By SCOTT TYLER
H-P Sports Editor
Despite staying in Class 3A, the Palestine Wildcats are still the new ones on the block.
After the University Interscholastic League announced the 2006-08 realignment information, Palestine moved west into District 19-3A with teams who are all familiar with each other, but not too familiar with Palestine.
“We are the new guys,” Palestine head coach Glen Tunstall said. “There are going to be some new schools for us which is going to be exciting.”
Palestine, Westwood, Fairfield, Mexia, Groesbeck and Madisonville comprise the new District 19-3A.
The district looks much like it did the last two years with Fairfield, Mexia, Groesbeck, Madisonville and Marlin comprising the district. With Marlin falling to Class 2A, Palestine and Westwood have moved in to make it a six-team district.
Even Westwood has some familiarity with this district as the Panthers spent two years with these four schools before moving to District 21-3A in the last realignment.
Tunstall is pleased with where Palestine fell after Thursday’s realignment.
“First off I am tickled to death that we stayed in 3A,” Tunstall said. “I like where we ended up because this is not as many trips as we have had with the Lufkin area schools.
“This district is to our benefit.”
Tunstall sees the new District 19-3A being competitive, not only on football, but in all sports, boys and girls.
“These six schools have more equality in athletes than the district we are coming from,” Tunstall said. “All six teams are capable of beating everybody else.”
Palestine will be in the same district as cross-town school Westwood, which Tunstall believes is good for the community.
“It is great for the community to have the competition between the two schools in town,” the Palestine head coach said.
While Tunstall is pleased to be in District 19-3A, he admits it is a bit of a surprise. Palestine cofficials believed that if Athens and Mabank fell to Class 3A, then that was the way Palestine would be going.
Athens and Mabank did fall to 3A, but the two schools were put in different districts.
“I really thought we would stay north and go with Athens and maybe Chapel Hill,” Tunstall said. “I never thought we would go west but I am very glad where we are.”
The other positive news for Palestine after Thursday’s realignment is the new 3A cutoff line. Two years ago, the Wildcats barely made the cutoff to stay in 3A, as they were right on the border, making it by one student.
This year, however, Palestine is 41 students under the cutoff number after the Wildcats turned in a daily attendance number of 907 and the cutoff was 949.
“We knew there was a good chance we were going to be at 3A but I was surprised the number was that high,” Tunstall said. “This should allow us to stay in 3A until they decide to go to six classifications.”
Thursday’s realignment also allowed Palestine to put the final touches on its non-district schedule for the next two years.
After scrimmages against Van and Crockett, Palestine will open the season with Hallsville, followed by Kaufman, Henderson, Jacksonville and Rusk.
“I believe we put together a very strong non-district schedule which should prepare us for district play,” Tunstall said.
Scott Tyler may be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com
By SCOTT TYLER