Eagles dominate district UIL academic meet

Decatur captured the sweepstakes title at the 8-4A University Interscholastic League academic meet Tuesday in dominating fashion.

HARDWARE COLLECTION – Decatur High School won seven team titles and 12 individual gold medals on the way to winning the 8-4A University Interscholastic League academic meet Tuesday. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Decatur won seven team titles and 12 individual gold medals on the way to piling up 551.83 points at the meet held at Weatherford College Wise County. Second-place Springtown finished with 306.83. Bridgeport garnered 209.

Thirty-four Decatur students advanced to regionals, placing in the top three in individual events or as part of teams. The regional meet is April 24-25 at Texas Tech University in Lubbock.

“In my 20 years, we’ve never come close to advancing that many kids to regionals,” said Cindy Berry, Decatur UIL coordinator. “We have a lot of kids that put in a lot of practice and went to practice meets. It really paid off Tuesday.

“We have good, dedicated coaches that have been working with kids. A lot of coaches coach multiple events.”

Decatur’s team titles include: current issues, journalism, literary criticism, number sense, science, speech, and spelling and vocabulary.

Decatur individuals swept the top three spots in four events. Brooklyn Blaylock, Payton McAlister and Allan Allsbrooks swept the medals in computer applications. Rachael Ussery, Nancy Torres and Mickey Drewry went first through third in feature writing and news writing. Sarah Crouse, Tucker Garrett and Taylor Yates garnered the top three spots in prose.

Decatur’s Brett Edwards and Truman Young finished first and second in current issues.

Meghan Darst and Payton Carroll took the top two spots in literary criticism. Luke Thomas and Truman Young won gold and silver in persuasive speaking.

Decatur’s Gavin Buchanan won physics and number sense. Karl Davila took gold in science and Kendall Hubbard in ready writing.

Bridgeport won the team crown in computer science. Noah Peterson won the event with Joshua Martz taking third.

Peterson also took gold in mathematics.

Dawson Smith and Yanet Ortiz finished first and second in poetry interpretation. Natalie Smith and Brianna Polk went one and two in spelling and vocabulary. Regi Lane added a district crown for Bridgeport in social studies.

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Dream team: Decatur writers sweep 2 events

Following her trip to the University Interscholastic League Academic state meet last spring, Rachael Ussery painted a picture of herself with Mickey Drewry and journalism sponsor Cindy Berry.

The painting was named the “Dream Team.”

EAGLE WORDSMITHS – Decatur High School writers (from left) Mickey Drewry, Rachael Ussery and Nancy Torres prepare for regional competition after sweeping the top three spots in feature and news writing at the 8-4A District UIL academic meet. Ussery is holding her painting, “The Dream Team,” which she created last year after her trip to the state academic meet in Austin. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

But after Tuesday, the figures in that tremendous trio have changed.

“Now, Nancy [Torres] has replaced me,” Berry pointed out.

Ussery, Torres and Drewry swept the top three spots in feature and news writing at the 8-4A District UIL academic meet, leading Decatur to the journalism crown.

“It was cool. We didn’t expect it,” Torres explained.

Drewry added: “We walked out proud of the medals.”

But they also felt the envious stares of competitors after watching the trio walk up twice and carry away medals.

“You could feel the haters,” Ussery said. “It’s deja vu with us going one, two, three.”

Of the dream team, Ussery and Drewry are the seasoned veterans as juniors. Both advanced to regionals last year with Drewry in news writing and Ussery in feature. Though only a first-year journalism student, Ussery advanced to the state meet.

“It was really unexpected considering that I had not finished my Journalism 1 class,” she recalled.

“I barely made it to state. I got third every time.”

This year, she took first in feature and news writing at district. She also took second in headline writing.

Drewry, who is on her second year on yearbook staff, claims she’s not a writer. Her accomplishments prove otherwise – winning bronze medals in news, feature and headline writing.

“I’m on the yearbook staff as a designer. I don’t write anything,” Drewry said. “I like the UIL contests. It’s more formula writing. Mrs. Berry told me I’d be good at it, and it’s my third year to do it.”

Of the three events, Drewry quickly points out that headline writing is her favorite.

“I love headline writing,” she said. “You can be more creative.”

Though she’s the senior, Torres is the rookie on the Dream Team.

“It’s my first year doing UIL academics,” said Torres, who serves as the editor of The Decatur Journal. “I wish I did it before.”

Torres finished second in news and feature writing and fourth in editorial.

“Feature is my favorite because you can take a subject and make it your own point of view,” Torres said.

Berry points out all three have varied backgrounds and experience.

“They really are an eclectic group,” she said. “Two are on the newspaper staff and another on yearbook. They all don’t write the same. But they know what it takes to be successful.”

All three point to Berry as a pivotal part of their success.

“She’s helped so much,” Torres said.

Drewry adds that Berry’s past success with writers also gives them a little motivation.

“We have a big reputation to live up to,” she said. “There’s a standard we have to be at.”

In the contests, the three are competing against each other. But they refuse to look at it that way.

“It’s us against everyone else in the room,” Ussery said.

“It’s definitely a team effort,” Drewry adds.

Now, the dream team moves on to regionals.

UIL RESULTS

Sweepstakes:
1. Decatur 551.83; 2. Springtown 306.83; 3. Bridgeport 209; 4. Castleberry 125.33; 5. Lake Worth 92.

Accounting:
4. Christopher Perez, Bridgeport; 5. Bronson Burks, Bridgeport; 6. Kayla Morgan, Decatur

Accounting Team:
1. Springtown; 2. Bridgeport

Calculator Applications:
4. Emily Baker, Decatur; 5. Gavin Buchanan, Decatur

Calculator Applications Team:
1. Springtown, 2. Decatur

Current Issues:
1. Brett Edwards, Decatur; 2. Truman Young, Decatur; 3. Tyler Hamblin, Bridgeport; 4. Michaela Cross, Decatur; 5. Carlos Arevalo, Decatur; 6. Jacob Mogus, Bridgeport

Current Issues Team:
1. Decatur

Computer Applications:
1. Brooklyn Blaylock, Decatur; 2. Payton McAlister, Decatur; 3. Allan Allsbrooks, Decatur; 4. Brandon Gatica, Castleberry

Computer Science:
1. Noah Peterson, Bridgeport; 3. Joshua Martz, Bridgeport; 4. Dimitri Gilbert, Decatur; 5. Chris Casey, Bridgeport; 6. Zane Brown, Bridgeport; 6. Jennifer Shaffer, Decatur

Computer Science Team:
1. Bridgeport; 2. Decatur

Editorial Writing:
3. Maddison Kyle, Decatur; 4. Nancy Torres, Decatur; 6. Vanity Johnson, Bridgeport

Feature Writing:
1. Rachael Ussery, Decatur; 2. Nancy Torres, Decatur; 3. Mickey Drewry, Decatur; 4. Vanity Johnson, Bridgeport

Headline Writing:
2. Rachael Ussery, Decatur; 3. Mickey Drewry, Decatur; 4. Lexie Chapman, Decatur

Informative Speaking:
1. Trey Dale, Decatur; 3. Jesus Gam, Decatur; 4. Jake Warren, Decatur

Literary Criticism:
1. Meghan Darst, Decatur; 2. Payton Carroll, Decatur; 5. Allison Garland, Decatur; 6. Kendall Martin, Decatur

Literary Criticism Team:
1. Decatur

Mathematics:
1. Noah Peterson, Bridgeport; 4. Maddi Waskom, Decatur; 5. Emily Baker, Decatur

Number Sense:
1. Gavin Buchanan, Decatur; 3. Noah Peterson, Bridgeport; 4. Ancelmo Galindo; 6. Dimitri Gilbert; Decatur

Number Sense Team:
1. Decatur

News Writing:
1. Rachael Ussery, Decatur; 2. Nancy Torres, Decatur; 3. Mickey Drewry, Decatur; 6. Wendy French, Bridgeport

Journalism Team:
1. Decatur

Persuasive Speaking:
1. Luke Thomas, Decatur; 2. Truman Young, Decatur

Speech Team:
1. Decatur

Poetry Interpretation:
1. Dawson Smith, Bridgeport; 2. Yanet Ortiz, Bridgeport

Prose:
1. Sarah Crouse, Decatur; 2. Tucker Garrett, Decatur; 3. Taylor Yates, Decatur

Ready Writing:
1. Kendall Hubbard, Decatur; 5. Madison Reed, Decatur; 6. Cody Teague, Bridgeport

Science:
1. Karl Davila, Decatur; 4. Gavin Buchanan, Decatur; 6. Brianna Jacobs, Decatur; 7. Patrick August, Decatur

Science Team:
1. Decatur

Physics:
1. Gavin Buchanan, Decatur

Social Studies:
1. Regi Lane, Bridgeport; 2. Chloe Morris, Decatur; 6. Kayla Morgan, Decatur

Social Studies Team:
2. Decatur

Spelling and Vocabulary:
1. Natalie Smith, Bridgeport; 2. Brianna Polk, Bridgeport; 4. Riley Keller, Decatur; 6. Lexi Chapman, Decatur

Spelling and Vocabulary Team:
1. Decatur

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UIL adds to state cross country meet field; Fourth-place teams from regionals to advance

The path to the state cross country meet will get slightly easier this year for teams and individuals.

