The toughest new districts in Texas high school football in 2022

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UIL Realignment is the most pivotal moment of the Texas high school football calendar, the time when all 1,258 UIL Texas high school football teams discover who they'll have to face over the next two seasons. The release of the 2022-23 alignments on Thursday set the stage for the Texas high school football season — but not all districts are created equal.

So, what are the toughest new districts for the next couple of seasons? In many ways, it depends on what makes a district tough, and it brings us to a common issue with these types of analyses: the balance between top-end quality and depth. For example: South Oak Cliff was the top team in 5A Division II last season...but it also shares a district with Dallas Thomas Jefferson, which went winless in 2021. How do you accurately reflect both of those realities and come up with a measurement of the district?

I admit that I don't think there's a perfect way to measure this — instead, let's explore a few different reasonable metrics.

Average Number of Wins

We'll start with the basics — which districts won the most number of games in 2021? We'll take the combined number of wins by all teams in 2021 (not counting schools just entering the UIL for the first time, which is certainly something to consider) and average them out. Which districts are comprised of the winningest teams?

District 2021 Win Total Avg. Teams
14-1A DI 8.8 May, Jonesboro, Lometa, Santa Anna, Evant
5-4A DI 8.8 China Spring, Stephenville, Waco La Vega, Alvarado, Waxahachie Life
15-2A DI 8.3 Shiner, Refugio, Ganado, Three Rivers, Kenedy, Skidmore-Tynan, Bloomington
8-1A DII 8.3 Strawn, Newcastle, Bowie Gold-burg, Forestburg
3-4A DII 8.2 Wichita Falls Hirschi, Snyder, Graham, Sweetwater, Midlland Greenwood
19-6A 7.9 Katy, Katy Paetow, Katy Tompkins, Katy Cinco Ranch, Katy Seven Lakes, Katy Morton Ranch, Katy Tayor, Katy Mayde Creek, Katy Jordan
11-3A DI 7.9 Franklin, Lorena, Little River Academy, Cameron Yoe, Rockdale, McGregor, Troy
2-5A DI 7.7 Amarillo Tascosa, Lubbock-Cooper, Abilene, Lubbock Coronado, Amarillo, Amarillo Caprock, Lubbock Monterey
5-6A 7.6 Denton Guyer, Allen, Prosper, McKinney Boyd, Denton Braswell, McKinney, Little Elm, Prosper Rock Hill
5-2A DII 7.6 McCamey, Wink, Eldorado, Water Valley, Sterling City, Iraan, Midland TLC

Surprised? Six-man power nexus District 14-1A DI starts things off, with May and Jonesboro leading the way. They're tied with District 5-4A DI, and it's easy to see why with two 16-0 state champions (China Spring and Stephenville) leading the way. The south Texas gauntlet in 2A DI with Shiner and Refugio ranks next, tied with the new-look District 8-1A DII, with defending champ Strawn switching sides of the bracket to join DI dropdown Newcastle.

Most Playoff Teams

Let's think about it in a different way — the name of the game in district play is to qualify for the playoffs, so which districts have the most teams that made the playoffs in 2021?

Of the 192 new UIL Texas high school football districts, only five are comprised entirely of playoff teams.

District 2021 Playoff Teams Teams
15-4A DI 6/6 (100%) Rockport-Fulton, Port Lavaca Calhoun, Floresville, Pleasanton, Beeville Jones, La Vernia
2-4A DI 5/5 (100%) Andrews, Lubbock Estacado, Brownwood, Big Spring, San Angelo Lake View
3-4A DI 5/5 (100%) Dumas, Canyon Randall, Canyon, Hereford, Pampa
3-4A DII 5/5 (100%) Wichita Falls Hirschi, Snyder, Graham, Sweetwater, Midlland Greenwood
2-3A DI 5/5 (100%) Shallowater, Bushand, Amarillo River Road, Muleshoe, Dalhart

District 15-4A DI down on the coast and stretching toward San Antonio is the lone 6-plus-team district with that all made the playoffs.

But what about in the other classifications? What are the most playoff team-heavy districts?

