The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

February 3, 2014

H.S. Sports: UIL Realignment has Dogwood Circle teams facing new opponents

By BRYAN URBACH
Palestine Herald-Press

PALESTINE —

On Monday morning, a scramble to figure out scheduling occurred all across Texas.

 

The Texas UIL realigned the districts across the state and added another classification to the mix.

 

For Dogwood Circle teams, this meant a change of scenery and new opponents as well as a few old foes.

 

PALESTINE

 

For the Wildcats, their new district will be Class 4A DI District 9.

 

In this district will be Palestine, Carthage, Kilgore, Chapel Hill, Henderson and Brownsboro.

 

In non-district play, Palestine will take on Van, Jacksonville, Fairfield, Paris and Kaufman.

 

Palestine coach Lance Angel said when he saw the draw that Palestine received, he knew his team was in for a tough season ahead of them.

 

“We weren’t really surprised by what came out today,” Angel said. “It’s a tough district. I would dare say it’s the toughest district in 4A DI in the state. But it’s one of those things where we’re looking forward to a challenge like that.

 

“Our kids will be ready for this season,” Angel added. “There’s some pride in being in that tough of a district and have to compete week in and week out. There’s no off weeks.”

 

For the non-district games, Palestine scheduled a few familiar faces there as well. With Jacksonville, Fairfield and Kaufman, the Wildcats faced these teams last year and know them well. Angel said he expects a tough road ahead of the team this season.

 

“The biggest thing about this, is you look at that schedule and five out of the 10 teams we’re going to play have played for a state title in the last four years,” Angel said. “That’s just one of those things. You want to be challenged. It gives our kids something to work for and gives them a chance to go out and prove themselves.”

 

WESTWOOD

 

Westwood is in an interesting situation this year with a new coach at the helm.

 

The Panthers will stay in a district with Elkhart and Teague and will be adding a few tough opponents in Malakoff, Eustace and Kemp.

 

When familiar faces appear, rivalries can start to be formed.

 

With teams like Elkhart and Teague, Westwood has played these teams and knows what it takes to give a challenge to them.

 

Last season, Eustace went 5-6, Kemp went 2-8 and Malakoff went 11-2. The team to beat in this district should be Malakoff as it is coming in with the best record for the 2014 season.

 

The Panthers look to start fresh with new coach Kevin Hayes, and they will try to make a push at the playoffs.

 

Westwood coach Kevin Hayes was unable to be reached before press time.

 

ELKHART

 

The other Dogwood Circle team in the district with Westwood is the Elks.

 

The Elks will come into the 2014 season with a new look to their roster. Elkhart coach Sam Wells said the team will be geared up and ready to go for the 2014 season — and is ready for the new opponents.

 

“I think we got put in a great district,” Wells said. “We kept Teague and Westwood in the district, and now we go in there with Malakoff who had a great year last year. Eustace has been right there lately, and Kemp, we don’t know much about, but they’ll be great to have.”

 

Traveling can have a huge impact on the way a team plays for certain games and Wells said this year, the Elks will be a little bit better off for traveling than in years past.

 

“The geography of it is a little different,” Wells said. “We’ll be going to the north, but we’re excited about being able to face some new opponents.

 

“Kemp is probably the furthest away from us, but honestly it’s not too bad of a schedule for us,” he added. “I think Franklin was our furthest last year, so this year may be overall a bit closer, which is nicer for us.”

 

In non-district play, the Elks will take on Buffalo, Leon, Mildred, Trinity and Huntington. Wells said he expects to prepare during the non-district games for what’s to come during district play.

 

“Well, every year during non-district play, we are getting ready for the district schedule,” Wells said. “We expect to see improvement during that time. Buffalo has been a great team the past few years, and it’ll be a great test for us in the first ball game.”

 

CAYUGA

 

Cayuga is in a district this coming season that might be the most interesting one of the new scheduling.

 

The Wildcats are faced with Alto, Grapeland, Kerens, Cross Roads and Carlisle. Cauga coach Russell Holden said the team is looking forward to having some challenging teams in the new district.

