Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

February 3, 2014

GC Football/Basketball: UIL announces new districts — Corsicana still in deep East Texas in an even stronger district

By Mike Phillips
Corsicana Daily Sun

Corsicana — Go East young man ...

That’s the message the University Interscholastic League delivered to Corsicana Monday morning when the new football districts were announced.

Just about everyone moves up in number because the UIL is now calling six-man football Class 1A, and the largest classification is now Class 6A.

It’s all part of the two-year realignment that keeps coaches up at night waiting to find out where they have landed and for Corsicana and many Golden Circle teams the landing was a bumpy one.

The Tigers, who move from Class 4A to Class 5A under the realignment of six classes, had hopes of moving from a predominant East Texas district back to a more workable and logical geographic district that would be made up of schools from this part of the state. But they’re still in East Texas and they’re taking Ennis with them.

The Tigers will be in District 16-5A with Ennis, Jacksonville, Lindale, Lufkin, Nacogdoches, Tyler and Whitehouse. Basically, they kept the old 16-4A group and added natural rival Ennis from just up I-45, and Lufkin, which moves down in class. Well, it’s confusing because Lufkin was Class 5A and is now 5A, which means the school stepped down. Get it?

It’s almost as confusing as finding Corsicana back in a district full of teams located just this side of Louisiana.

At first glance this is an even more competitive district and will require even more travel. The Tigers will play a seven-game district schedule and have just three non-district games.

“It was a surprise,’’ said Corsicana Coach Steve Hoffman when he heard the news Monday morning. “I thought we might be playing teams in this area like Waxahachie and Ennis and be in a district with teams in this part of the state. We weren’t expecting to go back to East Texas. But you never know with the UIL. It is what it is.’’

The addition of Ennis, which went to the state quarterfinals and lost to state champ Aledo, and Lufkin, which is not only a strong program but is  dropping down a class, makes getting to the playoffs that much more difficult for the Tigers.

“No doubt about it, Ennis and Lufkin are good teams,’’ Hoffman said. “We just have to get ready for the season.’’

Ennis has always been Corsicana’s natural and biggest rival, and the fact those schools are playing again will make many fans happy.

“I think everybody will be excited to play Ennis again,’’ Hoffman said.

The Tigers open with Justin Northwest (8-3) then play The Colony (8-3) and meet Granbury (9-2) in their final non-district game. Those three schools aren’t exactly next door. Justin is 94 miles away, The Colony is 83 and Granbury is 101 miles from Corsicana.


Mildred, Rice and Blooming Grove all move from Class 2A to Class 3A and find themselves in District 9-3A DII along with Rio Vista, Maypearl and Palmer and those three Golden Circle  teams could have a bit easier road to the playoffs after leaving Scurry-Rosser and Tolar behind.

“I think it’s good from some angles and tough from others,’’ said Rice football coach and AD Jerry Baldridge. “The first positive is we go from an eight-team district to a six-team district. Tolar dropped down a class and Scurry-Rosser moved up a class and those are two very good programs, and we also lost Millsap and that was a long trip.

“From the negative side we have two teams in Palmer and Maypearl we don’t know much about,’’ he said. “We feel good about it that travel won’t be a factor at all.’’

“I like the new football district. Football is great,’’ said Mildred football coach and AD Billy Dan Chambliess. “The travel is much better. We’re not traveling across the countryside. We seem to be playing all the teams from this area, teams we’ve played before.’’

Chambliess also likes the smaller district, going from eight teams down to six. It gives his team five non-district games to prepare for the district schedule and he likes the district lineup that includes rivals Rice and Blooming Grove. But the travel — or lack of it — is what he likes the best.

“We’re not on a bus for two, two-and-half hours. I think our longest trip in the district is 45 minutes to Rio Vista.’’

The tight six-team district means three wins will probably get you into the playoffs. Last fall Blooming Grove was fourth in the district race but went to the second round of the playoffs and led that game before falling late. The Lions are just ready to get back to the playoffs.

“I think it’s a good district,’’ Blooming Grove football coach and AD Gary Grubbs said. “It’s about like the district we were in. We go from seven district games to five, so that gives you five non-district games instead of three so it gives you a little more preparation for district.’’


