The University Interscholastic League, as is its biennial custom, has announced class and district realignment for the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 high school sports years. Perhaps most notable for local football fans is that Melissa and Anna are reunited in the same district for the first time in four years. And what a district it is. Some would argue this new District 7-4A Division 1 — minus Princeton/Bonham, add Argyle/Celina/Sanger — is the toughest Class 4A district in Texas.
For Anna and Melissa basketball teams it’s, “Head West, young hoopsters” as Bonham and Princeton are again out, and Sanger are Gainesville are added in the revamped District 11-4A. Remaining with Melissa and Anna from the former district are Celina and Aubrey.
Volleyball, baseball, softball, tennis and track generally compete in the same districts as set forth for basketball. Soccer realignment will not be announced until March.
Every two years, the UIL reexamines school enrollment figures across Texas in an attempt to ensure a fair and competitive balance for participants.
Below are comments from some of our local coaches concerning the new day approaching for Melissa and Anna athletics.
Jason Heath, Anna athletic director and head football coach
“You never know what the UIL is going to do. You can say it’s a surprise but not a surprise. I think the district they put together there is probably going to be one of the toughest 4A districts in the state, with the caliber of teams and the history that there amongst them. I definitely going to be a very competitive district. You’ve got seven teams in there, vying for four spots.
“Several of those programs in there have state championships under their belt. A lot of them go several rounds deep every single year. … It’s definitely going to be a challenge. A lot of positives can come out of it as well. As we’re growing, we’re probably getting ready to be 5A in the next two to four years. That’s what it’s going to be like, so it’s preparing us for that 5A competition as well.
“Nobody’s probably going to give us much of a shot to do very well. We’re going to go to work and continue to get better. We’re excited about being able to face some of those teams. We haven’t faced Melissa in four years, so it’s going to be neat to see that rivalry rekindled. And Celina, it’s been two years since we’ve been in their district. Sanger and Argyle are new. It will be interesting, that’s for sure.”
Seth Stinton, Melissa boys athletic director and head football coach
“It’s exciting. We’ve had to play the Argyles and the Celinas in the past — and Paris. The only one really we haven’t played that football district is North Lamar. I think everybody was kind of expecting Argyle and Sanger to go west and be in Region 1. But it is what it is. You play who you get thrown in there with. Obviously, we’re up for the challenge. … I know it’s going to be difficult but, heck, you’ve got to play with the best to be the best. That’s what our message is going to be.”
On playing Anna: “I know Coach Heath does a good job over there. I’m excited about that, just because we’re five minutes from each other. Every time we play it’ll be like a home game for whoever’s the visitor. We’ll bring a good crowd, they’ll bring a good crowd. It’s going to be a good district for us.”
Eric Benton, Cards head basketball coach
“We knew we were going to lose Princeton and Bonham since Princeton was going up and Bonham was going down. Like most coaching staffs, we kind of spit-balled it around, like, ‘Well, what if we went this direction and picked up these schools? What if we went that direction and picked up those schools?’ I’ll be honest, Sanger and Gainesville were not two that were on my radar. This district is a dog-fight every single night and I think adding those two schools is going to keep it the exact same way. I know that they are both very much still alive and fighting for playoff spots in their current district. There’ll be three really good games every night for 10 straight nights when district comes around next year. … It will add a little bit of travel. That’s probably really one of the bigger changes.”
Albert Cager, Lady Coyotes head basketball coach
“Next year puts us right in the middle of some pretty good competition. With the elimination of Bonham and the addition of Sanger, it’s a huge difference for the district. Also with Princeton and Gainesville swapping out, I feel as if our district has gotten stronger. Not to mention we now have to go through Dallas ISD for the bi-district [playoffs]. It will be very tough competition moving forward. We have to get better or we will get left behind with the quality of competition we’ll be facing now. We will be up for the challenge.
“Of course, with the teams already in our district such as Celina, Aubrey and Melissa, we will have our hands full for the next couple of years.”
Heather Lane, Lady Cards head basketball coach
“I’m pleased with our new alignment. It’s always nice to face new teams for a while. Sanger will be strong and Gainesville has some good athletes. Glad to see Princeton go — so much bigger enrollment than us. And Bonham needed to move down so they can compete.”
Coach Kyle Phifer, Coyotes head basketball coach
“You’ve got a lot of familiar teams in there from this year. And I think adding Gainesville and Sanger is going to be good. Gainesville, I think they’ve got a lot of kids coming up that can really play. They’ve always been traditionally pretty good. At Sanger, Coach [Layne] Boxell does a very good job. They’re a program on the rise. I think you’re going to have a lot of teams competing, night in-night out.”