The numbers are in and high schools across the state now know who stands between them and a playoff berth for the 2018-20 school years.
The University Interscholastic League released the bi-annual realignment Thursday morning, and several Ellis County high schools will soon have new district foes.
In short: Waxahachie officially jumped to Class 6A, Red Oak and Midlothian took their exits from the "District of Doom," Midlothian Heritage and Life Waxahachie are now the big dogs, and Ennis finally received its reprieve from West Texas travels.
This year marked the first time for the UIL to utilize software in the bi-annual realignment — as opposed to the pushpin, yarn and rubberband (yes, literally) procedure used in years past.
Next fall will also mark the first time for Class 5A to be split into two football divisions: 5A Division I (big school) and 5A Division II. Each division has 16 districts. Classifications 4A and below were previously split into two groups and will remain in that format.
Another point that stands out is the number of four and five-team districts in Class 4A. With only four teams in a district, all four will make the postseason as long as they play in all 10 regular season games. There are three four-team districts in 4A Division I and two more in 4A Division II. There are, however, a total of nine districts with five teams.
Congratulations to football teams in 4A DI 1-4A, 2-4A, 3-4A, and 4A DII 16-4A. Show up, and you're in — even you, Progreso Mighty Red Ants.
For those curious, volleyball and basketball district could differ from the football schedule. Baseball, softball, track-and-field, and for the most part soccer and swimming, will follow the football district.
The Lions and their faithful have endured the late-night drives to West Texas for long enough.
Though Ennis will still travel to Greenville (86 miles), Royse City (58 miles) and Sulphur Springs (108 miles), the Lions have much shorter trips to Corsicana, Forney, North Forney, Terrell, and Kaufman. If anything, less bus time will result in fresher student-athletes.
A welcomed trade out, indeed (especially for those Tuesday night basketball, volleyball, baseball and softball games).
The Hawks and Lady Hawks will undoubtedly have the opportunity to fly high toward a few district titles over the next two years. The football Hawks moved north to join Dallas ISD, which is far inferior to competition in District 10-5A. If Red Oak and new head coach Chris Ross aren't the early favorite, they certainly should be. Same should be said for the baseball and softball teams, as well.
The volleyball and basketball teams will still face Midlothian but are joined by five new faces. Their districts will still be competitive, but nowhere close to that of 10-5A.
Life and Heritage
For both Life Waxahachie and Midlothian Heritage, the road to a district championship in any sport will run through, well, Waxahachie and Midlothian.
And while, yes, Crandall finished 7-5 last football season. The combined record of Athens, Mabank, and Quinlan Ford was 9-21. The Quinlan Ford Panthers won their first five non-district games before dropping all five in District 7-4A.
It is likely the best games on any field or court will be played between Life and Heritage.
The Maypearl Panthers have an uphill battle ahead of their football team, at least for next season.
That fight does not even include the hiccups that are sure to come with the implementation of a new offense, defense, and program following the retirement of three-year head coach Tal Sanders.
Sanders coached the Panthers to a 7-4 mark and second-consecutive bi-district appearance last season.
Now to the future.
The Grandview Zebras finished the season 12-2 but were upset by Maypearl (19-14) in district action. It was the Zebras' lone regular-season loss.
Then there is (6-5) Groesbeck that lost in a shootout to Franklin (63-49) in the bi-district round of the playoffs.
McGregor also finished the season at 6-5 and lost to now-district-opponent West in the bi-district playoffs, 41-14. West, which compiled a 10-3 mark, lost to Rockdale (31-21) in round three. One round later, (11-3) Teague fell to Rockdale, 42-20.
Oh, and it was Rockdale that defeated perennial power Brock in the 3A DI state championship, 45-29. Thank goodness the Rockdale Tigers didn't find their way into District 9-3A, too.
Whitney will be the only team in the seven-team district that did not make the postseason in 2017 after finishing at 5-5.
Waxahachie made its exit from one of, if not, the best 5A districts in the state and jumped right into one of the stoutest in Class 6A. And it could very well be the most talented football, basketball and track district in any classification across the state. Heck, in the country for that matter.
It is important to note the use of "big trouble" and not "big losers." No one has lost a game yet. But seven football teams in the new District 7-6A qualified for their respective postseasons in 2017. The same will likely be said for boys and girls basketball when all is said and done.
Only four teams are going to get in. It'll be the survival of the fittest.