East Texas teams Whitehouse, Jacksonville, and Lindale. That should make for a lot of fun.
But the inclusion of non-East Texas teams Corsicana and Ennis in the eight-team district will make for some serious traveling for the Panthers, who are 157 miles away from Ennis and 139 miles away from Corsicana. Additionally, there's no easy way to drive to those schools.
The district race will definitely be intriguing, but having Ennis and Corsicana in the league make for some head-scratching, though it should be pointed out that fans and coaches at those schools are probably less than excited themselves about being in the East Texas district.
Carthage's return to the District of Doom is undoubtedly embraced by fans as it should make for some great district matchups against schools with a lot of history with the Bulldogs.
Carthage's primary rival is Henderson, which CHS has played more than anyone in the Dawgs' history with 70 meetings. The two teams played every year from 1953-2011. Carthage also has plenty of history with Kilgore and Chapel Hill, which should add to what will likely be very competitive district football races the next two years.
However, it goes without saying that the new 9-4A D-I will be a meat-grinder of a district, especially considering that Carthage graduates 16 of 22 starters from its 2013 state title team. While the travel won't be quite as bad as the old district, which included trips to Jasper, Diboll, and Huntington, Carthage is still more than 50 miles away from three of the five teams it will face the next two years: Chapel Hill (52.3 miles), Brownsboro (78.2), and Palestine (86.8).
Veteran head coach Jeff Traylor's Buckeyes are in the opposite situation as Carthage: Gilmer has left the District of Doom and should have a significantly less difficult road to the postseason, but that could come at the price of multiple high-profile league matchups and longer travel distances.
Gilmer has played some big-time district games during the last four years, when the Buckeyes have faced Carthage twice (2010-11), Kilgore twice (2012-13), Chapel Hill twice (2012-13), and Henderson four times in the regular season, plus again for the 2012 regional championship.
Now, Gilmer not only won't be in a district with any of those schools, but the Buckeyes will be in a separate division of the new Class 4A in District 5-4A Division II, which will include fellow East Texas schools Bullard, Canton, and Emory Rains, along with Melissa and Nevada Community. Gilmer is 95 miles away from Community and 116 miles from Melissa.
Despite significant graduation losses, Gilmer will be a heavy favorite to win the district crown in 2014, but the Buckeyes might not be under the state spotlight during that stretch in the fashion that they have been in recent seasons.
Tatum is the perfect example of good news-bad news.
First, the bad news: Tatum's 500-plus enrollment sends the Eagles up to the new 4A Division II after they spent the last few years as one of the state's largest 2A Division I programs. While Tatum's last district was one of the toughest in its classification with White Oak, Troup, Harmony, Jefferson, and Sabine, going up to the new 6-4A D-II places the Eagles with larger schools in Atlanta, Center, Gladewater, Spring Hill, and Pleasant Grove.
Now, the good news: the UIL shipped Gilmer west to the aforementioned 5-4A D-II. Not only is that good news for Tatum in its quest for the district crown, that's good news for everyone else in the new district.
Outside of five seniors, Gladewater returns its entire team from a squad that got hot late and reached the state quarterfinals. The Bears may be the early front runners in the league race, but Tatum, despite jumping up a conference, should be a contender as well.