TXHSFB 303: Which region was best in Texas high school football?

Taking a deep dive into the hidden storylines of the 2016 Texas high school football season.
Photo by Hale Hughes

Photo by Hale Hughes

Over the course of January, TexasFootball.com presents The TXHSFB 303, a deep dive into the hidden storylines in the 2016 Texas high school football season. Have an idea for an angle? E-mail DCTF managing editor Greg Tepper.

Today: Which regions had the best high school football in Texas in 2016?

Two hundred and sixty-eight thousand, five hundred and ninety-six.

That’s how many square miles comprise the state of Texas. If you’re more numerical than alphabetical, that’s 268,596 square miles (give or take a dozen). You could fit Delaware, Connectifut, New Jersey, New Hampsure, Vermont, Massachusetts, Hawaii, West Virginia, South Carolina, Maine, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee inside the state of Texas…and still have a little less than 800 extra square miles.

What I’m trying to say is that Texas is pretty big. So big, in fact, that sometimes it feels like a conglomeration of different states.

Have you ever been to El Paso? It feels like a completely different state than San Antonio. Ever been to the Panhandle? It feels like a completely different state from Austin. Ever been to Houston? It feels like a completely different state from East Texas.

And that tends to breed regional rivalry, especially when it comes to high school football. Every part of the state likes to claim that they play the best high school football…but who’s actually right?

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following few paragraphs include detailed explanations of how we measured this study. It is definitely wonky and maybe boring. If you’re just interested in seeing the results, scroll down to the next Editor’s Note. It won’t hurt my feelings.

Here at Dave Campbell’s Texas Football, we divide the state up into 16 different regions: Big Country (think greater Abilene), Centex (think Waco down to College Station), Coastal Bend (think greater Corpus Christi), Dallas-Fort Worth, East Texas (think greater Tyler and Longview), El Paso, Golden Triangle (think greater Beaumont), Hill Country (think greater Austin), Houston, North (think Wichita Falls to Sherman), Northeast (think Paris to Texarkana), Panhandle, Permian Basin (think greater Odessa and Midland), Piney Woods (think Nacogdoches to Huntsville), RGV/Laredo (think Laredo on down the Rio Grande to Brownsville) and San Antonio.

Are these regions perfect? Absolutely not. What do you do with a team like Del Rio — along the Rio Grande, but far from Laredo, and nowhere near San Antonio? What about La Grange, which is seemingly equidistant from Austin, San Antonio and Houston, not to mention that it has an argument for being in greater Central Texas? And don’t get us started on six-man schools, which are inherently far from any traditional regional division.

That said, imperfect as it may be, we believe that our method is the best possible way of dividing up the state into regions. And it gives us an opportunity to pit the regions against one another.

For this exercise, we’ll be using our friend Jerry Forrest’s computer rankings. For those unfamiliar, Jerry utilizes a system that processes every result in the state to formulate a “rating”, which you can then sort into a ranking. Is it perfect? No, and Jerry would admit as much. But it usually falls in line with the eye test — for example, the two highest-rated teams in his final 6A rankings are Lake Travis and DeSoto, the champions.

I took the rankings for each classification and averaged them to create a baseline — that is, what is the average rating for a team in each classification? Then, I compared each team to their respective classification’s baseline. We’ll call this the Team Quotient. For example: Lake Travis — the top-rated team in 6A — is rated 34.6% higher than the average 6A team; their Team Quotient is 0.346.

From there, I did two things: I averaged the Team Quotient for every team in each region (that’s to say, what is the average rating of a team in each region?); and, I looked at the number of teams in each region with a positive Team Quotient (that’s to say, which region has the most above-average teams?).

I’m excluding six-man teams, for two reasons. First: as I mentioned before, because of their inherent remoteness, it’s difficult to conclusively put them in regions. Secondly: Jerry Forrest would admit that his formula for rating teams is not particularly adept at rating six-man teams.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you’re only interested in the results, pick it back up here.

So, let’s take a look at which region had the highest-rated teams on average.

Region Avg. Team Quotient
Centex 0.043
Big Country 0.041
East 0.034
North 0.027
Coastal Bend 0.016
Piney Woods 0.014
Hill Country 0.000
Golden Triangle -0.001
Permian Basin -0.004
DFW -0.005
Houston -0.006
Panhandle -0.007
San Antonio -0.018
Northeast -0.046
RGV/Laredo -0.063
El Paso -0.079

Big Country is not far behind, and that’s thanks to a banner year from the small schools out west — teams like Brock, Albany, Eastland, Sweetwater and Abilene Wylie helped to turn the area just west of DFW into a powerhouse.It’s Central Texas that had the strongest year on average. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. The greater Central Texas area is buoyed by a very strong top half, with state champion Bremond — the highest-rated team in Texas relative to its classification — leading the way. In total, the Centex area featured 16 teams that rated 20% better than their class average. But what really helps Centex in this study is that the bottom was pretty manageable: there were only a handful of truly woeful teams dragging the average down.

In total, six of the sixteen regions rated above-average: Central Texas, Big Country, East Texas, North Texas, Coastal Bend and Piney Woods. Then, there’s another cluster of areas that rated right around average — Hill Country, Golden Triangle, Permian Basin, DFW, Houston and the Panhandle.

It was a rough year for Northeast Texas (which saw its best teams like Texas High and Bogata Rivercrest bow out in the first round of the playoffs) as well as El Paso and the RGV/Laredo area, which failed to have a team break through in the postseason.

Now, let’s take a look at which region had the most above-average teams.

Region Above-Average Teams Total Teams % Above Average
Golden Triangle 17 28 60.7%
Piney Woods 20 33 60.6%
Centex 55 92 59.8%
Coastal Bend 41 69 59.4%
Big Country 39 66 59.1%
North 38 65 58.5%
East 32 57 56.1%
DFW 88 170 51.8%
Panhandle 37 72 51.4%
Permian Basin 9 19 47.4%
Hill Country 20 43 46.5%
Houston 66 142 46.5%
San Antonio 33 85 38.8%
RGV/Laredo 22 62 35.5%
Northeast 13 37 35.1%
El Paso 11 32 34.4%

What a year for Southeast Texas. The Golden Triangle saw the most success this season, anchored by exceptional years from West Orange-Stark, Port Arthur Memorial, Bridge City, Port Neches-Groves, Beaumont West Brook and others. But the Piney Woods aren’t far behind, buoyed by consistently solid small-school play (teams like Crockett, Groveton, Woodville and Lovelady) to help out solid-though-not-spectacular years from mainstays like Lufkin and Newton.

Among the major metro areas, DFW tended to fare the best, with more than half of its teams rating as above-average. It was a rough year for San Antonio, despite Cibolo Steele’s run to the state championship game; while the top-end of the Alamo City’s football contingency was excellent, there was too much drag at the bottom to make it a successful year altogether.

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