The University Interscholastic League will expand the state championships field to include the fourth-place teams and the top 10 individuals who are not on teams that advanced from regional meets.

The field previously included the top 10 individuals and top three teams from the four regions.

Local coaches support the change.

“Every year at the state meet you see empty boxes at the starting line,” explained Northwest cross country coach George Lutkenhaus. “For a state as large as Texas, we have one of the smallest state meets. It’s a great thing. If you’ve got the room, put them on the line. I’m for anything to give kids a chance to keep advancing and make them better.”

Decatur coach David Park, who took boys and girls teams to state last year, taking second in the 3A girls race, also supported the change that added four teams to bump the field to 16 in each of the six classifications. He said it will change the strategy at the state meet.

“Some people say it will water it down, but I like it,” Park said. “When you get to state, it’ll make that fifth runner even more important. You’ll have more people in the team race, and there will be more room between team’s fourth- and fifth-place runners. We preach to run tight.”

While supporting adding the fourth team, Park did express some reservations about including the top 10 individuals not on advancing teams.

“You could have to go pretty far down the line to get that 10th individual,” Park said.

The state meet is Nov. 9 at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock.

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UIL changes play clock

The length of high school football games may shorten this fall with the newest rule change.

The University Interscholastic League will change from the 25-second game clock to a 40-second clock that will start as soon as the previous play ended. Before, the play clock started after officials set the ball.

“It should speed up the game a bit. You’ll be able to play faster,” said Boyd coach Brandon Hopkins. “You won’t have to wait. It’ll allow you to snap the ball faster.”

While there is support for the change, coaches admit there will be some adjustment this first season.

“Not everyone will be used to it,” said Chico coach Stephen Carter. “I don’t think it’ll be consistent this year.”

But Bridgeport coach Danny Henson said it will eventually be a benefit and bring more consistency with clock keepers knowing to reset the clock as soon as a whistle is blown.

The 25-second clock is not totally going away, however. The play clock will still be set at 25 seconds after penalties and to start quarters.

With the tempo of the game expected to increase as teams snap the ball quicker, coaches were focused even more on conditioning this summer.

“With the new rules, you have to get in better shape on both sides of the ball,” Hopkins said.

Several area teams are planning to take advantage of the new rule and play at a faster pace.

“We want to snap the ball as soon as the whistle is blown,” Carter said.

Coaches will also need to consider their approach in the final minute of halves. Without a timeout or dead ball, teams could run the final 40 seconds of a half out without needing to run a play.

The change won’t affect just players and the timers. The UIL released an advisory to schools about ball boys and chain crews.

The UIL recommends that game balls be kept on both sidelines with a pair of ball boys. The league also suggests a ball retriever on the sidelines to assist the ball boys. The UIL also suggested the ball boys be at least in the seventh grade and, optimally, in high school.

The league also stressed the importance of the chain crew being able to work quickly, adding that “the down box/marker must hustle” to the succeeding spot.

The UIL recommended schools have an alternate down box on the opposite side of the field that would mark the previous spot until the ball was marked ready for play.

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Decatur finishes 6th in hunt for Cup

The stellar year for Decatur athletics ended with a sixth-place finish in the battle for the University Interscholastic League’s Class 3A Lone Star Cup.

Decatur finished with 59 points. Argyle won the 3A trophy and the $1,000 scholarship with 102. College Station was second with 86, Kennedale third with 78, Abilene Wylie fourth with 66 and Stephenville fifth with 62.

Schools earn points for performance in team sports and individual sports sponsored by UIL along with marching band, one-act play and state academics.

Schools are awarded points in team sports for winning district titles and earning playoff berths. They earn additional points for each playoff victory or advancement.

In the individual sports – cross country, golf, tennis, track and field and swimming – schools receive points for their team finish on the state level.

For academics, schools can earn points for district and regional sweepstakes titles and team finishes at state. One-act play points are awarded for state. Band can add to a school’s tally for area and state finishes.

Decatur earned points in football, volleyball, girls cross country, girls basketball, boys basketball, baseball, softball and boys track. Volleyball garnered the most points with its state championship.

“It proves we have a well-rounded district. A lot of people worked really hard to get us here,” said Decatur Athletic Director Mike Fuller.

“To me, the goal of any school should be to win [the Lone Star Cup]. From an athletic standpoint, we want to continue to score points and figure out a way to get more points.”

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Eagles move west, Bulls east in realignment

The Decatur Eagles are headed west, and the Bridgeport Bulls east.

The Big Sandy rivals were sent in opposite directions for football Monday morning when the University Interscholastic League unveiled its biennial realignment for 2014-16. It was the first realignment with a division split for the UIL’s third-largest classification in football.

While they’re in separate leagues for football, Decatur and Bridgeport will be back together for basketball.

All the Wise County schools will start competition in their new leagues in August.

The UIL released realignment for football and basketball Monday. The new leagues for the other sports will be released later.

This year’s realignment included renaming the UIL’s six classifications from 6A to A. That put six-man football and the former Class A Division II schools in their own classification, A. The former Class A Division I and A 11-man football schools are now 2A. The rest of the classifications also moved up, with the largest league now 6A.

The split for the new 4A presented a fair amount of intrigue for this year’s realignment. The split was used in the past realignment in the old 2A and Class A.

UIL athletic director Mark Cousins said the split presented a challenge because of the lack of schools in 4A. It is the smallest classification, with 186 schools in the range of 465 students and 1,059. Division I is for schools with 686 to 1,059 students. Division II is for those with 465 to 685.

“That’s the old 3A, and even before the split, it was the one class that was the biggest challenge with the number of schools and the enrollments,” Cousins said. “In that range, there are not that many schools. The question is, how large do you want those ratios? Then when you split it in half, one of the biggest concerns is travel.”

Cousins said the added travel caused by the division splits in 4A, 3A and 2A for football is a reason why the UIL is not looking to do the same in other sports.

Here’s a look at where everyone is headed as a result of the realignment.

EAGLES, BULLS SPLIT

The Decatur Eagles will play in 4A Division I’s 4-4A in Region I with Burkburnett, Wichita Falls Hirschi, Graham, Mineral Wells and Gainesville.

“It’s a good district,” said Decatur athletic director Kyle Story. “It’ll be a good competitive district for football. We’ve enjoyed our time in West Texas as we have out east.”

The Eagles could face a tough bi-district opponent with a loaded District 3-4A next to them that includes Stephenville, Brownwood and Abilene Wylie.

Bridgeport will shift east in Division II’s 3-4A with Aubrey, Celina, Krum, Anna and Bonham.

“Our football district came out to what we were predicting,” said Bridgeport athletic director Danny Henson. “We’re used to competing with Celina in scrimmages. We’ve played Krum and have an idea about them.

“We knew we’d be looking at some travel with Division II, but most of the district games are what we are used to traveling.”

For basketball, Decatur and Bridgeport will be together in 8-4A with Castleberry, Lake Worth and Springtown. The two were sent to Region I and avoided being in the same region with Dallas ISD powerhouses Dallas Madison and Lincoln, as well as Argyle.

NORTHWEST, BYRON NELSON LAND TOGETHER

As expected, Northwest will be in the same league next year with its district mate Byron Nelson. The two landed in 6A’s District 5 with Denton Guyer, Denton Ryan and Keller’s four schools – Keller, Central, Fossil Ridge and Timber Creek.

“It’s what we thought with the Keller schools and Byron Nelson,” said Northwest football coach Bill Patterson. “It’s going to be a tough district.”

