WHS grid slate gets major makeover
By Bill Spinks
Waxahachie High School’s 2020 football schedule will have a vastly different look than it had before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
With the change in football schedules ordered by the University Interscholastic League last month and health department orders affecting neighboring counties, the Indians have been forced to make some adjustments to their slate of games, including their road opener.
The original District 11-6A lineup has been altered, with the district divided into two zones. The Indians will be in Zone B with DeSoto, Cedar Hill and Mansfield Lake Ridge, and will play those three teams first. Games against Zone A members Duncanville, Mansfield High, Waco High and Waco Midway will follow later in the fall at sites and times that will be determined.
It remains to be seen whether or not the zone setup will factor into playoff qualifications, because a full round-robin schedule will still be in place.
If a shutdown is ordered after zone play ends, the first-place teams in each zone would qualify for the playoffs, and the No. 2 team in one zone will play the No. 3 in the opposite zone in a pair of play-in contests to determine the other two playoff qualifiers. Otherwise, with no shutdowns, full district results would determine the outcome as usual.
“That’ll only go into effect if school gets shut down in Weeks 8, 9 and 10,” WHS head coach Todd Alexander said of zone play. “If not, it’ll be just like normal.”
The Indians’ changes to their non-district schedule were necessitated by not only the new UIL schedule, but also bans on extracurricular activities ordered by health departments in Dallas and Tarrant County that last until Labor Day.
The Dallas County ban forced WHS to drop a trip to Rowlett as its season-opening game. The Tribe, instead, will open on Friday, Sept. 25 at Copperas Cove.
“Everybody was scrambling when Dallas County shut down,” Alexander said. “You know you’re not going to play those guys (at Rowlett), and you have to find another opponent who lost a Week 1 opponent.”
The rest of the Indians’ non-district order remains unchanged, with WHS hosting Arlington Lamar on Oct. 2 and traveling to Ennis on Oct. 9 for the annual Battle of 287.
Even though the sound of pads popping began to be heard this week at schools in Class 4A and below, the Indians and other Class 6A and 5A schools must wait until Sept. 7 to begin practicing under the UIL’s staggered schedule.
Smaller schools will start the season on time as scheduled, while bigger schools’ seasons have been pushed back four weeks. All classes will play a full season, with playoffs for the big schools running into January.
Also waiting until next month to start are Class 5A Midlothian, Red Oak and Ennis.
Elsewhere in Ellis
Ellis County schools in Class 4A and below are already busy getting ready for their openers.
Midlothian Heritage’s season-opener against Everman had to be called off because Everman, a 5A school, won’t even have begun practicing at that point. Also out are games against Kennedale on Sept. 4 and Wilmer-Hutchins on Sept. 18 because of previous countywide bans in Tarrant and Dallas respectively at the time.
However, it didn’t take long for HHS head coach Lee Wiginton to fill those vacancies. The Jags will open the season on Aug. 28 at MISD Multipurpose Stadium against Wichita Falls Hirschi and will follow on Sept. 4 with a home game against Lindale. On Sept. 18, the Jags will host Paris.
Existing games at Decatur on Sept. 11 and at Springtown on Sept. 25 will stay on the schedule, as well as an Aug. 20 preseason scrimmage at Brock. The Jags’ district slate remains unchanged, opening at home against Brownwood on Oct. 9.
Other changes to small-school schedules in Ellis County remain to be seen as the situation remains in flux. Milford coach Ronny Crumpton said Friday he was forced to drop three private schools from his schedule and still has two open dates to fill.
In Class 5A, Midlothian High confirmed its 2020 schedule on Tuesday, with little changed other than the shift in dates. The Panthers will open at MISD Multipurpose Stadium against Fort Worth Brewer, followed by an Oct. 2 game at Forney and a homecoming contest Oct. 9 against Wichita Falls Rider.
Other than a shift in site for the opener, the Ennis Lions will not change their lineup of games. They will open the season Sept. 25 at Red Oak’s Billy Goodloe Stadium, then will travel to Keller Fossil Ridge on Thursday, Oct. 1 followed by the Battle of 287 on Oct. 9.
Red Oak has not publicly announced a revamped schedule to reflect the new UIL calendar, but Fort Worth Christian has announced a game against the Hawks on Oct. 2 that would replace a scheduled ROHS contest at Sachse, to go along with Ennis’ announcement of its opening game at Red Oak.
Another scramble for games is likely to take place in the coming weeks after a letter by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asserted that school boards, not local health authorities, may decide whether or not to start extracurricular activities. The Dallas Morning News reported last week that Sunnyvale ISD plans to challenge the Dallas County ban.