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More travel expected for Lobos with UIL district change

By Hayden Henry
Feb. 1, 2016 at 8:45 p.m.

Area coaches scramble to finish out their teams schedule after the release of the new U.I.L. realignment packet, on Monday February 1, 2016, at Region 7 Education Service Center in Kilgore. (Michael Cavazos/News-Journal Photo)

Continuing a trend of bouncing back-and-forth between the state's largest classification, Longview once again will compete with the big schools after the official release of the University Interscholastic League's biennial redistricting Monday.

Longview High School will complete athletically in the new District 11-6A, joining Mesquite and Rockwall ISDs out of Dallas, as well as both Tyler ISD schools: John Tyler High School and Robert E. Lee High School (Tyler Lee).

The move was expected as the UIL released cutoff numbers in December. On Snapshot Day in October, Longview turned in 2,200 students — 2,038 at Longview High School and 162 at the district's LEAD Academy — 50 students above the 6A cutoff, which was released two months later.

"First of all, the UIL releasing cutoff numbers in December is a great thing heading into realignment day because it gives you an idea of what's coming," said Longview athletic director and head football coach John King, who traveled to Birdville on Monday for the release. "It's nice to set tentative plans for something that actually comes about. We ended up in an eight-team league which, for us, makes it easy scheduling-wise.

"We're working with a great group of coaches and administrators in the new 11-6A."

That loop will consist of Mesquite, Mesquite Horn, North Mesquite, Rockwall, Rockwall-Heath and the two Tyler schools, all of which the Lobos are familiar with on every playing field. Mesquite has the largest enrollment in the league, with a snapshot number of 2,883, according to the Dallas Morning News. Longview comes in at the lowest at 2,200, 70 students below John Tyler, which submitted an enrollment of 2,270 students in October.

RELATED: Download the full UIL realignment packet.

Longview has history with every team in 11-6A, having competed against each Dallas school during the Lobos' last trip to the highest classification during the 2012-13 seasons. With Class 6A being installed in 2014, Longview spent the past two seasons competing in Class 5A.

"Football-wise, there's one coach new to everyone from the last time we were all together, and that's at Tyler Lee with Clayton George, who we are all familiar with," King said. "The rest of the teams, in Mesquite and Rockwall, it's the same coaches that we know well.

"There's a lot of familiarity there, coaching and program-wise."

The move equates to more travel for the Lobo athletic teams but with the previous matchups including Greenville, Sulphur Springs and Texas High, it's a marginal one.

"You lose the local matchups with Hallsville and Pine Tree — 15-minute bus rides — as opposed to now with the closest trip being Tyler, an hour bus ride," King said. "As far as the trips we took these past two years to the Interstate 30 corridor to Greenville, Texas High, etc., it's going to be comparable to the trips to Rockwall and Mesquite. It'll be a little different and a little more travel overall."

With Monday's release panning out to projections, the biggest surprise was the first-round playoff matchup. District 11-6A will meet District 12-6A, which features Lufkin, Conroe, Conroe Oak Ridge, The Woodlands, College Park, Montgomery and Beaumont West Brook. In Class 6A in football, the UIL instituted a pilot program this past season with the higher-seeded team gaining home-field advantage, a proposal that King, along with former Longview athletic director Pat Collins, had a hand in drawing up in the past.

RELATED: Area coaches learn new districts, scramble to fill schedules

"That was probably the biggest surprise to everyone on Monday in who we matched up with in the bi-district round, going to down to Conroe or possibly Beaumont" King said. "With the pilot program with the higher-seeded team getting home-field advantage, it cuts out a lot of red tape to get through when it comes to scheduling a playoff game in finding a stadium, agreeing on a night and then getting there. Only half the teams that are playing will be traveling, so schools are saving money there.

"It's nice when you're the top seed."

Football-wise, district action this fall will consist of six teams out of the eight that reached the postseason in the 2015 season.

"We're looking forward to the move," King said. "It'll be a tough challenge, no doubt, with six of the eight making the playoffs. There were a lot of playoff victories amongst those six teams as well.

"It's going to be a tougher schedule for everyone involved on every field and every court. You're going to have to step your game up because it's a tough challenge coming."

King also announced a tentative football schedule for the 2016 season with Lufkin, Marshall and Dallas South Oak Cliff set for the Lobos' non-district opponents. South Oak Cliff will travel to Longview in Week 3, and sites for the Lufkin and Marshall games are still to be determined.

Once District 11-6A action begins, the Lobos will host Mesquite Horn, Rockwall, John Tyler and Mesquite at Lobo Stadium.

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