Once again, as in the past with Euless Trinity and Southlake Carroll, Northwest will be in a district with a team coming off a state title – this time Guyer.

“We’re good about that. We’re fortunate to keep getting the state champion,” Patterson said. “But all around us are good football teams.”

BOYD, PARADISE STAY TOGETHER

Boyd and Paradise will again be linked in the same football district but will have new mates. After sharing league last year with Callisburg, Whitesboro and Pilot Point, the Wise County schools move west to Region I’s 4-3A Division I with Breckenridge, Bowie, Brock and Ponder.

“It was kind of a surprise the way it turned out,” said Boyd athletic director Brandon Hopkins. “It will be a decent district. The only drawback is the post-district travel.”

Paradise athletic director Scott Broussard also expressed excitement about the new league.

“I didn’t think that’s the way it would be,” he said. “It’s not too bad of a realignment.”

For basketball, the two got away from perennial powers Peaster, Brock and Ponder. They will be in 9-3A with Henrietta, Holliday, Jacksboro, Nocona and City View.

“Our basketball coaches are really happy,” Broussard said. “It’ll be good for the kids to play different people.”

ALVORD, CHICO TO HEAD EAST

Alvord dipped down into the new 2A Division I and landed in the same league with an old rival, Chico. The two Wise County schools will be in 5-2A with Valley View, Bells, Blue Ridge and Trenton for football.

“I thought that Chico, Valley View and us were hooked together,” said Alvord athletic director Curtis Enis. “We thought we’d go west with Olney and Archer City. We’re glad to be with Trenton, Bells and Blue Ridge. It’ll be refreshing to be with all new people.”

After competing against larger schools, Enis said it will be good to face schools their own size.

“Our kids are excited. They see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Enis said.

Chico athletic director Stephen Carter also liked the new league.

“It’s exciting to get some new faces,” he said. “We’d rather go that way for travel purposes.”

For basketball, Alvord and Chico will be with Collinsville, Era, Lindsay, Muenster, Poolville and Valley View.

SLIDELL STAYS IN SAME SPOT

Of all the area schools, Slidell saw the least amount of change in the new alignment. The Greyhounds stayed in 21-A with Bellevue, Gold-Burg, Forestburg, Midway, Prairie Valley and Saint Jo. The lone change was the addition of Tioga, who is competing in the UIL for the first time.

“We may be the only eight-team district in the region,” said Slidell athletic director Todd McCormick.

DRAWING NEW LEAGUES

The UIL unveiled its new alignments for 2014-16 Monday. Here are the results.

4-4A I Football
Decatur, Burkburnett, Wichita Falls Hirschi, Graham, Mineral Wells, Gainesville

3-4A II Football
Bridgeport, Aubrey, Anna, Krum, Bonham, Celina

8-4A Basketball
Decatur, Bridgeport, Castleberry, Lake Worth, Springtown

5-6A Football/Basketball
Northwest, Byron Nelson, Denton Ryan, Denton Guyer, Keller, Keller Central, Fossil Ridge, Timber Creek

4-3A I Football
Boyd, Paradise, Breckenridge, Bowie, Ponder, Brock

9-3A Basketball
Henrietta, Holliday, Jacksboro, Nocona, City View

5-2A I Football
Alvord, Chico, Valley View, Bells, Blue Ridge, Trenton

11-2A I Basketball
Alvord, Chico, Collinsville, Era, Lindsay, Muenster, Poolville, Valley View

21-A Basketball
Slidell, Bellevue, Gold-Burg, Forestburg, Midway, Prairie Valley, Saint Jo, Tioga

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Eagles, Bulls await split-up; Rivals to land in different districts

The historic district football rivalry between Decatur and Bridgeport will become part of the past Monday morning.

The University Interscholastic League (UIL) will unveil its biennial realignment at 9 a.m. Monday and the two Big Sandy rivals will end up in separate Class 4A divisions for football. Decatur will be a 4A Division I school, and Bridgeport heads to 4A Division II.

In an unprecedented move, the UIL released the cutoffs its six classifications and the division breaks in the lower four leagues in December. Previously, the organization had waited to release those numbers along with realignment in the first week of February.

“The UIL coming out with that information took some of the shock value out of it,” said Danny Henson, Bridgeport football coach and athletic director. “It also allowed coaches to figure out their non-district schedules.”

The UIL also renamed its classifications for this realignment. The previous 5A division became 6A and the next four leagues elevated in class. The previous Class A Division II will now be Class A, and Class A Division I is now 2A.

While schools know what classification they will be in for 2014-2016, they are still left to wonder what league they will end up in when the UIL releases the new district alignments.

“I don’t make any guesses because I’ve never been right,” said Kyle Story, Decatur football coach and athletic director.

Carl Padilla of San Antonio, creator of the Padilla Poll, has compiled his list of district projections and is confident with his picks.

“I do but there’s always different ways of doing things,” Padilla said. “One of the tougher things to project is what they will do with the bigger schools in the Metroplex.”

Here are a few items to watch for Monday:

DECATUR, BRIDGEPORT SPLIT

Since 1998, the Bridgeport Bulls and Decatur Eagles have shared a football league.

With a big-school, small-school division split being introduced to Class 4A this realignment, they will go their separate ways.

“Since I’ve been here at Bridgeport, there’s been two cycles (1994-96 and 1996-98) that we were not in the same district,” said Henson, who started with the Bulls in 1993.

Story, who arrived in 1999 in Decatur, has always been paired with Bridgeport.

Both coaches have already vowed to keep the Battle of Big Sandy alive as a non-district game. It it tentatively set at the fifth non-district game for each.

“We still plan to play each other,” Story said. “If we end up with a bigger district, we’ll move the game up.”

The division split that will put the two in separate districts for football is supported by both. In 4A-II, Bridgeport, whose enrollment is 627, will be paired with schools that have between 465 and 685 students.

“Football takes so many resources and there’s a big difference in the big schools and smaller schools,” Henson said. “The UIL is doing something to help.”

Decatur, with an enrollment of 876, will be with schools with between 686 and 1,059 students in 4A Division I.

“It levels the playing field and there won’t be as wide of a range,” Story said. “It will be good for equality.”

The division split is only for football. Decatur and Bridgeport could end up in the same league for volleyball, basketball and the spring sports.

Padilla expects Decatur to end up in District 4-4A Division I with Sanger, Lake Worth, Gainesville, Springtown and Argyle. He projects Bridgeport to be in the expansive District 3-4A Division II with Celina, Anna, Aubrey, Iowa Park and Vernon.

NORTHWEST, BYRON NELSON TO BE IN 6A

Northwest and Byron Nelson are expected by both Northwest ISD officials and Padilla to be together in a 6A league Monday.

“That’ll be a good rivalry,” said Northwest football coach Bill Patterson.

Who will join the two Northwest ISD schools is anyone’s guess.

“I’ve been here five years, and this will be the third realignment and it’s always been different,” Patterson said. “We’ve always been with the Keller schools but the other schools have been different.”

Padilla projects Northwest and Byron Nelson to stay with the Keller schools and add Denton Ryan and Guyer.

BOYD, PARADISE STAY PUT

Boyd and Paradise will be in Class 3A Division I and don’t expect to see much change.

“I think things will stay pretty much the same,” said Boyd football coach and athletic director Brandon Hopkins. “We could lose Pilot Point or Whitesboro. Maybe we’ll get a six-team district.”

Boyd turned in an enrollment of 350 to put it in the Division I that has a range of 315-464.

Paradise has an enrollment of 337 – 12 over the cutoff for Division II.

“It makes it tough being one of the smaller schools in the division – but it’s not something you can control,” said Paradise football coach and athletic director Scott Broussard. “You control what you can, and that’s getting your kids ready.”

The two are not sure how newcomers to 3A Division I – Brock, Glen Rose, West and Hillsboro – may affect where they go.

Padilla expects Paradise and Boyd to be with Ponder, Whitesboro, Callisburg and Bowie in a six-team league.

ALVORD IN NEW TO 2A

After battling in the old Class 2A the past few years as one of the division’s smallest, Alvord will stay in the new 2A and suddenly be one of the biggest.

With an enrollment of 202, Alvord fit under the cutoff of 219 for Class 2A Division I – the old Class A Division I.

“It’s a good move for our athletic program,” said Alvord football coach and athletic director Curtis Enis. “We’ve been a small fish in a large pond for the last few years. When we first went to 2A and had an enrollment of 230 we were fine. When we dropped to 204, it hurt us to compete against much larger schools.”