Kerens is now in Class 2A DI and moves to a district that is made up of Cayuga, Cross Roads, Grapeland, Alto and Price Carlisle in Region II District 11-2A DI.

Four Golden Circle Class 2A teams are now in the same district in Class 2A DII as Frost, Hubbard, Dawson and Wortham stay together and

are joined by Meridian (which was in the same district this season) while adding powerhouses Chilton and Italy as well as Dallas Gateway in an eight-team district in District 10-2A DII in Region IV.

“It’s a good district,’’ Kerens football coach and AD Russell Anderson said. “It’s a little bit different. We haven’t played Price Carlisle in a while.’’

One big difference for Kerens is the Bobcats won’t be playing Hubbard at Tiger Stadium this year. The Kerens-Hubbard game in Corsicana has become one of those games both towns looked forward to playing every year.

“We lost Hubbard because they’re in a seven- team district,’’ Anderson. “We really liked playing them and I like playing Coach (Craig) Horn. Kerens is keeping its River Rivalry game with Malakoff, which will be in its 76th year when the teams meet next fall. The Bobcats will be playing Mildred in their second game of the season.

Frost, Wortham, Hubbard and Dawson have landed in one of the toughest Class 2A DII football districts in the state.

“It’s a no joke district,’’ said Frost AD Eric Blendon, who coaches both the football and boys basketball teams. “You could stack this district up with anyone. It’s probably one of the top two or three in all of 2A Division II in my opinion.’’

The addition of powers Italy and Chilton beef up the district, which Hubbard won last year. The Jags went unbeaten in the district race and lost to Chilton in the playoffs.

“I was a little surprised Chilton came up (north) and didn’t bring Bremond with them. They split those two (powerhouses) Blendon said. “He also noticed that state-power Tenaha, which has beaten Frost the last two years in the playoffs, is still in Region III. There is simply nothing easy about life for Frost, Hubbard, Wortham and Dawson in this district, which is not only stronger, but bigger, leaving teams with just three non-district games.

“You’ve got to speed up your learning curve, especially with a young team like ours,’’ Blendon said of the three-game pre-district season. “You have to have guys step up really fast and try to stay healthy. Before you might lose a guy in the first game and have him back four weeks later when district started.’’

Hubbard Coach Craig Horn agrees with Blendon that the new district is loaded and admits with Chilton and Italy and more teams in the district that it will be much harder to reach the playoffs, but he said that won’t deter him or his program.

“It will be pretty tough, but I like it, actually. I think it will be a lot more competitive,’’ said Horn, whose team went unbeaten in the district race the last two years. “I think it’s a good deal for the competition. You want to play good people. The reality is if you don’ make the top three teams you don’t make the playoffs any way. This way whoever comes out of this district will be better prepared for the playoffs. They will be battle tested.’’

Hubbard played Italy in a non-district game last year and beat the Gladiators, who won their district, and they lost to Chilton in the second round of the playoffs.

“We’re excited to get Chilton to have another shot at them,’’ Horn said. “That will be the theme of our offseason because they beat us. Now we won’t have to wait until the playoffs. Once we have the district meeting and get the schedule, we will be able to circle that date. They got us back for 2011 and now we want to get them back from last year.’’

Horn likes the larger district but said a six-team district would have been perfect. He said he hated  losing the non-district game against Kerens.

“I like the eight teams. I think it’s good for the competition, but a six-team district would have been real good. I hate we are not playing Kerens,’’ Horn said. “Maybe after two years we can pick that game back up.’’

Horn has an incredibly tough pre-district schedule. The Jags open against Cayuga and play Bosqueville and state power Bremond before opening in the district race.

Wortham Coach Shane Doege was left scrambling to find a non-district opponent on Monday morning when he found out his Bulldogs were in an eight-team district that included powerhouses Chilton and Italy — and Dallas Gateway.

“We had Dallas Gateway as our third non-district game,’’ Doege said. “I’m scrambling  to find someone to fill that spot in the schedule. Having Dallas Gateway in our district was a surprise. Nobody had Dallas Gateway on their radar as far as being in our district.’’