Class District Playoff Team % Teams (*-did not make playoffs in 2021)
6A 10-6A 71.4% Rockwall-Heath, Rockwall, Mesquite, Tyler Legacy, Royse City, Mesquite Horn*, North Forney*
5A DI 2-5A DI 85.7% Amarillo Tascosa, Lubbock-Cooper, Abilene, Lubbock Coronado, Amarillo, Amarilo Caprock, Lubbock Monterey*
5A DII 1-5A DII 83.3% Canutillo, El Paso Chapin, El Paso Andress, El Paso Burgess, El Paso Jefferson, El Paso*
3A DII 2-3A DII 83.3% Early, Wall, Brady, Ballinger, San Angelo Grape Creek, San Angelo TLC*
2A DI 2-2A DI 83.3% New Deal, Post, Sundown, Olton, Floydada, Tahoka*
2A DI 3-2A DI 83.3% Christoval, Forsan, Sonora, Ozona, Anthony, Reagan County*
2A DI 16-2A DI 83.3% La Villa, Freer, Premont, Ben Bolt, Santa Maria, Riviera-Kaufer*
2A DII 14-2A DII 85.7% Falls City, Burton, Yorktown, Louise, Somerville, Snook, Runge*
1A DI 7-1A DI 80.0% Rankin, Garden City, Borden County, Ackerly Sands, Grady*
1A DII 8-1A DII 75.0% Strawn, Newcastle, Bowie Gold-burg, Forestburg

There's a lot of concentrated playoff power out West — five of the districts on this list live out in Region I of their respective classification. Class 6A is particularly well-balanced with its playoff teams, with only 10-6A getting over 70%.

Average Computer Rating

But enough of our own math — let's allow the computers to do some thinking. The DCTF computer (powered by our partner Jerry Forrest at PigskinPrep.com) is an extremely valuable tool for measuring how good Texas high school football teams are; it's where we get our computer projections and our computer rankings, and while it's not 100 percent accurate (no system is), it's the gold standard as far as Texas high school football analysis is concerned.

I won't get into the boring math weeds, but suffice to say that the computer assigns a rating to each Texas high school football team, and that rating gets refined as more data becomes available. For example, the highest-rated team in Texas last year was Austin Westlake, to the surprise of exactly no one.

So let's take the average rating of the teams in each district, and compare it to the median rating of teams in that classification — we'll call this the District Degree of Difficulty (DDOD). So, if a district has an average rating of 105 in a class where the average team rating is 100, the DDOD would be 5%, since it's five percent tougher than the average team. Which districts does the computer think are farthest ahead of their competition?

Class District DDOD Teams
6A 5-6A 11.8% Denton Guyer, Allen, Prosper, McKinney Boyd, Denton Braswell, McKinney, Little Elm, Prosper Rock Hill
5A DI 2-5A DI 12.3% Amarillo Tascosa, Lubbock-Cooper, Abilene, Lubbock Coronado, Amarillo, Amarilo Caprock, Lubbock Monterey
5A DII 5-5A DII 15.4% Mansfield Summit, Ennis, Burleson, Midlothian Heritage, Everman, Arlington Seguin, Corsicana, Joshua
4A DI 5-4A DI 15.0% China Spring, Stephenville, Waco La Vega, Alvarado, Waxahachie Life
4A DII 3-4A DII 11.8% Wichita Falls Hirschi, Snyder, Graham, Sweetwater, Midlland Greenwood
3A DI 11-3A DI 16.2% Franklin, Lorena, Little River Academy, Cameron Yoe, Rockdale, McGregor, Troy
3A DII 3-3A DII 11.5% Childress, Friona, Canadian, Spearman, Tulia, Dimmitt
2A DI 15-2A DI 17.0% Shiner, Refugio, Ganado, Three Rivers, Kenedy, Skidmore-Tynan, Bloomington
2A DII 14-2A DII 14.3% Falls City, Burton, Yorktown, Louise, Somerville, Snook, Runge
1A DI 14-1A DI 38.6% May, Jonesboro, Lometa, Santa Anna, Evant
1A DII 8-1A DII 68.6% Strawn, Newcastle, Bowie Gold-burg, Forestburg

The highest degree of difficulty lies in the six-man ranks, which isn't surprising — the computer rankings have the widest swath in six-man because the quality of team can vary rapidly — but is still noteworthy. In the 11-man ranks, the computer thinks that the Shiner/Refugio combo in District 15-2A is the toughest district, followed by the pair of 3A state champs Franklin and Lorena in District 11-3A DI.

Conclusion

So, what are we left with? When you take a look at the three metrics here, there are a couple of districts that keep popping up, like 15-2A DI (Shiner, Refugio, Ganado), 3-4A DII (Hirschi, Snyder, Graham), 2-5A DI (Tascosa, Lubbock-Cooper, Abilene) and 8-1A DII (Strawn, Newcaste, Bowie Gold-burg). If you needed to pin down exactly one district to call the toughest in Texas, the ones listed above are a good place to start.

But the beauty of Texas high school football is, we don't have to choose. In just seven months, we'll tee it up and watch all of these teams fight their way through their new districts.

 

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