MIDLAND Within moments of a boxcutter ripping through the last piece of tape holding shut the package filled with reclassification packets, a Midland College Advanced Technology Center lecture hall containing dozens of local coaches went from calm to bedlam.
As much as any of them anticipated the moment of flipping to the page where their team’s name was, most of them weren’t ready for what was awaiting them Thursday morning.
The biennial UIL realignment meeting quickly turned into chaos as teams saw what guaranteed games they’d play over the next two seasons.
Four districts containing local 11-man teams only had four teams in them. Those teams include Andrews and Seminole in District 1-4A Division I, Kermit in District 1-3A Division I, Crane and Alpine in District 1-3A Division II and the quartet of Wink, McCamey, Iraan and Van Horn in District 1-2A Division II.
“UIL is probably looking more at mileage this year than they have in the past … they actually listened to some people about travel,” Crane head coach Steve Rodman said. “But I guess that supersedes the normal size district and the difficulty of finding games.”
Those small districts had a trickledown effect for all teams, as pre-planned aspirations for nondistrict games went out the window and caused plenty coaches to scramble to complete their schedules.
“This by far was the wildest one … with so many four-team districts is what it was, just crazy,” Alpine head coach John Fellows said. “This was probably the biggest curveball that I’ve seen … this place was mayhem for a good 30 minutes.”
Rounding out the 11-man teams’ placement were Monahans, Fort Stockton, Pecos and Greenwood all staying in District 2-4A Division II with Lamesa and Sweetwater. Snyder jumps in to take the place of Seminole.
“It worked out well for us, that’s a good district for us,” Fort Stockton head coach Mike Peters said. “These are teams that historically for the last 100 years we’ve all been in there with at one point or another.”
Seminole moved up in classification to join a district with Andrews, San Angelo Lake View and Big Spring.
Mustangs’ head coach Ralph Mason quoted television’s Gomer Pyle with his reaction to the draw: “Surprise, surprise, surprise.”
Andrews leaves the district with four teams from the El Paso area for three closer opponents. The Mustangs will make up those miles in nondistrict play with games against Monahans, Lubbock-Cooper, Hereford and others scheduled.
Andrews and Seminole will reignite their gridiron rivalry in a regular-season finale showdown.
Each of the schools in a four-team district is guaranteed a playoff spot, but that doesn’t change most of their approaches to the season. Many have loaded up with a hefty nondistrict schedule.
Fort Stockton has scheduled Class 5A El Paso Riverside, Alpine will play Tuscola Jim Ned and rivals Crane and Kermit will meet in nondistrict action for the first time since 2007.
No local team will compete in Class 5A or Class 2A Division I, as McCamey drops down in classification.
Badgers’ head coach Fred Staugh doesn’t see a difference in competition because of the drop, but didn’t expect to schedule seven nondistrict games to start the 2018 season.
“I would say 12 out of 10 really for all of us because we’re the only four-team district in 2A. I think we were all shocked,” Staugh said about seeing his new district.
At the six-man level, Balmorhea and Buena Vista swapped spots from their old districts. The Bears join Marfa, Fort Davis and Rankin District 7-1A Division I, while the Longhorns fall into District 5-1A Division II with Grandfalls-Royalty, Dell City, Sanderson and Sierra Blanca.
“We feel good about the district we’re in,” Balmorhea head coach Vance Jones said. “Logistically, there wasn’t a whole lot of places for us to go other than that district and with Buena Vista dropping to DII.”
The clouded future for local teams has become a little brighter and Thursday’s impact will be felt well beyond this summer’s first two-a-day practice, now six months away on Aug. 5.