The new district makes life more difficult for all four Golden Circle teams — Frost, Wortham, Hubbard and Dawson — that are now with a district with eight teams instead of five. This fall those four teams and Meridian made up the district. Meridian, which was the district runner-up, moved with Hubbard, Frost, Dawson and Wortham to the new eight-team 2A district.

“Any time you go from a five-team district to an eight-team district it’s tougher just because you have to start district earlier,” Doege said. “You have only three games to get ready and we’ve added Italy and Chilton and they’re both really good.’’

It's going to difficult from the top to the bottom.

“It’s going to be a meat-grinder the next two years,’’ said Dawson football coach and AD Larry Prince said. “And with an eight-team district and only three non-district games, you have to hit the ground running. The odds are in this district you are going to pull someone who is really good in that first game.’’


Corsicana will play the same teams in District 16-5A in football and basketball. The Lady Tigers and Tigers have both improved dramatically on the court and there should be little adjustment other than more travel in a bigger district.

But the UIL made a significant move in Class 3A, splitting up Golden Circle rivals Mildred and Rice from Blooming Grove.

Mildred and Rice stay together in District 18-3A and are joined by Arp, Troup, Eustace, Frankston, Malakoff and New London West Rusk. Those schools no longer play Marlin, Buffalo and Teague, which were in this year’s basketball district with Mildred, Rice and Blooming Grove.

Blooming Grove joins District 19-3A, which includes Bruceville-Eddy, Clifton, Marlin, McGregor, Teague, West and


Rice will save miles during football season, and the Bulldogs will need them because the new basketball lineup  includes long road trips to Arp, Troup  and West Rusk. “It’s tremendous travel,’’ Baldridge said. “Those trips to Arp, Troup and West Rusk in New London are two-hour, two-and-half hour trips. I’m not sure what we will do with our junior high basketball program. I can’t foresee our junior high teams going to Arp or Troup or West Rusk on Mondays and Thursdays.

"I think the UIL used Interstate 45 as the cutoff and that's why Blooming Grove went southwest and us and Mildred went east,'' he said of the split between the three Golden Circle rivals.

They felt the same way at Mildred.

Chambliess wasn’t pleased with the basketball realignment that put Blooming Grove in another district and will send Mildred on long road trips to Frankston, Arp, Troup and West Rusk.

He feels the same as Rice’s Baldridge, and worries about what will have to happen to have a junior high season.

I don’t understand why we are traveling two and two-and-half hours when we could be playing a team 20 minutes away,’’ Chambliess said. “We have four long trips to Frankston, Arp, Troup and West Rusk and we have schools much closer we could be playing.’’

Grubbs wasn’t pleased with the basketball realignment that put Blooming Grove in another district that will send his basketball teams south and past teams that are much closer to play.

Chambliess feels the same as Rice’s Baldridge, and worries about what will have to happen to have a junior high season.

I don’t understand why we are traveling two and two-and-half hours when we could be playing a team 20 minutes away,’’ Chambliess said. “We have four long trips to Frankston, Arp, Troup and West Rusk and we have schools much closer we could be playing.’’

Blooming Grove's Grubbs wasn’t happy with the new basketball district, which not only separates Blooming Grove from rivals Rice and Mildred, but will require a lot more travel.

In Class 2A, Golden Circle teams Kerens, Hubbard, Dawson and Wortham stay together in District 19-2A basketball along with Cayuga and Cross Roads but add La Poyner to the mix making that district tougher to win.

Frost, which was the only Golden Circle team in its basketball district this year (19-1A) is still the lone GC team in a new Class 2A district. The Polar Bears are now with Dallas Gateway, Garland Alpha Charter, Italy and Itasca in an entirely different district lineup in District 12-2A.

Horn knows the new basketball district will be much tougher with the addition of La Poyner, a traditional power.

“Adding La Poyner makes it a lot harder, especially for our teams who are trying to get in the playoffs. That’s one more team that will eat up a playoff spot. If La Poyner was in our district right now, they would be the best team in the district.’’