UIL’s new districts put pundits in their place
PROJECTIONS and predictions gave way to reality on Monday as the University Interscholastic League opened its biannual package of district realignments, which offered a grab bag of surprises across the board.
The long-awaited drop of La Marque to class 3a officially came into being as the Cougars are now part of district 12-3a-1. Due to be annexed to Texas City ISD by state order, La Marque will be joined in the district by neighboring Hitchcock, along with Anahuac, Hardin, Hempstead and Winnie-East Chambers.
“We’re fired up,” La Marque football coach Mike Jackson said. “We’ve been one of the smaller teams in 4a the past few years but we’re now going to be one of the larger schools in 3a.
“When you’re at this level, your kids are going to have to either play both ways or at least play it part time. That’s something our kids have been doing since 2013, so this isn’t new for us.”
This is the second time for La Marque to participate in 3a, having previously been a part of the classification from 2012 to 2014.
The fall from class 4a will put the Coogs’ rivalries with Galveston Ball and Texas City on hiatus but it opens the door to another natural rivalry with a Hitchcock program that lies just four miles from the La Marque high-school campus.
With enrollment numbers climbing for La Marque, Jackson feels that the Cougars stand a good chance to return to 4a when realignment resets the districts again in 2018.
The distance to the other three schools in 12-3a-1 will not be as drastic as originally expected for the Coogs, whose longest round trips will be 180 miles to Hempstead, 162 to Winnie and 69 to Anahuac. At one time, it was feared that they could face journeys as long as 136 miles in each direction.
“We’ll hit the road, take our chances against some of Houston’s best rush-hour drivers and get there ready to play,” Jackson said.
District 24-6a remained mostly intact in the reshuffle, with Clear Brook, Clear Creek, Clear Falls, Clear Lake and Clear Springs all returning along with Dickinson and Friendswood, while Alvin will replace Brazoswood.
The addition of the Yellow Jackets will bolster an already competitive district for both baseball and softball, as well as adding a loaded volleyball squad into what is considered one of the state’s strongest districts in that sport.
Change was readily apparent in district 23-5a. While Ball, Texas City and Santa Fe remained together, the return of three of the five Fort Bend ISD schools was a bit of a surprise, as Elkins, Marshall and Willowridge will come back. The district will also now contain nine schools instead of eight as Galena Park, Manvel and Fort Bend Shadow Creek were also added.
Nevertheless, Santa Fe football coach Mark Kanipes was unfazed at the news. “I don’t think much will change,” he said.
“You lose one football powerhouse in Ridge Point and gain another in Manvel, so it’s still going to be a tough district.”
The addition of Manvel brings one of the state’s top football programs back down from class 6a, where the Mavericks advanced to consecutive region III, division I semifinals only to lose to eventual state champions Katy on both occasions.
Manvel’s prominence will be on display today, Wednesday, as more than a dozen of its players are due to sign letters of intent to play college football.
Shadow Creek, which will open its doors this fall, will be a basketball-only school until entering the football and other arenas in 2018.