Perhaps the biggest surprise generated locally by the release of the UIL’s biennial realignment on Monday is that Brown County’s four UIL six-man programs will each compete in their own Class 1A districts over the next two seasons.
Defending state finalist May has been placed in District 10-1A Division I with Lingleville, Gustine, Gordon and Strawn; Zephyr has been moved to District 11-1A Division I along with Santa Anna, Evant and Lometa; Blanket will reside in District 8-1A Division II with Rising Star, Sidney and Panther Creek; and Brookesmith will be housed in District 13-1A Division II with Richland Springs, Mullin, Cherokee and Lohn.
On paper, May received the toughest draw of the four county schools. Four of the five teams in the new district reached the playoffs last season and, not counting Gustine’s 0-10 mark in 2013, the league posted a combined record of 40-12.
“It’s going to be pretty tough,” said May head coach Craig Steele. “Gordon and Strawn are good year in and year out and Lingeville’s had a couple of good seasons. Gustine is the wild card because they didn’t have a lot of guys come out for football last year, but they have a lot of guys in school. They could have 20 kids play next week.
“We played Lingleville and Gustine last year and we thought we were going to play Gordon in the playoffs so we’ve seen film on them. We’ve got a little bit of knowledge about this district.”
Steele added he was surprised May and Zephyr weren’t placed in the same district, but the two teams will continue their rivalry in non-district action.
There isn’t a team in Zephyr’s new district that finished with a losing record last season, though only team — Lometa — qualified for the playoffs. The greatest challenge on Monday for Zephyr head coach Shannon Williams, however, was filling his schedule with only three district games on tap.
“I was really hoping for a five- or six-team district, I’m not a big fan for four-team districts just because of scheduling,” Williams said. “I’m trying to fill three games and there’s not many teams around here who need that many filled.”
As for the district itself, Williams said, “It’s kind of what I thought. I didn’t expect Santa Anna to be in it and I thought maybe we’d have May or Gustine. It ought to be another competitive district, but probably not the level it was this past season.”
Blanket will likely be the preseason favorite in its new district as it defeated Rising Star by 34 points last season, while Sidney and Panther Creek struggled to field teams throughout portions of the 2013 campaign.
“I never would have dreamed we’d be a west team, I was totally surprised,” said Blanket head coach Tyler Tabor. “If we get in the playoffs we’re going to have to do a whole lot of traveling, so that’ll be different for us, and we’ll run into a buzz saw early.”
Tabor praised Rising Star head coach Caleb Calloway on the turnaround he’s orchestrating with the Wildcats and hopes the numbers are up at both Panther Creek and Sidney for the 2014 season.
“I hope we don’t get into a situation where we’re not playing games, that’s a scary aspect of it,” Tabor said. “I haven’t really talked to the coaches at either school about numbers.”
Brookesmith has the toughest road to the postseason as, not only are the Mustangs coming off a 0-10 campaign, but five teams reside in District 13-1A Division II with one being 10-time defending district champion Richland Springs.
“We dropped Blanket and added Lohn and Cherokee, both of which we had talked about playing anyway, now those games will just have a little more meaning,” said Brookesmith head coach Jeremy Black. “I feel like this is a district where we will have a chance to compete in a couple of games and, given how the last two seasons have been, that’s a good thing.”