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Walker: Taking a Look at UIL District Realignment

There’s probably no date on the school calendar more widely anticipated than the release date for biennial realignment by the University Interscholastic League.

Well, maybe the last day of classes.

At promptly at 9 a.m. on Monday, the UIL released the 2014-16 alignment of districts and for Howe and Van Alstyne coaches it’s a mixed bag.

There’s no question that, for football, both Howe and Van Alstyne came out much better than Melissa. The Cardinals have road trips to Bullard (144 miles), Gilmer (116 miles), and a 90-mile jaunt to Canton to look forward to over these next two seasons

With the addition of a 6A class, both Howe and Van Alstyne are now in Class 3A, but the Bulldogs dropped down to Division II with their lower enrollment figures.

On the football side, Van Alstyne’s new home will be Class 3A, District 5 (DI) and will include teams from Callisburg, Pilot Point and Whitesboro, along with former foes from last season Pottsboro and Farmersville, losing trips to Sunnyvale, Caddo Mills and Commerce.

Van Alstyne will play Anna, Aubrey, Bonham, Quinlan-Ford and S&S in non-district games next season.

Van Alstyne athletic director and head football coach Mikeal Miller felt like his new schedule was pretty much an even trade as far as quality of opponents go.

“I like the change from a travel standpoint as I think we came out better in that regard, but the three new teams will be a challenge. Coach Gill has turned the Whitesboro program into a pretty good football team and they should be the favorite going into next season,” said Miller. “Coach Best in Pilot Point had a rough start but they have turned things around and appear to be headed in the right direction.”

I asked coach Miller about his feelings going up against Whitesboro again where his father is a member of the staff.

“It’s always exciting from that standpoint, perhaps more for our kids now that they have gotten older,” he said.

Miller’s dad, Ed, is the assistant principal at Whitesboro Middle School and his mom teaches at the high school.

For Howe, as the Bulldogs drop down to Class 3A, District 5, Division II, they will slide right into the slot formerly occupied by Bells in what should be known as the Tiger district.

Howe’s 2014 and 2015 football opponents will be Gunter, Leonard, S&S, Tom Bean and Whitewright.

I got a chance to visit with Howe athletic director and head football coach Zack Hudson on Tuesday.

“Our kids are excited about the changes, they like the fact that we’re getting a fresh start.” Hudson said. “I think dropping down to Division II will make us a lot more competitive, but make no mistake about it, we have a lot of respect for those teams who we’re going to play. Gunter is always tough; we look at what Leonard and S&S did last season so we know it’s not going to be an easy road.”

There will not be any easy roads in the Bulldogs’ non-district schedule as well. Hudson has scheduled games with Bonham, Lindsay, Muenster Sacred Heart, Ponder and Pottsboro before the Bulldogs jump into league play.

For basketball, and most likely all other UIL activities, the shuffling created some major changes in district alignments.

Howe will be in District 10 while Van Alstyne jumps to District 13.

Joining Howe will be Callisburg, Gunter, Pilot Point, Ponder, Pottsboro, S&S and Whitesboro.

Van Alstyne will compete against teams from Caddo Mills, Commerce, Farmersville, Leonard, Lone Oak, Tom Bean and Whitewright.

Let’s concentrate on football as that gets the most fan interest and is first on the agenda for next season.

While Pottsboro and Farmersville will provide familiar foes on the gridiron, Callisburg, Pilot Point and Whitesboro will be new to the Panthers next year.

Callisburg finished 6-4 and did not reach the playoffs after going 2-4 in district play. The Wildcats suffered a big loss of talent following their area-round season of 2012 and they have a lot of sophomore talent returning to the 2014 team.

Pilot Point finished second in the District 5-2A last season and lost to Farmersville, 35-27, in the bi-district round of the postseason. Bearcat coach Bob Best took over at Pilot Point in 2010, following the team’s state championship run, and has slowly re-built a program that suffered through a 2-8 season in 2011.

Whitesboro, another Bearcat team, was the District 5-2A champion in 2013 and coach Eddie Gill has brought back a program that had never before won a district title. His team finished the 2013 season with a 9-2 record, winning the bi-district title with a 34-0 win over Caddo Mills. The Bearcats were eliminated from the postseason as New Boston rallied for a late touchdown to nab a 14-7 win.

Although the team’s Howe will be joining are familiar foes from the past, coach Hudson and his staff will be getting fresh looks at the opposition.

We can tell him that Gunter is always tough. Coach Jake Fieszel’s teams have won five district championships in the last six seasons and they always come up with a couple of outstanding running backs.

Both S&S and Leonard are coming off of long postseason runs in 2013.

He will like the six-mile road trip to Tom Bean much better than the around the lake struggle to Sunnyvale.

No one is ever totally pleased with the realignment process but it’s our guess that they will all show up next year to play the games.

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