UIL Realignment: As Expected, Longview + John Tyler Reunited With Tyler Lee, While Lufkin Heads South in 6A
The UIL delivered no surprises in the way of East Texas' realignment in the state's largest classification Monday morning.
As expected, Class 6A newcomers John Tyler and Longview will be paired with former district rival Tyler Lee in a league also comprised of schools from Mesquite and Rockwall, while Lufkin's jump back up in class has resulted in the Panthers re-districting into the north Houston area.
Beginning with the 2016 football season, the Lions, Lobos and Red Raiders will call District 11-6A home in an eight-team field that also includes Mesquite, Mesquite Horn, North Mesquite, Rockwall and Rockwall-Heath.
Lufkin will join Beaumont West Brook, Conroe, Conroe Oak Ridge, Montgomery, The Woodlands, and The Woodlands College Park in 12-6A.
It will be the first time since 2007 that JT, Longview, Lee, and Lufkin will all be members of Texas' biggest classification.
The UIL released conference cutoff numbers in November ahead of Monday's re-districting, and all four schools turned in enrollment figures above the new Class 5A threshold of 2,049.
Lee, which competed in 11-6A the previous two seasons, is once again East Texas' most populous school with 2,580 students. The Red Raiders are followed by John Tyler (2,270), Lufkin (2,198) and Longview (2,188.5).
John Tyler and Lee, which have met every year on the football field since 1958, will be district mates for the first time since 2009.
"It's not just about bragging rights anymore with it now being a district game," JT coach Ricklan Holmes said. "It's now about possible playoff positioning; somebody could be going home (based on the outcome)."
Holmes confirmed the two rivals will meet on the final night of the regular season.
"I'm glad to see it back at the end of the season, the way it was in the '90s," he said. "It's a big deal, the final game of the season between two rival schools."
Longview is certainly no stranger to moving back and forth between classifications. The Lobos spent two seasons in the old Class 4A in 2008 and 2009, reaching the state championship game both years, which was followed by a four-year stint in the old 5A.
And now Longview is back in Texas' largest class following two seasons one level below.
Both JT and Longview will have something to prove playing in 6A, while Lee will debut a new head coach -- former Southlake Carroll assistant Clayton George -- this fall.
Longview (11-3) advanced to the state quarterfinals in 5A Division I a season ago, while John Tyler (8-4) reached the area round. Both teams were eliminated by eventual state finalist Mansfield Lake Ridge.
The Red Raiders finished 5-5 and narrowly missed the postseason in 2015, losing out on a district tiebreaker. Lee has made the playoffs just once since 2010.
Lufkin qualified for the playoffs in both 2014 and 2015, but was eliminated in the first round by longtime rival Longview each time. Ironically, both the Panthers and Lobos could theoretically meet in bi-district for the next two years as well.
The Panthers will bring back a talented nucleus of players from last season, but will be competing against schools with much larger enrollments. Lufkin, 12-6A's smallest school, has roughly half the number of students as The Woodlands (4,280), which is the state's ninth-most populous school.
Conroe Oak Ridge and Conroe are also well over 3,500 students.