 

“The district is kind of what we thought was going to happen,” Holden said. “We’ve been in that district before with Alto, Grapeland and Carlisle. It’s great for our kids because we have some competitive rivalries with some of those teams.”

 

With Grapeland back in the district, Holden said he expects the game against the Sandies to be a good measure of where both Dogwood Circle teams are at.

 

“It’s good with having them back in our district,” Holden said. “With them being that close to us, we’ve had some battles against them. Back when we had our little run with the state championship, Grapeland beat us the year we went to the championship and lost, but then the next year we beat them when we won the championship. So, they’ll always be real competitive with us.”

 

In the non-district schedule, Cayuga has Joaquin, Buffalo, Hubbard, Rice and Frankston.

 

Holden said that the most exciting match out of the non-district games will be the Anderson County game against Frankston.

 

“We’re expecting a big crowd for the game against Frankston,” Holden said. “It’ll be a tough game against them because they’re getting better and better.

 

“In district play, though, I think we have a chance at the district championship,” he added. “We haven’t seen Alto in a few years, but I think we stand a chance in our district. It would definitely be the icing on the cake.”

 

GRAPELAND

 

With Grapeland and Cayuga in the same district, Grapeland coach Sean Brown said he expects a tough road ahead for the Sandies, but said he is confident in their chances of winning this season.

 

“Our district this coming season is one that we didn’t expect coming into today,” Brown said. “There’s definitely a question of geography for us, but you look up and there’s still some great ball clubs in with us. We got Alto, Cayuga and Kerens in there who will be challenges for us. From top to bottom, this will be a tough district, especially with Carlisle in there. It will be challenging just like it was before, it will just have different bodies in it.”

 

Grapeland’s non-district schedule will be against West Hardin, Beckville, Lovelady, Mount Enterprise and Normandy.

 

Brown said he expects an even battle from the non-district teams and is looking forward to the early challenges that await the team.

 

“Our biggest hurdle was trying to get teams for non-district that were in our division,” Brown said. “We played some teams last year that had twice the enrollment we did, so for non-district this year, we just wanted to make sure we got to play against some quality teams at our same level of play.

 

“I definitely think we’re coming away with a good non-district schedule,” Brown added. “There are some good ball clubs in there, and it gives us a chance to compete against people we need to be competing against.”

 

FRANKSTON

 

Frankston’s district will be against Arp, New Diana, Elysian Fields, West Rusk, Troup, Waskom and Winona.

 

The Indians have the biggest district of the Dogwood Circle teams, and Frankston coach Matt Nally said he expects this year to be an interesting one.

 

“UIL is going to do whatever they’re going to do, and we’ll come out ready for it,” Nally said. “They put us in a district that they thought we needed to be in, and there’s a lot of great teams in it. It’ll be a lot of fun to be a part of, and you’ll have to bring a sack lunch every week and be ready to play.

 

“Over here in Frankston, we’re calling it ‘The Little District of Doom,’” he added.

 

For non-district, Frankston will play against just Grand Saline, Sabine and Cayuga because of the size of the Indians’ district. Nally said he expects a big crowd against Cayuga in the non-district matchup.

 

“Well, you know, it’s a short trip for both schools,” Nally said. “It’ll be fun for the kids because they all know each other and our coaches know each other. It’ll be a good fun game, and we’ll expect a good amount of fans from both sides out there.”

 

OAKWOOD

 

Oakwood, whose non-district schedule is longer than its district schedule, has Kamack, Fannindel,

Mount Calm and Trinidad in its new district.

 

Oakwood coach Mike Heckathorn said he thought the Panthers could go one of two ways in the realignment, and they did just that.

 

“Well, it’s what I expected,” Heckathorn said. “I felt like we’d either go west or go northeast like we did, so, we’re looking forward to this season.

 

“We’re familiar with these teams,” he added. “We played Fannindel in the playoffs last year, and we’ve played Kamack before. We play Trinidad every year and they’re our biggest rival, and then Mount Calm we’ve been scrimmaging the past two years. So, we’re familiar with all of them.”

 

Oakwood’s non-district schedule includes Bay Area Christian, Houston Emery Weiner, Coolidge, Melford and Chester. The Panthers also are awaiting one more non-district game to be scheduled.