INSTANT REACTION: 10 Quick Thoughts on UIL Realignment

Photo by Prentice James

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The University Interscholastic League’s biennial realignment is out, and once again, the UIL has shaken up the entire Texas high school football world. The new classifications, divisions, regions and districts are a ton to sort through, but here are ten quick thoughts on what is a seismic day in Texas.

1: Port Neches-Groves’ move is the big shocker

Let’s not mince words: District 8-5A Division II is the realignment day showstopper, as defending state champion Port Neches-Groves swings over to Region II. Why is this important? It means PNG could see South Oak Cliff, the squad it’s played in the title game the last two seasons, in a regional final instead of at AT&T Stadium. And don’t overlook the addition of rising power Montgomery Lake Creek to the left side of the bracket, either.

2: DeSoto’s decision and its ripple effects

Word came down late Wednesday that DeSoto — the two-time defending 6A Division II state champion — would opt up to 6A despite turning in a number that’d settle them comfortably in 5A Division I. It once again sets up an even more souped-up “district of doom” in 11-6A with newly promoted Lancaster joining Duncanville and Cedar Hill. It also makes DeSoto the undisputed team to beat in 6A Division II instead of 5A Division I (good news for teams like Aledo, bad news for teams like Katy).

3: A new dawn in H-Town

We knew the Houston area would get a bit mixed up in this alignment, and boy, is there plenty to talk about. District 22-6A’s pairing of Alvin ISD — including Manvel and Shadow Creek — with Pearland ISD is box office stuff. The newly reconstituded District 9-5A Division II may have lost Port Neches-Groves, but it gained teams like Alvin Iowa Colony to go along with Fort Bend Marshall and Richmond Randle. And take a look at the map of District 11-5A Division I, essentially wrapping around Houston to include teams like Friendswood, New Caney Porter and Crosby. H-Town got a facelift.

4: “Islands” cause inevitable chaos

Teams with no relatively local class-mates will invariably cause some funky-looking districts, and the 2024-26 alignment is no different. Take a look at District 7-5A Division I, which stretches all the way from Joshua (south of Fort Worth) to Lufkin (deep in the Piney Woods) — that’s a 200-mile drive, along which you’ll pass district bunkmates like Midlothian and Highland Park; that’s a 200-mile drive. Or the new Wichita Falls schools, which will now be district bunkmates with Amarillo Palo Duro. There are no perfect answers for the UIL with some of these schools, and it makes for some surprising districts.

5: Mart levels up

The Mart Panthers have been the most consistently excellent program in 2A Division II, making six of the last seven title games. In the last two seasons, the Panthers went 12-0 in district play, beating their opponents by a combined total of 668-41. But the road could get significantly steeper for the next two seasons, as Mart will be joined by Chilton — whom it played in the state semifinal last season — and Bremond in District 10-2A Division II. The Panthers haven’t lost a district game since 2015, but for the first time in a long time, that feels like it could be in real peril.

6: Under-the-radar region changes

Trust me, I know realignment is a lot to digest — 192 brand new districts, comprised of more than 1,200 teams! — so it’s hard to see subtle changes that could be critical. That especially includes region changes, teams moving from one region to another, setting up entirely different paths through the playoffs. Here are some region changes you may have missed:

  • Defending 1A Division I state champion Gordon moves from Region III to Region IV
  • 5A Division I state finalist Smithson Valley moves from Region III to Region IV
  • Also in 5A Division I, Lovejoy (now coached by Todd Dodge) and Melissa move from Region II to Region I
  • In 4A Division I, Decatur moves from Region I to Region II, and Stephenville moves from Region II to Region I
  • 1A Division II state finalist Oglesby moves from Region III to Region IV
  • In 4A Division II, Cuero swings into Region IV from Region III
  • In 5A Division II, Liberty Hill moves over to Region III from Region IV

There are many more — I count 151 teams that changed regions, not counting those teams that changed classes — and we’ll be sifting through it in the weeks and months to come.

7: Hard and soft landings

Of the teams that changed classifications, some landed better than others. For teams like Sunray (up to 2A Division I), San Antonio Jay (up to 6A) and Bridge City (up to 4A Division I), moving up a classification may have landed them in a more favorable district and maybe even region. But for teams like Boerne (up to 13-5A DII with Alamo Heights and San Antonio Veterans Memorial), New Home (up to 2-2A DI with Abernathy and Post) and 4A Division I state champion Anna (moving up to 5A DII, joined by Frisco Emerson, Lovejoy and Melissa in 4-5A DII), the landing wasn’t as soft.

8: Six-man goes wild

It might fly under your radar on Realignment Day, but Class 1A is always buzzing with change every two years. Beyond the newcomers to the six-man world — including Pawnee, which will play football for the first time since 1978 — you’ve got teams moving all over the place. Gordon and Oglesby’s region changes are headlines, but Knox City and Rankin (to 1A DI Region I), Balmorhead (to 1A DII Region II), and Irion County (flipping sides of the bracket, from Region IV to Region II of 1A Division I), the smallest classification has some of the biggest fireworks.

9: In districts, size matters

Take a look at some of the number of teams in some of these districts. We knew we’d have a couple of four-team districts (like 1-5A DI out in El Paso, or 16-4A DII down south), but how about down in the Rio Grande Valley in 6A, where you have a six-team 31-6A and an ultra-rare five-team 32-6A? Combine that with small districts like the Little Southwest Conference of 2-6A, and you have some teams that are going to be shopping for a lot of non-district contests. Now that the alignments are out, the non-district schedule-making begins.

10: It’s not over

Today is obviously an enormous day across the Texas high school football landscape, but it’s important to remember that these alignments are not officially finalized. There is an appeals process by which teams can appeal their district placements, and there’s sure to be a small handful of teams that pursue that avenue. But for the vast majority of Texas high school football teams, the path to AT&T Stadium is now set for the next two years.

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