Alvord will be in the same division with Chico, which turned in 185.

SLIDELL COULD GO IN MULTIPLE DIRECTIONS

With an enrollment of 66, Slidell will be in the smallest classification – Class A.

But athletic director Todd McCormick is unsure if the school will stay with its current district mates that include Forestburg, Midway, Gold-Burg, Saint Jo and Prairie Valley.

“The key will be what they do with Tioga,” McCormick said. “No one is near them. They could pull us east with Dodd City and Roxton. They could also bring Tioga in with us to make an eight-team district.”

UIL realignment will be announced at 9 a.m. Monday. See where Wise schools land at wcmsports.com

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Big changes coming in realignment

For the first time in 17 years, Decatur and Bridgeport will not compete in the same football district when the 2014 season rolls around.

The University Interscholastic League released the new cutoffs in its six conferences for the 2014-16 reclassification and realignment Monday.

With the creation of the new Class 6A beginning next school year, each classification moves up one, with schools competing in six-man football becoming the new Class A.

Decatur with its enrollment of 876 will fall into the new 4A which ranges from 465 to 1,059 students. For football the Eagles will be in 4A Division I, which goes from 686 to 1,059.

Bridgeport turned in an enrollment of 627 and will be in 4A Division II for football, which has a range from 465-685.

Despite not being in the same league next season, the two schools plan to keep the “Battle of Big Sandy” intact.

“We want to keep the rivalry going,” Decatur’s Director of Athletics Kyle Story said. “It’s a good game for both teams. We’ve talked before about going to different districts, and we would work it out so we could keep it going.”

The last time the two teams weren’t in the same district was 1997. It was a four-year stretch from 1994 to 1997 that the two schools weren’t in the same league.

“We always want to try to keep it going,” Bridgeport’s Director of Athletics Danny Henson said. “It’s not very often that it’s happened [not being in the same district], but we want to keep it going even though it will be a non-district game.”

The Bulls will move from one of the smallest schools in the current Class 3A, to one of the biggest schools in the new 4A Division II.

“It’s the first time we’ve been on the upper end of it,” Henson said. “It’ll be different, but it doesn’t mean the competition won’t be any harder or easier. It just gets the schools closer together numbers wise.”

The other big change involves the Alvord Bulldogs. With their enrollment of 202, they will remain in Class 2A, which ranges from 105 to 219.

For football both Alvord and Chico will play in Class 2A Division I which goes from 158 to 219. Chico sits at 185.

“It’s good news for the athletic program,” Alvord’s Director of Athletics Curtis Enis said. “I’m happy for the school district, and it allows us to go up against schools more our size.”

The numbers dictate Alvord and Chico should be able to reignite their rivalry when realignment is announced.

“We’ll see how it turns out, but that is how it used to be,” Enis said. “We should play each other. It’s a good, clean rivalry where both teams always play hard.”

Boyd and Paradise will both fall in the new 3A, which ranges from 220 to 464. Boyd turned in an enrollment of 350, and Paradise was at 337.

Both schools will compete in 3A Division I for football, which ranges from 315 to 364.

Northwest will be the first Wise County school to embark on the new Class 6A. The Texans have an enrollment of 2,763, which is easily over the 2,100 minimum for 6A.

The UIL will announce new districts Feb. 3 for football and basketball.

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UIL brings everyone together

The University Interscholastic League (UIL) added a new wrinkle to the Texas football state championship schedule Thursday.

For the first time, all Texas public school state championship games will be held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington Dec. 14 and Dec. 19-21.

Six-man championships will be included in the schedule after being held at Abilene’s Shotwell Stadium for the last four seasons. The Class 3A Division I game will also be held on the same weekend as the other classifications.

“For the first time ever, all football state qualifying teams will have the unique and extraordinary experience of playing at AT&T Stadium,” said UIL Director of Athletics Mark Cousins. “We will work with AT&T Stadium and the Dallas Cowboys organization to make this year’s championship event the best yet.”

It will mark the fourth year that all state title games in all conferences have played at pre-determined sites and the third consecutive season that all 11-man games have been held at AT&T (formerly Cowboys) Stadium.

The move of the Class 3A Division I game makes it a 10-game weekend Dec. 19-21. That game had been held a week prior because that bracket had fewer games.

The addition of a fourth playoff team in all Class 3A districts evened up the number of playoff games in each bracket.

Thursday will feature the four championship games of Class A and 2A. Friday will hold both Class 3A championships along with Class 4A Division I.

Saturday will start with the Class 4A Division II championship and end with the two Class 5A title games.

The two six-man title games will be played the Saturday prior.

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UIL Council approves limiting contact

A rule limiting contact at high school football practices during the season moved a step closer to reality Tuesday.

The University Interscholastic League’s Legislative Council, along with its member superintendents, approved the recommendation by the UIL Medical Advisory Committee in April to limit football programs to 90 minutes of full-contact drills during a given week.

The measure would only be in force during the regular season and postseason play. The rule would go into effect Aug. 1 if signed into action by the Texas Commissioner of Education Michael Williams.

Also on Tuesday, the Council passed two more proposals.

The League will require a new acknowledgment form with information and resources about sudden cardiac arrest in its athletic packet, giving information and resources to parents. It will require their signature before a student can compete in a UIL athletic event.

The committee also voted to require cheerleading to be subject to concussion management and prevention guidelines already in place for UIL-sponsored activities. It also requires coaches and sponsors complete safety training.

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UIL considers less contact in practices

Physical contact at high school football practices across the state may be scaled back if the University Interscholastic League’s Medical Advisory Committee gets their way.

The committee voted Sunday to recommend that full contact practice would be limited to 90 minutes per athlete per week during the season only.

The rule does not include pre-season or spring practice.

“It’s part of a continuing program by the medical advisory committee to do everything for the health and safety of the student participants,” Director of Athletics for the UIL Dr. Mark Cousins said. “There are already limits on the amount of practice during the school year. This is another step we’re looking at to make the game as safe as it can be.”

The committee defines full contact as a drill or live game simulation involving contact at game speed, in which players execute full tackles or blocks at a competitive pace with the intent of forcing another player to the ground.

The limited contact seems drastic, but every coach the Messenger talked to in Wise County is in favor of the measure. They have been adopting the minimal contact rule during the season for years and don’t even come close to the proposed 90 minutes limit.

“There is a perception out there that we go out there and ram into each other for an hour every day,” Bridgeport’s Director of Athletics Danny Henson said. “That hasn’t happened for 20 or 30 years.

“It would be good for coaches to probably publicize more about what we are doing. Things are much more controlled now.”

According to Cousins, the only thing the rule would affect is live speed where a player is pulled to the ground.

“Teams will still have the opportunity to hold drills and get teams ready,” Cousins said. “The only thing the recommendation affects is during the season and full-speed live drills where they tackle to the ground.”

Since preseason and spring workouts are not affected, most are in support of the rule and have no problem with it. Early August, and spring for the bigger schools, is when tackling technique is taught the most anyway.

“This is not a big change,” Boyd’s Director of Athletics Brandon Hopkins explained. “Early in the year we stress form tackling, so there is not a problem there. We taper off as the year goes on.”

Hopkins said the Yellowjackets average about 45 minutes to an hour of the defined contact the UIL is talking about in a week’s time.

Decatur’s Director of Athletics Kyle Story is on the same page. The Eagles average about 30 to 45 minutes a week.

According to Story, it is all about safety these days, and Decatur has a whole team that oversees the players’ wellbeing on a day-to-day basis.

“We basically have an oversight team and our trainer, Fernando Escobar, does a great job with that,” Story said. “Everything addresses safety of the kids throughout. I don’t think this rule will have much of an impact for most programs.”

The legislative council will review the recommendation in June, and it could be adopted at an October meeting. According to Cousins, it would not go into effect until the 2014 season if it follows the “normal process.”

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UIL looks at expanding playoff field

The playoffs in Class 3A and 2A could expand to four teams advancing out of each district in every team sport.

After a poll of superintendents in the two classifications showed that most favored adding a playoff team, the University Interscholastic League’s Standing Committee last week forwarded the matter to the agency’s Legislative Council to consider in October.

UIL spokesperson Chris Schmidt said the earliest the measure could go into effect is the 2013-14 school year.

Class 4A and 5A currently send four teams from each district to the postseason. In a recent survey, 3A superintendents voted 67-43 to join them. The 2A superintendents favored the move 97-66. Class A officials voted down the measure 153-106.

