Feb. 1—HUNTSVILLE — Every two years the UIL meets and realigns Texas high school athletic programs for two years based on numerous things.
On Feb. 1, the new districts were released and Huntsville found itself in a new area of 5A, DII play.
While staying in the 5A, DII ranks, the Hornets find themselves in a different district and region this season. The Hornets dropped several members of last year's district but retained Lake Creek and Montgomery. Huntsville will compete in Region III, 5A DII, District 8 with Dayton, Montgomery, Lake Creek, Nederland, New Caney West Fork, Port Neches-Groves and Splendora in district play.
"It is a different mix. It is pulling from a lot of different areas that we know, and somewhat thought would be with us. With PNG and Nederland coming in with us and the Lake Creek, Montgomery connection we've played for a long time," Huntsville athletic director and head football coach Rodney Southern said. "The good thing is it's an eight-team district with seven district games. It gives us the opportunity to have an open week after non-district so there are a lot of pluses."
Last season Huntsville faced three teams in what is now their district. The Hornets dropped their game to Lake Creek after taking an early lead, defeated Montgomery and then lost to PN-G in the 5A, DII Region III finals at NRG Stadium.
Lake Creek has been a perennial playoff team for the last few years and brings back Tyvonn Byars, a stud running back, and senior quarterback Eli Morcos, who are going to be back and make Lake Creek even better.
This new district houses three teams that made it to the Thanksgiving break and even the past state champions. But Huntsville garnered experience playing strong opponents last season as well. The top three members from the previous district all made Round 3 with Huntsville eliminating Richmond Randle in the third round.
But they only see a handful of those teams on the gridiron. Both Dayton and Nederland are bringing in new head coaches and changing the way the program is run. New Caney West Fork will also be joining the district, making it the first time they play varsity football as a school.
Nederland was another playoff team last year that finished fourth in their district after a 4-7 season. Splendora finished the season with a 1-9 record and missed out on the playoffs.
"We know we will play Lake Creek and their running back and quarterback. We know we have to play the junior quarterback from PNG and they will have a big O-line," Southern said. "We look at Montgomery and know their quarterback and running back are coming back. We've seen Dayton and Nederland on film, but until you play them you don't know. You get in touch with certain groups."
Traveling has been somewhat of an issue over the last couple of years for the Hornets. Against Randle this season, the Hornets' bus ran late causing them to get stuck in Houston traffic and be late for warmups.
But travel is still an issue. The Hornets will have to travel an average of 72.4 miles per game with the furthest being PNG at 132 miles. The closest games are against Montgomery and Lake Creek at 35 miles.
The biggest concern would be if the Hornets draw PNG and Nederland at home in the same year making the same trip twice in a year.
"We won't have to go through Houston, which is always a tough situation because you have to plan so far ahead to be on time," Southern said. "PNG and Nederland will be a long trip, but the rest of them are reasonable trips for us."
With it being an eight-team district, it locks in the teams to have district games from Week 5 to Week 11. The Hornets are likely to have a Week 4 bye week after playing three non-district games for Week 1 to Week 3.
"The good thing is the Week four bye is usually close to a grading period and by then we've had spring training, scrimmage and three non-district games. If you are successful at that point you don't want that, but the open date now will probably take Week 4 as an open week," Southern said. "It puts us all on the same playing field when our open date is."
As for all other sports, only volleyball and basketball districts have been released, but the rest of the sports normally follow suit with basketball. Huntsville moves back into Region III, which is the greater Houston area and competes in District 17. The opponents will include Brenham, Bryan Rudder, College Station, A&M Consolidated, Montgomery and Lake Creek.