Back to the Future: UIL groups past district foes together again for another two years
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Feb. 6, 2004 -- It was a feeling of deja vu all over again at Sulphur Springs High School Monday morning as news of the UIL's biennial redistricting and realignment was released.

Sulphur Springs will be going back to its old familiar district for the 2004-06 school years, reuniting with Texas High, Mount Pleasant, Paris, Greenville and North Lamar in District 12-4A.

The new realignment will take place starting in the fall 2004 semester for all sports.

SSISD athletic director Dwayne McMeans said not only are most of the trips closer than the current 11-4A alignment that includes Sherman, Denison and McKinney North, but there's also a feeling of familiarity with the old loop back in place.

"Historically, we kind of know everybody in that district, and we've all pretty well gotten along," McMeans said. "Everybody understands how we all operate and how the programs are set up, so it's a good working district to be in.

"When you go to the metroplex, their ideas and the way they want to do things sometimes are a little different, so you have a little more conflict with schools in the metroplex than you do with the traditional district we've always been in."

The Wildcats will be thrown back in with Texas High, which won the Class 4A, Division I football championship in 2002 and made a strong playoff run this season. But, they have played Greenville, Paris and Mount Pleasant over the last two years in football as well as some of the other sports, so they know their programs well.

"Texas High is obviously the bell cow right now," said SSHS head football coach Brad Turner, who spent the morning finalizing his non-district schedule. "But, I think the new district is good. I like it; it's a good fit."

North Lamar was the biggest loser in the new district because the Panthers had been in Class 3A for the last two years, but were moved up and will be the smallest school in 12-4A. North Lamar, though, is traditionally competitive on a 4A level in other sports, such as girls basketball and cross country.

When deciding the new districts, the University Interscholastic League does not consider competitiveness, but only enrollments and travel distances.

From an enrollment standpoint on Oct. 31, 2003, when the snapshot of each high school in Texas was taken, North Lamar had 927 students, Paris had 937, Sulphur Springs was at 1,221, Mount Pleasant at 1,273, while Greenville and Texas High were both over 1,300.

From a travel perspective, while Texas High is a long trip, the other schools are within easy driving distance.

"It's 90 miles to Texarkana from here. That's not much further than going to Denison or Sherman, and it's interstate so you can travel much quicker," said McMeans. "If you get behind the school busses on those trips, you can't get anywhere quick. You can't pass anybody on Highway 11. At least on the interstate, you can set your own speed."

Being in the new/old district also will allow middle school sports to have a true district. The last two years, SSMS has been relegated to a mini-zone that included Greenville and Paris.

"The problem with the metroplex is that they already have their middle school districts formed. It really doesn't matter what district the high schools go into," McMeans explained. "In East Texas and rural areas, we try to tie the middle school and high school together.

"So, in football, volleyball and basketball, it's been us, Greenville and Paris and that's it for a middle school district. At least now, we go back to a more traditional middle school district, so that helps from a total program."

A look at how the new district will impact the major sports:

Football - Texas High, coming off two excellent seasons, will likely be the favorite. Then, Sulphur Springs, Mount Pleasant, Greenville and Paris have all been very competitive the last two years.

Head coach Brad Turner has already solidified his non-district schedule. It will start with a scrimmage against Whitehouse, then the Wildcats will face traditional power Jacksonville in Zero Week, followed by games against Forney (a 3A powerhouse moving up to 4A), Mesquite Poteet, Dallas W.T. White (a 5A school coached by ex-Mount Pleasant coach Mike Zufutto), and Lancaster.

Girls Sports - North Lamar is competitive in basketball, but none of the incoming schools are expected to be as strong in softball as McKinney North, who is moving to District 9-4A. North Lamar is very good in cross country. SSHS girls head basketball coach Carin Hoffman and softball coach John McCullough were both pleased with the new alignment.

Other Boys Sports - Sulphur Springs has played Mount Pleasant three times this season and North Lamar once in basketball. Plus, they have two district games apiece with Paris and Greenville, so there should be few surprises. In baseball, Mount Pleasant in traditionally strong.

Spring Sports - Texas High is usually good in tennis, but so were Sherman, Denison and McKinney North. The rest of the district also won't lament losing McKinney North, which won the district title last spring. In track, Texas High is very good.

"Our coaches overall are excited about it," McMeans said. "We've done pretty well in that traditional district overall.

"Kids are always changing, so it can always be different in the next two or three years. But, I think it's going to be a competitive district, top to bottom, in boys sports and girls."

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