Alex Riley

DAILY LIGHT

Sports writer

Life in 5A competition for Midlothian athletics will be over before it really gets started. By a margin of 425 votes, residents in Midlothian approved a bond for school growth, the biggest of which will be the construction of a new high school that will go online in 2014.

When that day comes, it will signal the end of an era for Panther athletics and the start of a whole new way of doing things. It’s a reality athletic director Steve Keasler has been contemplating for quite some time.

“I definitely think a lot of changes will occur,” Keasler said. “We have some time on that which is good thing in that we’ll be able to prepare ourselves the proper way and be able to do what’s best for our district and our kids. But it will be here before we know it.”

Some of the overriding details have already been sorted out but it’s the fine print that is far from settled for the district. And over the next few years, Keasler, district superintendent Dr. Jerome Stewart and the MISD staff will work on ironing those details out.

What is known is that the two schools will have a majority of their own facilities when it comes to athletics. The current Midlothian High School will not be sharing the baseball, softball, gym or practice fields with the new high school. This ensures a lot less headaches in terms of scheduling.

Of course, not all the sports will be so lucky.

The football programs will be forced to work out plans on how to share the MISD Stadium, specifically when it comes to varsity games on Friday nights. Keasler believes one of the two teams will always have a game there on Friday night and the potential for Thursday or Saturday games at home is highly likely.

Playing surfaces might be a small ticket item compared to the decisions relating to coaching staffs at the two schools. Details about whether current coaches would be allowed to stay put or move to the new high school have not been finalized yet. Either way, Keasler and the district will have a plethora of openings to fill when the new school gets ready for competition.

While all those issues remain to be settled, one thing is certain – the current Midlothian High School will shrink in terms of student population, alleviating some of the crowding issues.

That is a guarantee. But just how big the two schools will be is still a mystery.

In 2014, the UIL will go through realignment yet again in preparation for the 2014 fall season and that new district will be in effect until 2016. The new high school is slated to open in 2014 but odds are it will be held out of varsity athletic competition early on and take part in a junior varsity schedule.

Normally, a school joins the varsity ranks after a season at the sub-varsity level but with another year in between a new realignment, that will make for a waiting period. By the time the new high school goes up for acceptance into the varsity ranks, it could be fairly sizable.

After last year’s realignment, Midlothian stood at 2,215 students with the bottom line 5A qualifying number being 2,003 to Laredo Nixon. Five other schools had numbers under 2,000 students but those schools appear to have requested to join 5A due to proximity to other schools.

What Keasler hopes for and plans to work hard on is dividing the student population in a way that would keep the two schools in different classifications. Projections have the current high school ending up as a 4A with the new school opening at the 3A level.

“The only thing that I would hope is that we do open up at different levels and that we’re not opening up two 4As or we’re not opening up two 3As, that’s it’s different so we have some growth and develop some continuity at the new school for those kids and staff members,” Keasler said.

Keasler’s hope is to prevent athletes for lining up across the field from other athletes they formerly called teammates just months earlier. The transition is already going to be hard enough without adding a situation like that into the mix.

Over the next few years, all those concerns and issues will be worked on, planned out and mulled over. There’s still plenty of issues to sort through.

Despite all the questions surrounding this new way of doing things, there is a guarantee to anyone involved – life in Midlothian is about to change. A community will have to figure out how to support two teams instead of one while remaining loyal to the ideals they’ve cherished for so long. It’s not a scary prospect, just a different one. Time will tell just how long it takes to get things figured out.

“There definitely will be changes that we’ll all have to kind of get used to. There’ll be some growing pains that we’ll all have to deal with, good and bad,” Keasler said. “Any time you try something new or do something new, there’ll be some growing pains through that.”

Alex is a sports writer covering Midlothian athletics for Waxahachie Newspapers Inc. Contact him at alex.riley@wninews.com or at 469-517-1456.