Most Wise County athletic directors favored the move.

“We voted for it,” said Decatur’s Kyle Story. “The more people involved in the playoffs is better. It’s a good experience for the kids, and it’s good for the school.

“A lot of the 3A schools are in five-team leagues and with four of the five getting to the playoffs it does water it down. But the positives outweigh watering it down.”

Boyd’s Brandon Hopkins added: “They are doing it at the 5A and 4A level and filtering it down is a good idea. It may water it down, but in the end it’ll weed itself down. If you are not good enough, you’ll get beat early. Some districts are not tough, but some others the third and fourth-place teams are really good.”

The addition of a fourth team will eliminate the byes in the first round of the playoffs that allowed district champions to advance to the area round.

Many of the athletic directors do not like the byes.

“I’m all for [the expansion] if it takes away all the byes,” said Paradise’s Danny Neighbors. “If you are in a district with an odd number of teams, you could have a bye for the 10th game and a bye in the first round of the playoffs.”

Alvord’s Curtis Enis added: “When we went to two teams there were no byes. I didn’t like going to three. We should have went to four then. I thought it hurt the team that had the bye.”

With the current construction of Class 3A that features many five-team leagues, Bridgeport’s Danny Henson does not favor adding a fourth playoff team.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea with four out of five teams making the playoffs,” Henson said. “In 5A and 4A, where most of the district have eight teams, it’s a good idea. You finish fourth in an eight-team league, you’ve accomplished something. But in a five-team district, the fourth-place team shouldn’t go to the playoffs.

“There needs to be some specialness to making the playoffs. I’m afraid this will make getting to the playoffs no big deal.”

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UIL moves Bridgeport, Decatur east

Bridgeport and Decatur are moving east to renew old rivalries.

The two Wise County schools will join Gainesville, Sanger and Krum in District 9-3A in the biennial realignment released by the University Interscholastic League Thursday. The pair are also shifting from West Texas’ Region I to Region II.

”We never predicted that,” said Bridgeport Athletic Director Danny Henson. “In the late ’90s, twice we went into Region II. We always expect to be in Region I.

“But like every other alignment, there’s change, and we’re going somewhere new.”

The move east for Bridgeport and Decatur was one of several surprises for Wise County schools in the newest round of realignment for football and basketball. Schools will begin competing in their new leagues in August and remain in them through June 2014.

The UIL reclassifies its conferences and realigns district every two years. The agency’s member schools turn in enrollments in October. The UIL puts those numbers in order from the largest to smallest then counts down to find the cutoff for Conference 5A and then works down.

Once conferences are determined, schools are grouped geographically.

“We’re happy to get it out there for our members,” said UIL Athletic Director Mark Cousins. “We spent a lot of time on it.

“With 1,311 different schools, people are going to look at how it impacts them. We’re not going to make everyone happy.”

Schools can appeal their assignments. The UIL will hear those appeals Feb. 20.

Most Wise County schools will see their travel for district competition cut in the next two years. Decatur and Bridgeport will avoid trips to Mineral Wells and Burleson going instead to neighboring counties – Cooke and Denton.

“It’s a great district for travel,” said Decatur Athletic Director Kyle Story. “The longest trip is 40 miles to Gainesville. It’ll be nice to have district games that close and get home at a decent hour.”

Boyd and Paradise lost journeys to Howe and Pottsboro in football. The two will now head to Whitesboro, Pilot Point, Ponder and Bowie in District 5-2A Division I.

“It’s closer than what we had before,” said retiring Boyd Athletic Director J.G. Cartwright. “There was a chance we could have went with Godley, Grandview or Eastland.”

Cousins said limiting travel was a goal of the agency.

“With the state of school finance and the budget cuts everyone is facing, one of the primary concerns was travel,” Cousins said. “It’s fair to say we put more emphasis on it this time.”

The UIL could not avoid creating odd-number districts such as the five-team 9-3A. Alvord, Boyd and Paradise found themselves in the seven-team District 9-2A for basketball with Brock, Millsap, Peaster and Ponder.

It’s the second straight realignment Decatur and Bridgeport ended up in an odd-team district.

“It’s a reflection of there not being that many schools in 3A,” Henson said. “There’s a lot of schools bigger and a ton of schools smaller, but not many this size. It makes it harder to schedule.”

Class 3A classification is the second smallest 11-man football conference with 190 schools. Class A has 168 teams.

“Class 3A continues to be the toughest to balance, making sure there’s enough schools and trying to keep an equitable ratio,” Cousins said. “To make the ratio no more than 2 to 1 is difficult. With only 183 schools there’s a real delicate balance. We tried to minimize the number of five-team districts, but we didn’t want to get ratio balance to 2.5 or 2.6.”

He said the ratio was brought down from 2.3 to 2.2 in this round of realignment.

NEW BREAKDOWNS

The UIL realigned districts and conferences Thursday. Here are the new conference ranges and how they compare to 2010-12.

2012-14 … 2010-12
5A … 2090-plus … 2065-plus
4A … 1005-2089 … 990-2064
3A … 450-1004 … 430-989
2A … 200-449 … 200-429
1A … 199-below … 199-below

NEW LEAGUE TO CHALLENGE BULLS, EAGLES

It’s been 12 years since Decatur headed east to join Region II.

The school and its longtime Wise County rival, Bridgeport, will both be going east in the fall to join former league foes Gainesville and Sanger in District 9-3A. Class 3A newcomer, Krum, will round out the five-team district.

The move out of Region I to Region II was unexpected for the athletic directors of Bridgeport and Decatur.

“We never predicted that,” said Bridgeport’s Danny Henson. “In the late 90s, twice we went to Region II. We always expect to be in Region I.”

The move significantly cuts travel and renews old rivalries with Gainesville and Sanger for the Wise County schools.

“It’s nice to change it up and play different people in district,” said Decatur’s Kyle Story. “We still played Gainesville every year, and we’ve been with Sanger in years past. Krum will be a new opponent.”

Basketball powerhouse Krum will be playing varsity football in a district for the first time this fall. The program played a non-district varsity schedule last year.

Krum will be the smallest school in the new league with an enrollment of 460.5. It was 10.5 students above the Class 3A cutoff of 450.

Decatur will be the league’s largest school at 883 and would serve as the Class 3A Division I representative in football if it qualifies for the playoffs.

Sanger came in at 722, Gainesville 676 and Bridgeport 628.

Henson and Story expect a tough district in football.

“It’s going to be competitive,” Henson said.

The league should be competitive year-round. With Sanger and Decatur, it features two of the state’s top programs in cross country.

Decatur cross country coach David Park is looking forward to the rivalry with Sanger.

“I talked with the Sanger coach Clint Davidson, and told him, ‘let’s run each other to the top,'” Park said.

In girls basketball, the playoff-bound squads from Decatur and Bridgeport will be joined by three other teams currently in position to make the postseason. Krum is tied for the District 9-2A lead with Alvord and is ranked second in Class 2A statewide

“It’ll be very competitive,” said Decatur girls basketball coach Billy Garner.

Bridgeport girls hoops coach Dallas Taylor added: “You can’t pick ‘em. You just go play them.”

In boys basketball, the Eagles and Bulls will be joined by the tradition-rich programs at Gainesville and Krum.

“It’s going to be a tough district,” said Bridgeport coach Brian Miller. “Everyone is going to be competitive.”

If the league is the same for baseball and softball, competition is likely to be just as fierce in the spring. The University Interscholastic League will announce the alignments for those sports in March and April.

DISTRICT 9-3A

Decatur … 883
Sanger … 722
Gainesville … 676
Bridgeport … 628
Krum … 460.5

BOYD, PARADISE STAY CLOSE TO HOME

Boyd and Paradise avoided a move out west in the latest round of realignment released Thursday.

For football, the Yellowjackets and Panthers stayed in District 5-2A Division I with Callisburg and Ponder. But they will have new foes with Bowie, Pilot Point and Whitesboro joining the fray.

“It’ll be a good, competitive district,” said Boyd Athletic Director J.G. Cartwright.

Paradise Athletic Director Danny Neighbors added: “From top to bottom, it’ll be a very competitive district. But in our region, you have no choice but to be in a tough district.”

The league keeps the two Wise County schools from heading out west to Eastland or south to Godley and Grandview – rumored alternatives.

