Little change in Division I for May, Zephyr
Brown County's four six-man programs will compete in three separate districts the next two seasons, as the UIL unveiled its 2018-19, 2019-20 football alignments Thursday morning.
As has been the case the past two seasons, May and Zephyr will compete in separate districts in Class A Division I, while Blanket and Brookesmith are pitted in the same Division II district for the first time since 2013.
On the paper, the biggest winner among the local six-man schools is Blanket, which dropped back down to Division II and was placed in District 15 with Brookesmith, Mullin, Rising Star and Sidney. During the last two seasons the Tigers, who posted a 5-5 mark in 2017 under first-year head coach Brent Williamson, made District 10-A Division I their home, which included Top 10 programs Jonesboro and Zephyr.
Brookesmith is coming off back-to-back playoff seasons but finished with a 5-6 record each year. Mullin posted a 6-4 record a year ago, but hasn't made the playoffs since 2014, and Rising Star and Sidney combined for three wins in 2017.
“I love the way it worked out. We get to see some new faces and level the playing field,” Williamson said. “I figured we'd be in a district with Rising Star, Sidney and Mullin, but I didn't see Brookesmith coming in. I figured it'd probably be Gustine or we would stay in a four-team district.”
Blanket has played in mostly four-team districts since UIL split six-man into two divisions, but Williamson likes the prospects of competing in a five-team race.
“In four-team districts you could possibly win just one game and get in the playoffs,” Williamson said. “I like the five-team, it makes you work a little bit harder and take care of business. You have to win at least three games now to get in.”
For the Mustangs, Blanket and Mullin, on paper at least, appear to be the biggest threats to a postseason three-peat for head coach Scott Edmondson's squad.
“We're very hopeful, we have a lot of young kids coming back and we're only losing two people from the whole high school,” Edmondson said. “I feel pretty confident we can continue some of the success that we've had, but it's going to be hard with some of those teams. I'm confident we can do it, we just have to stay healthy.”
Like Williamson, Edmondson was also surprised at where Brookesmith landed.
“It's a surprise for sure, but I don't know why I'm surprised, it's not the first time the UIL's done something like that,” Edmondson said. “I was expecting us to be in the district with Richland Springs, down in that area, but I'm not disappointed, just surprised.”
Brookesmith's pre-district schedule this year will include Santa Anna, Panther Creek, Lometa, Evant, Paint Rock and Veribest.
In Division I, May will take part in District 14 along with Gorman, Lingleville and Santa Anna.
“The district really didn't change a whole lot for us, we dropped Gordon and added Santa Anna, which is a little bit shorter trip,” said May head coach Craig Steele. “Gorman is a program on the rise and I expect them to be very formidable. Lingleville, I think I probably say this every year they're in our district, but you just never know about them. They did graduate two good players but they still have a chance to be pretty decent. With Santa Anna, it's a numbers game and they need numbers, but I'm sure there's some kids walking the halls and if they come out Santa Anna could surprise some people.”
As for the Tigers, Steele stated, “We lost five seniors and they're going to be difficult to replace, but we have some young kids that are moving up, a lot of sophomores will be playing for us next year because we don't have a very big junior class.”
May's pre-district schedule wasn't finalized Thursday, but Steele did state the Tigers are slated to face reigning Division II state champion Strawn as well as Brown County rival Zephyr.
Speaking of Zephyr, the Bulldogs will be in District 15-A Division I along with Evant, Jonesboro and Lometa — which is taking the spot formerly occupied by Blanket.
“It's pretty much what I expected,” said Zephyr head coach Shannon Williams. “I thought there might be a chance we got May thrown in with us, and a chance Jonesboro went out and Prairie Lea came in, but I'm glad it worked out the way it did.”
The Bulldogs will be attempting to overtake two-time reigning state finalist Jonesboro for the district championship, as both teams have been ranked in the Top 10 the past two seasons.
“Jonesboro is losing some really good players and I felt like we were pretty young,” Williams said.
Zephyr also has the first six games on its schedule lined up — Coolidge, Granbury NCTA, Water Valley, May, Gorman and Cherokee.
Also locally, Richland Springs, Panther Creek, Cherokee, Lohn and Rochelle will comprise the new District 16 in Class A Division II.