Aside from the approximate one-hour drive to Brady, the Early Longhorns and Bangs Dragons are going to have to leave awfully early to arrive at the destinations of their District 3-2A Division I football opponents the next two years.
The University Interscholastic League revealed its latest realignment Thursday morning, and Early, Bangs and Brady are the only holdovers from the current 3-2A Division I. New additions include Grape Creek, Wall, Comfort and Ingram Tom Moore — all of which are near, or considerably longer than 100-mile drives for both the Dragons and Longhorns.
“We just have to go with it, there’s not a lot we can do,” said Bangs head football coach Chuck Lipsey. “It doesn’t really matter that much for Friday’s varsity games, but we’re going to try and work something out for junior varsity and junior high. We might try and play at neutral sites, or play some teams twice instead of others. That’s something we’re going to discuss.”
Early head coach Brad Bowden echoed the concern about Thursday football travel.
“I was very surprised, or at least very surprised to see Comfort and Ingram included,” Bowden said. “Our travel times will be increased, but it isn’t something we will worry about. The increased travel will impact the sub-varsity teams more than the varsity, but we will be fine.”
Wall is a 106-mile trek from Brownwood, while Grape Creek is 109 miles away, both outside of San Angelo. Meanwhile, Comfort — at 138 miles — and Ingram at 151 miles — are off Interstate 10 near Kerrville.
While the travel isn’t favorable, the competition should be for both Bangs and Early. The Dragons are coming off a 6-5 bi-district campaign, while the Longhorns were 2-8 a season ago. Wall posted an 11-1 record and advanced two rounds deep into the playoffs, but Brady and Comfort both finished 4-6, while Grape Creek and Ingram Moore both went 0-10.
“I think it will be a good football district,” Lipsey said. “I don’t know much about Ingram Tom Moore and Comfort, but we did play Comfort my first two years here, so we’ll have to scout them up and see what they’ve got. (Realignment guru Carl) Padilla picked us to be pretty much in the same district except for losing Ballinger, but I thought we’d stay up around I-20. But this should be a competitive district. Wall will probably be the favorite. They’ve been good for a couple of years and have a lot of kids coming. We’re going to have to work hard to dethrone them.”
Added Bowden, “I like our new district. It will certainly be a good challenge for us. It’s nice to have some old friends in there and good to have some new ones as well. I’m looking forward to it. We are pretty familiar with most of the teams in the district and have a good feel for what to expect from them. As for the other two, Comfort has usually been successful in the past, so I expect them to be pretty solid. Ingram is a program that hasn’t had a lot of success, but for years they were the smallest school in a tough 3A district. Regardless of how it turned out for everyone, the hand is dealt, and now it’s time to get ready to go play it.”
Both Bangs and Early were able to complete their non-district football schedules prior to the new District 3-2A Division I schools meeting Thursday afternoon.
Bangs will face Clyde, Llano, Goldthwaite and Coleman in pre-district action, with scrimmages against Ballinger and Comanche. Meanwhile, Early will square off with Cisco, San Saba, Coleman and Ballinger in its first four games.
Outside of football, Bangs and Early will also remain in District 6-2A, but most of the teams have changed.
Replacing Hamilton, Hico, Dublin, Comanche and San Saba will be Wall, Jim Ned, Ballinger, Brady and Grape Creek. Coleman joins Early and Bangs as the holdovers from the current 6-2A.
“They kept us centrally located in basketball, but adding Wall and Jim Ned will definitely make it stout,” Lipsey said. “The good news is we won’t have to be playing those teams in the first round of the playoffs.”
Added Bowden, “The new basketball district is a tough one. Just based on the basketball traditions at Wall, Jim Ned and Ballinger, I believe this new district will be tougher than our old one.”