Monday morning brought the biennial realignment of the University Interscholastic League’s football, volleyball and basketball districts after the school size cutoff numbers were released in December.
Around Austin County, the big news is that Sealy and Bellville will once again be competing in the same district for all three sports in Region 3 of Class 4A Division 2. In Wallis, the Brazos Cougars will be making a step up from Class 2A Division 1 to 3A Division 2 and will compete in Region 4 for the next two years.
After failing to meet the 880-student cutoff to remain in 4A Division 1, the Sealy Tigers became one of 93 schools in Division 2 with enrollments between 515 and 879, alongside the cross-county rival Bellville Brahmas.
Sealy and Bellville competed in the same district from 2008 to 2013 most recently and the Brahmas took the district crown with a 5-1 record their final year in the group ahead of El Campo (4-2), Columbus (4-2), Wharton (4-2), Sealy (3-3), Royal (1-5) and Needville (0-6).
This time around, the Austin County teams will be joined by La Marque, Royal, Sweeny and Wharton, leaving room for five non-district contests before the district games start.
The head football coaches on either side of the rivalry agreed that this realignment will only do good things for the programs.
“I don’t think it matters if it was a district game or a non-district game, any time these teams play it’s going to be a huge rivalry game,” said Sealy’s head man, Shane Mobley. “This year, there will be more at stake, more on the line. … Any time Sealy and Bellville play, it’s going to be a good ballgame.”
“I think it’s good to be in the same district and be together playing each other,” said Bellville’s Grady Rowe. “We always enjoy playing each other. It’s always a good game and I think being in district makes it even more important. It might even intensify it more, who knows?” he said with a laugh.
“I think it’s good for both communities that there’s a little more importance on the game,” Rowe continued. “I’m not sure that the schools can get more into it but maybe so. It’s always a fun game regardless.”
Another thing the two coaches agreed upon is the strength of the rest of their region with powerhouses waiting in the wings for the bi-district round of the playoffs.
“It’s the toughest region by far; it’s not even close,” Rowe said. “You look and we’ve got Carthage dropping down, West Orange-Stark and Silsbee. Those schools east, they’ll be something to battle with.”
When asked if he agreed with his counterpart in Bellville, Mobley quickly responded with, “Oh yeah there’s no doubt about it.”
“After our district, you look at the others with West Orange-Stark who is a powerhouse, Silsbee who is a powerhouse sitting right there,” Mobley continued. “Then the sisters to those is Carthage and China Springs and that group. Our region is really big and there are some really tough football teams inside this region that we’re in.”
Before they can worry about other districts, though, the Sealy Tigers will have to worry about winning games in their district first. Sealy’s 2020 season will get underway with scrimmages against Smithville and Columbus before kicking off the regular season against Brazosport, Navasota, Montgomery Lake Creek, Stafford, and Bay City.
Bellville will start its season with non-district games against Rockdale, Giddings, Stafford, and West Columbia, listed in no particular order. As of Monday morning, Rowe was still looking for a fifth opponent.
Meanwhile in Wallis, Brazos grew out of the 229-student cutoff to stay in 2A and joins 104 other schools in 3A Division 2 with enrollments between 230 and 349. Out of the 104, five of them will compete against the Cougars in Region 4’s District 14, which East Bernard won outright last year with a 6-0 campaign. In addition to those Brahmas, Altair Rice, Danbury, Tidehaven, and Van Vleck will also fight for the right to wear the crown atop the standings.
Brazos’ season will start with non-district tilts against Anderson-Shiro, Bay Area Christian, Burton, and a pair of former district foes in Weimar and Yorktown.
Sealy and Bellville will also compete in the same district on the volleyball and basketball courts as well, calling Region 3’s District 24 home. Alongside the county rivals will be El Campo, Navasota, Royal and Wharton for both sports.
On the 3A stage, Brazos will similarly reside in Region 3 and District 24 for volleyball and basketball next year and will also have the same opponents for both sports; Boling, Danbury, East Bernard, Houston Harmony School of Discovery, Hempstead, Hitchcock, and Van Vleck.
Once some of the dust settled on a crazy Monday morning, the coaches offered their thoughts on where they’ll be competing for the next two years.
“There were a lot of coaches that were smiling and there’s a lot of them who were sitting there thinking like, ‘What did we get ourselves into,’” Mobley explained of the atmosphere. “But it’s a real unique alignment this year because of the number changes. It’s throwing a lot of your powerhouse big schools, smaller 6A into the 5A so there’s a lot of changes a lot of shakeup with how the numbers and how everything went.”
“It’s been a typical realignment morning, kind of hectic but I guess we wouldn’t have it any other way,” Rowe said with a laugh. “It’s been a little crazy but it’s kind of the district we expected which is a little different because usually whatever I expect isn’t going to happen.”
On the other hand, Roecker drew the district he and his Brazos coaching staff had been predicting.
“We had already made our pre-district schedule, we expected this one,” Roecker said. “I didn’t see a scenario that added or took away so we had already prepared five non-district games then we’ll have a bye and then play our five district games.”
Roecker is entering his second year in Wallis and looks forward to a full offseason paying off in the fall.
“Obviously, when you step up it’s because of the numbers in the high school and it doesn’t mean you have the same step-up in numbers in the athletic program,” Roecker said. “We only made the cutoff to move up to 3A by about 20 kids so we went from probably being one the largest 2A’s to one of the smallest 3A’s. It’s always a numbers game so you want to get these younger ones ready in case their name is called upon but with our numbers from the junior high, we’re probably looking at 55 to 60 kids in our football program which will be a big step up. We gained several at the midway break that did not play last year that are coming out, saw good things were happening and wanted to be a part of it.”