Kevin Hoffman stood at the white board inside the Region 12 Education Service Center. The Mart head football coach wrote down the numbers two and three, meaning he needed someone to play the second and third weeks of the season to fill up his non-district slate.
“It goes with the territory of being at Mart,” Hoffman said. “We sometimes have difficulty scheduling games. Why that is, I don’t know. It is what it is. I’ll figure out something. We’ll find a couple games and we’ll fill the schedule out.”
The defending Class 2A Div. I state champions dropped to Class 2A Division II for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons, as the UIL revealed its new classifications and districts on Thursday with its biennial realignment. Now, the Panthers will go up against Dawson, Frost, Hubbard, Meridian and Wortham in District 11 play.
“Dropping down to Division II, we’re playing a whole new group of people we haven’t played or seen,” Hoffman said. “It’ll be nice. It’ll be new faces and getting to go to some different places and play different people.”
The past two years, Dawson, Frost, Hubbard and Meridian were in the same district as Bremond. Now, Bremond moves to District 13 along with Chilton to make room for Mart and Wortham.
So, not only do Axtell, Bosqueville, Italy, Itasca, Moody and Riesel not have to worry about going up against the Panthers in district play, they don’t have to worry about facing them in the playoffs either. At least for the next two years, there won’t be another Mart vs. Crawford playoff showdown because Mart dropped down to 2A Division II while these teams remained Division I.
While Hoffman was busy in a room full of area coaches asking for people to play those weeks, as well as finding people to scrimmage in mid-August, he said the rest of his coaching staff was back at school texting and calling other coaches trying to find games.
“We would like to play people that are similar in size to us,” Hoffman said. “It’s a little more difficult now that we’ve dropped down to 2A Div. II, the smallest classification. There’s not a lot of room to play people. There’s no one below us to play. You don’t like to go up two and three divisions just because of sheer numbers. It is what it is. I’m probably going to have to fill this schedule out with some 3A Div. I schools, but that’s what it is. We’ll do what we’ve got to do.”
While it may have been Don Hyde’s first realignment as a head coach – the former La Vega defensive coordinator is the newly minted Pirates’ head coach – this isn’t his first rodeo. He knows when it comes to the UIL, expect the unexpected.
“You never know what they’re going to do,” Hyde said. “We kind of figured we’d stay in Region 4 because of the number of schools down there. They transferred schools the side of Houston over there, so we got stuck in Region 2. We’ve got some familiar faces we’re used to, China Spring and Gatesville, and we’ve got some guys we haven’t played in a while with Stephenville and Brownwood.”
Burnet, Lampasas and Liberty Hill stayed in Region 4. La Vega, China Spring and Gatesville are now in District 5-4A Div. I along with Brownwood and Stephenville. Brownwood advanced to the playoffs in 2017 and lost in the first round to Hirschi. The Lions dropped a district decision to Stephenville, 28-21, in mid-October. Stephenville went through district play unscathed and advanced to the state semifinals.
Like his good friend Hoffman, Hyde was also looking to fill up his non-district slate.
“I need six of them right now and I’ve got two,” Hyde said. “I’ve got some more. We came in here one time with five games and after the packet came out we left here with no games. You’ve got alternatives and you hope those alternatives don’t get filled up before you get a call into them. Sometimes they do, sometimes you’re left trying to call everybody.”
McGregor on the move
In his first year as head coach, Judd Thrash led McGregor back to the playoffs after the Bulldogs missed the cut in 2016. From his first day, Thrash’s message to his players has been the same.
If you want to be the best, you have to play the best.
McGregor’s district the past two years hasn’t been a piece of cake. The Bulldogs have had to go up against Cameron Yoe and 2017 state champion Rockdale. But McGregor was moved from that group on Thursday, going from District 10 to District 9, where Grandview, Groesbeck, Maypearl, Teague, West and Whitney await.
Back in November, it was West who knocked the Bulldogs out of the playoffs.
“There are a lot of teams we’re familiar with,” Thrash said. “West is one of them. We’re excited that they’re in our district. Also we have Teague in our district. They’re a competitive team. I feel like the district is very competitive. I’m excited to be part of that district because eventually you’re going to have to play them all anyway.”
One of the biggest questions heading into realignment centered around the Central Texas 6A district. It was already made up of Belton, Copperas Cove, Killeen, Ellison, Harker Heights, Shoemaker and Midway. With Waco High and Temple rising to 6A, would the UIL keep them all together for a large district or would Midway and Waco High break off and head north to a Dallas district?
The UIL kept them together in District 12-6A. On the plus side for coaches, that leaves only two non-district contests to track down. According to reports, Midway’s non-district opponents will be Euless-Trinity and Mansfield Lake Ridge. The Panthers played Temple and Waco High in non-district action the past two years and won all four contests.
From District 8-6A, Midway, Belton, Copperas Cove and Ellison advanced to the playoffs. The Panthers fell in the state title game, while the remaining three dropped out in the bi-district round.
Temple and Waco High each advanced to the playoffs in 5A. Waco lost in the opening round, and Temple lost in the quarterfinals to Manvel.
With those teams moving up to 6A, University will no longer face the Bryan/College Station teams in 5A action. Instead, the Trojans are in a nine-team district of their own with Aledo, Arlington Seguin, Burleson, Burleson Centennial, Cleburne, Everman, Joshua and Midlothian.