UIL realignment brings big changes for a few Polk County schools
By Brian Besch
It’s like Christmas morning every two years for high school coaches across the state of Texas. Coaches these days rush to the keyboard to find if they will be happy with what is under the tree.
The University Interscholastic League released its district realignments Thursday at 9 a.m. for the next two years of fall sports.
In Polk County, two schools have completely new surroundings, while the other four will have just a few changes.
There are now two Class 2A schools in the county, and both will need to adjust to a new home.
After years of being the small fish in a big pond, the opposite will now be true for Corrigan-Camden. The Bulldog athletic teams will find themselves with the enrollment advantage in many of the district games they play after dropping from Class 3A to 2A.
“It was a fun day and it is always exciting,” Corrigan-Camden athletic director Brett Ratliff said. “We opened up the present and we didn’t get coal. We were excited no matter what, going down a classification. I think it gives us an opportunity to compete at a high level in all of our sports, based on our size.
“We had some thoughts on where we might go from a football perspective, and to be honest, in volleyball and basketball we could have gone anywhere. I really didn’t know at all. When it came out, we were very pleased. It is going to be a highly competitive district in every sport. They are definitely districts that we feel really good about going into and getting some new teams and some fresh blood in there and changing some things up.”
The old pigskin destinations of Newton, Kountze, New Waverly Hemphill, Warren and Anderson-Shiro were a bit closer than the miles the team will now travel. New district foes in football include Normangee, Jewett Leon, Centerville, West Hardin and longtime rival Groveton.
“We are going to have to travel, but at the same time, that doesn’t bother us really,” Ratliff said. “Especially with this group that I have coming up. We are trying to get it in our minds that it doesn’t matter how far we have to go, we just have to compete as hard as we can.”
The coach is excited about the chance to renew the Bulldogs’ series with Groveton.
“One of the things that I highlighted (upon returning to Corrigan) is that I wanted to get that rivalry back. I want to generate that excitement between the two communities that are so close together. It has been such a good rivalry for so long. Realignment kind of did that for us. Because of the plywood mill that we have in town, there are so many people from Groveton that work there as well, so they always get fired up about it. In the ‘80s, Groveton had such a good run and then we had a great run of our own for a couple of years there with a state title. In the ‘90s, it was the same thing. There was a significant amount of years where Groveton was kicking the crap out of Corrigan, but then we went on a streak from 1997 until it ended. I think the coaches at the time wanted to stop it, because I don’t think the communities did. Most years, it was very competitive.”
In basketball, the travel is a bit better, playing schools that include Broaddus, Chireno, San Augustine, West Sabine, Woden and Colmesneil.
Colmesneil, Grapeland, Groveton, Latexo and Lovelady will be league opponents for the Lady Dogs in volleyball.
“I think it helps basketball and volleyball tremendously. In volleyball, every year we are getting second in district and Central Heights always gets us at the end. I think we will compete for a district title in volleyball and try to make a significant run. In basketball, I think we are going to be right there amongst the top in the district. San Augustine is going to be there and Woden is very good. I think with the kids that we will have returning and the schedule that we have played the past few years, we will be battle-tested and that will give us some real growth there. We have made some steps, but hopefully, that allows us to kick the door in.”
For Big Sandy, their new district will be like going back in time. It wasn’t too long ago that the Wildcats shared a district with many in the new 25-2A. Hull-Daisetta, Evadale, Deweyville, West Hardin and Sabine Pass will now compete with Big Sandy in hoops. There is also a familiarity from recent non-district games. They leave a group of Broaddus, Brookeland, Colmesneil, Spurger and West Sabine.
“I think we are happy for the travel, because we have always said that this district makes the most sense,” Big Sandy athletic director Kevin Foster said. “We have three schools within 45 minutes of us, which for small schools, that is pretty close to have that many. It is a different region too. It is funny, because we have been in this district before and it is always on that borderline between (Region) 3 and 4. It just so happens that the next two years it is going to be in Region 4. I was just thinking today that it has been about 10 years since we have been in Region 4. I think in my time at Big Sandy, we have been in there two different times.”
The difference in regions could be a large factor once the playoffs begin, as Region 3 is often the strongest no matter the classification.
“There are good teams in Region 4, and in Region 3 there are just so many good teams. (Region 3) is a gauntlet, it really is once you make the playoffs in basketball.”
Livingston will have only one change in volleyball and basketball, losing Shepherd, as the Pirates drop to Class 3A.
Onalaska will lose a powerful Hardin volleyball team, while picking up Shepherd from Class 4A and Crockett. The same changes occur on the hardwood, making 23-3A one of the toughest basketball districts around.
On the 1A level, Goodrich and Leggett will lose state-ranked Chireno from basketball, replacing them with Brookeland. Chireno moves up to 2A, while Brookeland drops from the higher classification.
In volleyball, the UIL has created districts exclusively for Class 1A, after sharing with 2A schools for years. Goodrich will now compete versus Burkeville, Chester, High Island and Spurger.