The two schools actually cut their travel from the previous league, losing trips to Pottsboro and Howe. The longest trips will now be to Callisburg and Whitesboro.

“Travelwise it’s really good,” Cartwright said.

The district will have three teams dropping down from 3A to 2A – Bowie, Pilot Point and Whitesboro. They will be league’s largest schools. Bowie’s enrollment is at 429, Pilot Point’s 428, and Whitesboro 394. Boyd is at 386, Ponder 370, Callisburg 347 and Paradise 344.

“It will be a challenge with three 3A schools dropping down,” Neighbors said.

Bowie and Whitesboro were both playoff teams last year in 3A.

It is a seven-team league, meaning there will be an open date during district play for all teams.

DISTRICT 5-2A DIV. I

Bowie … 429
Pilot Point … 428
Whitesboro … 394
Boyd … 386
Ponder … 370
Callisburg … 347
Paradise … 344

CHICO SENT IN DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS

Chico will be heading in two different directions for football and basketball next year.

In the latest realignment released Thursday by the University Interscholastic League, the Class A school was sent east for football and west to compete in basketball.

The Dragons will be in the Class A Division I football league, 7-A, with Lindsay, Collinsville, Valley View, Blue Ridge and Trenton. In basketball, Chico landed in District 11-A with Perrin-Whitt, Poolville, Ranger and Santo.

“It’s one way for football and the totally opposite way for basketball,” said Chico Athletic Director Stephen Carter.

With an enrollment of 160, Chico is the smallest school in the football district. It was 9.5 students above the cutoff for Division II (150.5).

Valley View is the largest at 188.5, followed by Blue Ridge (186), Trenton (176), Lindsay (171) and Collinsville (168).

“Lindsay will be tough, but second and third should be up for grabs,” Carter said about the new league. “We’ll have the opportunity to be a playoff team.”

Carter said there will be more travel in the new league, including an 86-mile journey to Blue Ridge.

But the travel will be even farther in the basketball league with trips to Ranger and Santo.

“We have two close ones [Poolville and Perrin-Whitt], one way out [Ranger] and one in between [Santo],” Carter said. “I told our superintendent that we better budget more for gas.”

DISTRICT 7-A DIV. I

Valley View … 188.5
Blue Ridge … 186
Trenton … 176
Lindsay … 171
Collinsville … 168
Chico … 160

DISTRICT 11-A

Chico … 160
Santo … 154
Poolville … 143
Perrin-Whitt … 123
Ranger … 116

WISE SCHOOLS JOIN ELITE BASKETBALL CONFERENCE

Alvord, Boyd and Paradise will be back in the same basketball league next year but will share it with three of the region’s top traditional powers.

The three Wise County rivals landed in the District 9-2A basketball league with Brock, Peaster, Ponder and Millsap.

Brock, Peaster and Ponder have all won state titles in basketball in the past decade.

“We couldn’t have thought of a worse scenario for basketball,” said Alvord Athletic Director and boys basketball coach Curtis Enis.

Alvord has shared a league with Ponder and Krum the past two years. Krum and Alvord in girls basketball are both ranked in the top four in Class 2A and tied for the league lead.

Boyd and Paradise are currently with Brock, Peaster and Millsap in 10-2A.

“It’s a tough district, but we’re used to playing those people,” said Boyd Athletic Director J.G. Cartwright.

Alvord girls coach Rob Schmucker, whose team is ranked No. 4 (a spot behind Brock), said he isn’t worrying about the new league.

“We’re coming from a tough district,” he said. “We’re losing Krum and gaining Brock.”

Enis said he would have liked to have seen Alvord stay with its members of their football league – Nocona, Holliday, Henrietta, Jacksboro and City View. Those schools have more similar enrollments with Alvord.

“Our football district stayed the same,” he said. “I don’t know why we changed for basketball.

“We’re barely over 200 kids, and we’ll be playing schools with 400-plus kids. They’ve got twice as many kids to choose from. But that’s what you’ve got to deal with when you’re at the bottom of the food chain.”

DISTRICT 9-2A

Ponder … 387
Boyd … 386
Paradise … 344
Peaster … 300
Brock … 267
Millsap … 256
Jacksboro … 255

BULLDOGS STAY WITH OLD FOES IN NEW DISTRICT

Alvord narrowly missed dropping from Class 2A to A in the latest round of realignment announced Thursday.

With an enrollment of 204, Alvord came in five students over the cutoff of 199 for Class A. The range for Class 2A Division II was 200 to 297.5.

Alvord landed in the football District 5-2A Division II with its foes unchanged from the previous alignment – Holliday, Nocona, City View, Henrietta and Jacksboro.

“The football district is staying the same,” said Alvord Athletic Director Curtis Enis. “We competed with everyone with the exception of Holliday this year. We’ve got good kids coming up.”

While remaining with the same schools, Alvord is changing regions, moving from I to II.

“We are with the same schools but went two districts over and changed regions,” Enis said.

DISTRICT 5-2A DIV. II

Henrietta … 284
Holliday … 271
Jacksboro … 255
Nocona … 249
City View … 239
Alvord … 204

TEXANS STAY WITH STATE CONTENDER

The Northwest Texans football team will once again be back in the biggest league with a state championship contender.

The Texans landed in District 4-5A in the latest round of realignment announced by the University Interscholastic League Thursday with defending Class 5A champion Southlake Carroll.

Northwest was in the league with Carroll the past two seasons. Previously, the Texans shared a district with Euless Trinity and Denton Guyer on the way to playing in title games.

Northwest moved up in Region I from 7-5A to 4-5A.

“It’s a little different who we will play in the playoffs,” said Northwest football coach and athletic coordinator Bill Patterson. “It’s a tough district, no question.”

The Texans will be back with Keller schools – Keller, Central and Fossil Ridge. They will be joined by Keller Timber Creek, Haltom and Richland.

“We figured we’d be with the Keller schools,” Patterson said. “Getting the Birdville schools (Haltom and Richland) was kind of a shock.”

DISTRICT 4-5A

Keller … 2647
Southlake Carroll … 2588
Keller Central … 2529
Haltom … 2522
Northwest … 2331
Richland … 2264
Timber Creek … 2199.5
Fossil Ridge … 2191

GREYHOUNDS KEEP RIVALS IN 21-A

The only change for the Slidell Greyhounds and Lady Greyhounds in the latest round of realignment was their district number.

Slidell moved from 17-A to 21-A in Division II.

The school will make that move with its current district foes – Bellevue, Gold-Burg, Forestburg, Midway, Prairie Valley and Saint Jo.

“It’s what we thought it’d be,” said Slidell Athletic Director Todd McCormick. “It’s basically the same.”

DISTRICT 21-A

Saint Jo … 84
Slidell … 79
Bellevue … 53
Forestburg … 46
Prairie Valley … 38
Gold-Burg … 35
Midway … 34

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Needed rivalry to be renewed

One of my first big assignments as an aspiring sports writer way back in the late 1990s was to cover what amounted as the District 9-3A basketball championship game between Gainesville and Decatur.

I was warned ahead of time by the Gainesville Daily Register about some bad blood between the two teams. I quickly realized what he was talking about in the old, packed Gainesville High School gym.

Richard Greene

The loaded Leopards, who played for a state title with many of the same players two years later, won the game handily. But the environment quickly showed me the budding rivarly between the two neighboring county seats only 40 miles apart on Farm Road 51.

In the last two years, I’ve seen that rivarly renewed on the hardwood and grid iron in non-district contests and appreciated every minute of the spirited campaigns.

So when Decatur and Gainesville landed in 9-3A together Thursday, I admit that I did let out a little cheer to see the two back together to compete in every sport.

And a bit of full disclosure: I greatly appreciated the relatively close distance between all the teams in the new league rather than making late-night trips back from Mineral Wells or Vernon.

BYE BYE LUBBOCK

Over the past two years of traveling out to Lubbock for the Class 3A and 5A regional track meets, I learned to appreciate Mack Davis’ “Lubbock in the Rearview Mirror.”

The trip back from Lubbock, day or night, is long and exhausting. I’ll be glad to see Decatur and Bridgeport competing in Commerce instead for the next few years.

After years of Decatur cross country teams running on the hilly course in Lubbock, it will be fun to see their times on the flat Vandergriff Park trek in Arlington.

MINI REGIONAL TRACK MEET

Starting in the spring of 2013, every classification will have area track meets between district and regional.

