All Shook Up: UIL puts Sulphur Springs in far-reaching East Texas district

By BOBBY "BUTCH" BURNEY, News-Telegram Sports Editor

Feb. 1, 2008 - Sulphur Springs sports fans, get ready to travel.

The University Interscholastic League is sending Sulphur Springs High School to the far reaches of deep East Texas for the next two years for extracurricular sports and academic competition.

In its biennial realignment for school years 2008-2010, the UIL put Sulphur Springs in District 13-4A with Hallsville, Longview High, Longview Pine Tree, Marshall, Mount Pleasant and Texas High. The new district alignment will take effect in the fall.

Other than the 70-mile roundtrip to Mount Pleasant, all of the other schools are roughly a 200-mile trek for Sulphur Springs fans. Those are long trips to make on Friday nights, but it seems worse on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays for subvarsity sports along with varsity volleyball, basketball and baseball/softball.

To make matters even stickier, Sulphur Springs is by far the smallest school, in terms of enrollment, in the new district. SSHS, which turned in an enrollment of 1,096 students, is almost half the size of Longview (2,005, which is dropping down from Class 5A, and hundreds of students less than all of the other schools (see the chart on Page 9).

Sulphur Springs is only 116 students above the cut-off for 3A.

SSISD athletic director and head football coach Greg Owens said the Wildcats and Lady Cats will have to get ready to compete in a district that will be tougher in virtually every sport than the current one.

"This is an extremely tough district," said Owens. "It's going to be a challenge every week. Our kids are going to have to raise their expectations and their level of play week-in and week-out."

In football, five of the new teams made the playoffs last year: Sulphur Springs, Mount Pleasant, Texas High, Marshall and Longview (in Class 5A). Four of those teams will likely be ranked in the preseason top 20.

Travel-wise, the UIL couldn't have put Sulphur Springs in a worse district. The same could be said of the competition. Football will be the premier sport with talented teams every week, but the district will also be strong in every sport.

The UIL will be taking four teams from each district to the playoffs in Class 4A beginning next school year, which helps compensate for the larger seven-team district. However, the odd number of teams in the district presents a new problem - the bye week.

In football, Sulphur Springs will have a bye week in the middle of its district season, on Oct. 17. In pre-district, the Wildcats will take on Paris, Whitehouse, Wichita Falls Rider and Mesquite Poteet.

Most Sulphur Springs fans were hoping the Wildcats would be put in a western district that could have included Greenville, Royse City, Forney and/or the Rockwall schools because of reduced travel time. That's not the way the UIL saw it.

"It's tough," said Owens. "That's what we've been dealt, so we're going to line-up and get after it."

In the playoffs, the new District 13-3A will face off in the first round against District 14-4A which includes Henderson, Jacksonville, Kilgore, Lindale, Nacogdoches and Whitehouse.

Along with Longview, other area schools that will drop from Class 5A to 4A included Rockwall and two Dallas ISD schools (Adams and Carter). Rising from Class 3A to 4A will be Frisco Liberty and Frisco Wakeland, Mabank and Royse City.

Class 3A

Paris and North Lamar, which are both in the current 11-4A, will be dropping down to Class 3A after turning in enrollments of 934 and 959, respectively. They will be grouped in District 10-3A with Anna, Bonham, Commerce and Van Alstyne.

Mount Vernon's district stayed about the same, with the exception of New Boston moving up from Class 2A. The new District 16-3A will include Mount Vernon, New Boston, Atlanta, Pittsburg, Texarkana Liberty-Eylau and Texarkana Pleasant Grove.

Emory Rains, meanwhile, will play in District 13-3A with Farmersville, Lucas Lovejoy, Nevada Community, Princeton and Quinlan Ford.

Farmersville, New Boston and Anna are all moving up from Class 2A.

Class 2A

Como-Pickton's district changed slightly, as Caddo Mills and Cooper were added to a group that already included Alba-Golden, Grand Saline, Lone Oak, Quitman and Winnsboro. The new district is 13-3A.

Class A

Cumby will be District 14-A in football along with Celeste, Dallas Gateway, Fruitvale, Quinlan Boles and Wolfe City. That is only a slight change from the same district the Trojans are currently in.

In basketball, Cumby will be in District 18-A, Div. I with Campbell, Fruitvale, Martins Mill, Quinlan Boles, North Hopkins and Yantis.

District 22-A, Div. II will have just four teams: Miller Grove, Saltillo, Sulphur Bluff and Greenville Phoenix Charter.

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