The pairing of District 9 and 10 for an area meet should be stout with Decatur, Bridgeport, Sanger, Gainesville, Krum, Argyle, Aubrey, Celina, Carrollton Ranchview and Frisco Lonestar.

TOUGH SLATE

The Alvord, Boyd and Paradise boys basketball teams have been in tough districts the past two years, but their new leagues are about to be ramped up significantly.

The three Wise County schools must navigate a district that includes past state champions Brock, Peaster and Ponder.

3A GETS TOUGHER

Of all the classifications, realignment changed the landscape of Class 3A more than any other with state powers in 4A moving down.

In football, tradition-rich Stephenville is now in Class 3A along with LaMarque. For basketball, the top-ranked team in 4A, Houston Yates, is dropping to 3A.

My early bet is they bring home state crowns next year.

FANS ARE THE WINNERS

It’s hard to pick out a winner from the changes brought by realignment Thursday. I like most of the Wise County teams’ chances to make the postseason next year in their new leagues.

Boyd, even without J.G. Cartwright on the sidelines for the first time in 35 years, should be in contention for a district title in their new league.

But the biggest winner from Thursday are fans, who will see their driving time for out-of-town games cut significantly for district games.

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All over the board; Schools wait to see where they will land in new alignment

All over the board; Schools wait to see where they will land in new alignment

Messenger graphic by Andrew May

Paradise Athletic Director Danny Neighbors has spent hours since October trying to figure out where his Panthers will land in the newest round of realignment by the University Interscholastic League (UIL).

Thursday at 9 a.m. Neighbors and the rest of coaches around Texas will get their answers.

“It’s huge,” Neighbors said. “It’s like Christmas for us coaches.”

The new alignments will take effect in August and will be in place until June 2014.

“It’s a big day,” said Bridgeport Athletic Director Danny Henson said. “It determines for the next two years your district in every sport and who you have to compete against for district titles and playoff spots.”

While it’s a big day and everyone has their guesses about where they will end up, no one knows for sure until the UIL makes its announcement.

“We’ve all been thinking about it,” said Decatur Athletic Director Kyle Story. “But there’s no telling which direction we’ll go. We have to wait ’til it comes out.”

The crooked lines and shapes that districts take have everyone guessing about the UIL’s methodology.

“I think they throw darts at a board, and that’s where you end up,” said Chico Athletic Director Stephen Carter.

But there is a science to the task, which began in October when more than 1,300 UIL member schools submitted their number of students to the agency. The enrollments are put in a list from largest to smallest. UIL Athletic Director Mark Cousins said that first list is without the names of the schools.

The agency then determines the conference line working from the top for Class 5A. The state’s largest classification can have a range of between 220 and 245 schools. After determining the cutoff for 5A, the UIL works down through the other classifications, including the separate divisions of 2A and A. Once those limits are set, schools are grouped together by geography.

“It’s always a tremendous task, with more than 1,300 schools and the size of the state,” Cousins said. “With the state not being square, there are also geographic difficulties. We try to put together the best map we can. There’s no way to make everyone happy.”

With the ongoing crunch in school finances and rising travel costs, Cousins said the agency tries to be sensitive to concerns about excessive travel.

“That’s our primary consideration each time,” he said.

Many schools in Class 2A and A found themselves on the road more for football after the 2010 realignment with the introduction of split division districts. The system remains in place with the larger half of schools in the two classes going into Division I and the rest into Division II. While increasing travel, many area coaches feel the system is fair.

“I like it,” said Alvord Athletic Director Curtis Enis. “With us sitting here barely in 2A, it’s tough to go ask us to play Boyd and Bowie. We’re at 200, and they are at 400. Their talent pool is a lot bigger than ours.”

Split divisions are only for football. For the rest of the sports, the schools in the two smallest classes find themselves in different districts.

“I don’t understand why we split football and not the rest of the sports,” Neighbors said.

Here’s a breakdown of where people feel they may be Thursday.

BRIDGEPORT and DECATUR

With the close proximity and long-standing rivalry, Bridgeport and Decatur have usually stayed together during the realignment process. Both anticipate to remain partners in their new Class 3A home.

“I expect us and Bridgeport to stay together,” Story said.

In October, Bridgeport turned in an enrollment of 628. Decatur was at 883. Both were well within the Class 3A range of 430 to 989 in 2010.

While Decatur and Bridgeport expect to stay together, they have no feel for who will join them in their new league. But as history has shown him, Henson anticipates the two moving into a new district with new bunkmates.

“Every year since I’ve been here, we’ve been in a brand new district,” Henson said. “We’ve never taken another team and added to a district. Quite often it’s been us and Decatur going into a district with three to four teams that are used to playing each other.”

For the past two years, the two have traveled south to play Lake Worth, Castleberry and Mineral Wells in football. This year in all other sports, Burleson Centennial was added to the mix.

Bridgeport and Decatur expect to be impacted by changes around them, with Bowie dropping to 2A, Springtown falling to 3A and Krum elevating to 3A.

“With Bowie dropping down, it increases the odds of us going northwest to play Burkburnett, [Wichita Falls] Hirschi, Iowa Park and Vernon,” Henson said.

The schools were in that district with the Wichita Falls area schools in 2008-10.

Story said Springtown could keep the two heading south.

“It makes sense for us to stay where we are and add Springtown,” he said.

BOYD and PARADISE

With the division split in Class 2A in 2010, Boyd and Paradise remained together but lost many of their previous Wise County rivals.

The two expect to remain in Class 2A Division II, but guesses of where they will end up are far-ranging.

“We could go west with Eastland, Breckenridge and Dublin, or we could end up east with Pilot Point, Ponder and Callisburg,” Neighbors said. “There’s really one of four ways we could go.”

Boyd turned in 385 in October, and Paradise submitted 345. The Class 2A Division II range in 2010 was 293.5 to 429.

In 2010, the two rivals went east for football and picked up Callisburg, Ponder, Howe and Pottsboro.

Several schools within the boundaries of that district are expected to change classifications, which should impact Boyd and Paradise. Bowie, Pilot Point, Whitesboro and Van Alstyne all have enrollments under the 2010 cutoff and anticipate moves down to 2A.

“Bowie and Pilot Point dropping back down to 2A could impact our district,” said retiring Boyd Athletic Director J.G. Cartwright. “There’s a lot happening with schools changing that will impact where we end up.

“But this rarely turns out the way we expect it.”

Boyd’s and Paradise’s district in the other sports could change drastically. For the past two years, they’ve been with Brock, Godley, Tolar, Jacksboro, Millsap and Peaster. Godley is on the cusp of moving up to 3A with an enrollment of 439.

ALVORD

Alvord turned in an enrollment of 204 in October – just above the 2010 cutoff of 199 for Class A.

Enis doesn’t expect the ranges to change enough next week to shift the Bulldogs and Lady Bulldogs to the smaller classification.

“There’s an outside chance we may drop down because that number usually fluctuates by five,” he said. “But with the number of schools shrinking, that number will likely stay at 199. It has the last two realignments.”

For football, Alvord was with City View, Nocona, Henrietta, Holliday and Jacksboro for the past two years. Enis expects to see a pretty similar league.

Alvord will see some change in its league for other sports. Krum is expected to move to Class 3A, leaving the district that also included Nocona, Holliday, City View, Henrietta and Ponder.

CHICO

Chico dropped from 2A to A in 2010 and with its enrollment at 159 in October, it is expected to stay where it is.

Chico went to a tough Division I football district that included state powers Lindsay, Muenster and Collinsville along with Petrolia and Valley View. Muenster is expected to move down to Division II.

Carter expects his school to end up out west with Archer City and Santo or back east with his current bunkmates.

“It could go one of two ways,” he said. “But anything can happen. There’s a lot of schools moving from big school to small school and some small schools going big.”

NORTHWEST

Northwest football coach Bill Patterson doesn’t worry much about realignment. As he points out, he’ll likely be put in a district with a state champion or someone playing to become one.

“I’m pretty lucky,” Patterson said. “Three years ago we were with Trinity, and they won state. The next year Denton Guyer played in the title game. Southlake won it this year.”

Northwest turned in 2,320 putting it in the middle of Class 5A. With the lack of large schools west of it, the school is almost certain to stay in Region I.

HIGH SCHOOL ENROLLMENT

  • Alvord … 204 … 221
  • Boyd … 385 … 334
  • Bridgeport … 628 … 619
  • Chico … 159 … 184
  • Decatur … 883 … 857
  • Northwest … 2,320 … 2,720
  • Paradise … 345 … 306
  • Slidell … 79 … 72

2011 … 2009

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Padilla makes guesses on realignment

Everyone has their guesses on how the University Interscholastic League’s realignment will turn out on Thursday.

San Antonio’s Carl Padilla, the mind behind the Padilla Poll, has made a reputation on his work of predicting the agency’s work. Starting in October after schools submitted their enrollments for the snapshot date, Padilla began crafting his mock realignment.

In 2010, Padilla said he was at 70 percent with his predictions.

For this year, he expects there to be some changes with the cutoffs of the top-end numbers for each of the top four classes rising. For 5A, he predicts the cutoff to land at 2,085. The cutoff at 4A, he set at 1,000. In 3A, he predicts 440, and 2A 200.

He left the Class A cutoff at 199.

“That was the hardest thing to predict, but I left the 1A number at 199,” Padilla said. “If you go to 204, you’d be adding 10 teams.”

PADILLA’S PREDICTIONS

Veteran handicapper Carl Padilla of San Antonio gives his best guess on how the UIL will realign local districts and classifications based on high-school enrollment.

2012 Range projection … 2010 Range by UIL

  • Class 5A … 2,085 and above … 2,065 and above
  • Class 4A … 1,000-2,084 … 990-2,064
  • Class 3A … 440-999 … 430-989
  • Class 2A, Div. I … 296-439 … 200-429
  • Class 2A, Div. II … 200-295 … N/A
  • Class 1A, Div. I … 152-199 … 199 and below
  • Class 1A, Div. II … 100-151 … N/A

CLASS 1A DIVISION II REGION I DISTRICT 5-1A

  • Chico
  • Collinsville
  • Lindsay
  • Trenton
  • Valley View

CLASS 2A DIVISION I REGION II DISTRICT 6-2A

  • Bowie
  • Boyd
  • Callisburg
  • Paradise
  • Pilot Point
  • Ponder
  • Whitesboro

CLASS 2A DIVISION II REGION I DISTRICT 4-2A

  • Alvord
  • Cisco
  • Henrietta
  • Holliday
  • Jacksboro
  • Millsap
  • Nocona
  • City View

CLASS 3A REGION I DISTRICT 7-3A

  • Argyle
  • Bridgeport
  • Decatur
  • Castleberry
  • Fort Worth Diamond
  • Hill-Jarvis
  • Lake Worth

CLASS 5A REGION I DISTRICT 5-5A

  • Colleyville Heritage
  • Grapevine
  • Irving
  • Irving MacArthur
  • Irving Nimitz
  • Euless Trinity
  • Hurst Bell
  • Northwest

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UIL steps toward ending two-a-days

UIL steps toward ending two-a-days

Less-Work-in-the-Sun

LESS WORK IN THE SUN - Alvord's Jesse Brown gets a drink of water during two-a-days in August. A UIL proposal passed this week would limit two-a-days next fall. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

The tradition of football two-a-days in Texas could be over.

The University Interscholastic League’s Legislative Council Monday unanimously voted to drastically change the athletic preseason regulations for activities outside the school year.

The new rules would:

  • Prohibit teams from holding more than one practice in a day on consecutive days.
  • Require teams to have a two-hour rest period between workouts if multiple sessions are held.
  • Limit a second practice during the four-day acclimatization period in football to a teaching period or walkthrough with no conditioning, contact activities or equipment permitted.

The rules would go into effect Aug. 1, 2012, if approved by the Commissioner of Education.

UIL Athletic Director Dr. Mark Cousins said the council’s approval was based on the recommendation of the agency’s medical advisory committee.

“They first suggested the current limits back in 2005,” Cousins said. “They’ve been looking at and studying the issue to make sure we are staying current with the needs of our student athletes.

“With the changes in the college and professional ranks, and along with the record heat this summer in Texas, the medical advisory committee felt this is what we needed.”

According to the National Weather Service, Texas experienced the hottest summer on record with an average temperature of 86.8 degrees. Dallas-Fort Worth and Waco set records for the most 100-degree days in a calendar year.

Cousins said the new regulations are not a reaction to any incidents this summer. They also do not apply to volleyball.

Reaction from Wise County coaches was mixed. They wanted more information about how long they will be allowed to work out when limited to one session.

Boyd Athletic Director and football coach J.G. Cartwright held traditional two-a-days practice this past August with one two-hour session at 7 a.m. and a second at 6 p.m. He said he can work with the new regulations.

“I said years ago, if everyone would agree to go to one-a-days, I’d be for it,” Cartwright said. “We can live with it as long as everyone is having to go by the same rules.”

Decatur held two morning sessions with an hour break between workouts this year. Athletic Director and football coach Kyle Story also didn’t mind the changes.

“As long as we’re under the same rules, I don’t see a problem,” Story said. “It’ll be good overall to keep the kids from harm.”

The Decatur coach added that summer conditioning drills allowed now by the UIL have players in better shape for the start of workouts.

“With the summer workouts, conditioning is not as huge of a factor,” Story said. “It’s a little different now with the better offseason summer program.”

Bridgeport Athletic Director and football coach Danny Henson disagreed with the need for the change and the UIL making a statewide regulation.

“This ought to be a local school decision,” Henson said. “If the people of Bridgeport or Decatur think the kids are being harmed by the coaches and trainers, they could take it to the superintendent. They’ve always had the power to control employees.

“We got through two-a-days without any trouble. This was the hottest summer on record and we were able to conduct two-a-days, and our kids stayed healthy.”

Henson added that the UIL needs to consider pushing the start of the season back, since they are limiting teams’ time to prepare.

“This will affect kids’ ability to play in those early games when it is still really hot,” he said. “If we don’t have them properly ready, it could do them more harm.”

Cousins said pushing the start date back to September has not been discussed with the new regulations.

“It could be an option,” he said.

The legislative council also made a major rule change in track, instituting an area meet for all classifications starting in 2012-13. Area meets are currently used in Class A. The change would send four participants in each event from a district track meet to the area meet. The top four at area would then advance to regionals.

“It’s a proposal that would increase participation in the postseason, but also could decrease the amount of cost to schools participating,” Cousins said.

Decatur girls track coach David Park favored the change.

“It brings the field down at regionals to a more manageable level, especially in the distance races,” Park said.

The legislative council also voted to create a referendum ballot for superintendents in each classification to vote on changing the girls cross country race from two miles to 3.1 miles, starting next school year.

“It will be by conference to determine,” Cousins said.

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Schools turn in enrollments to UIL

Speculation can now start on where schools will end up in February when the University Interscholastic League announces its biannual round of realignments.

Thursday was the date for schools to submit their high school enrollments to the agency. The UIL will announce its realignment Feb. 2, 2012.

Based on figures from the 2010 realignment, few Wise County schools look to be making a move to a new classification.

Alvord, who is currently in the smaller Class 2A Division II, may be the closest to moving. Alvord submitted an enrollment of 204, which was only five students above the cutoff for Class A two years ago. Alvord dropped 17 students over the past two years.

Alvord was one of three area schools to lose enrollment over the past two years. Northwest, which had a second high school open in its district, dropped from 2,720 students to 2,320. It is still well above the 2010 cutoff of 2,065 for 5A.

Class A Chico dropped from 184 students to 159, which is 8.5 students above the Division II cutoff from 2010.

Most Wise County schools had a minor amount of growth in the past two years. Decatur’s enrollment jumped from 857 to 883. Bridgeport went from 619 to 628. The two rivals are well within the Class 3A range from 2010 of 430 to 989.

Their District 7-3A rival Mineral Wells, which dropped from 4A in 2010, turned in 977.

Boyd’s enrollment increased from 334 to 385. Its District 5-2A Division I rival Paradise saw an increase from 306 to 345. The Class 2A range in 2010 was 200 to 429 with 293.5 being the cutoff point between Division I and II.

Class A Division II Slidell submitted 79. The school was at 72 students two years before.

While waiting for the realignment in February, schools will be keeping an eye on the UIL Legislative Council’s meeting set for Sunday and Monday. The agency will discuss altering the current preseason practice regulations. It will also review results from the 2011 fall superintendent survey.


HIGH SCHOOL ENROLLMENT
2011…2009

Alvord…204…221
Boyd…385…334
Bridgeport…628…619
Chico…159…184
Decatur…883…857
Northwest…2,320…2,720
Paradise…345…306
Slidell…79…72

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