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02/03/20

The Cooldown: Week 23 -- Re-Alignment Special

We’re putting basketball coverage on pause this week as we recap the most interesting moves in this round of UIL district re-alignment. We’ll also talk about some of the most intriguing non-district games scheduled for next fall, and how each district looks in a football and basketball lens.

The new 21-6A

District 21-6A is a BANGER. It’ll be Humble ISD plus North Shore, Beaumont West Brook, and CE King. So let’s look at that from a basketball standpoint first. In the latest edition of the TABC state rankings released earlier today, the new 21-6A would have No. 3 Summer Creek, No. 7 Atascocita and No. 9 North Shore. Obviously things change year-to-year, but these are teams that are perennially good.

It’s just as scary from the football point of view: West Brook is just a year removed from a state championship appearance in 6A Division II, while North Shore repeated as 6A Division I champs in 2019. Atascocita is always dangerous and North Shore has been the only thing standing between the Eagles and state the last two seasons. North Shore beat Atascocita 76-49 in the Region III championship (round four) in December.

The new 21-6A has a real chance to have at least three state ranked teams at any given time in both football and basketball. That’s not even to mention the slate North Shore and Atascocita have lined up for non-district, which we’ll get to later.

Conroe, Klein ISD split

The current 15-6A has been my favorite district to watch all season. The race for playoffs in football season was a lot of fun to watch with Klein Cain, The Woodlands and Conroe fighting for the final two spots. With Klein Collins and Klein Oak at the top, the district offered several competitive teams with two heavyweights. Now, that district will essentially split in half.

The Conroe schools will be in district 13-6A with just six teams, with Willis joining the five Conroe ISD schools: Grand Oaks, Oak Ridge, College Park and The Woodlands. Klein ISD will still comprise 15-6A, and is joined by the Tomball schools. 15-6A joins 13-6A in the benefit of having less than the normal eight schools, which means making the playoffs will be a bit easier for each member school. Only two schools will miss playoffs in 13-6A while three schools will miss playoffs in 15-6A.

In total, 15-6A includes Klein, Klein Cain, Klein Collins, Klein Oak, Klein Forest, Tomball and Tomball Memorial. Neither of those districts are as solid top-to-bottom as the current 15-6A is, but each should still be fun to watch with solid teams at the top. The real winner here is Conroe, who got squeezed out of playoffs in football despite having a playoff-caliber team. The new districts will allow for College Park and Klein to potentially get back to the playoffs as well.

A new face in 6A, and more of the same

The new district 14, 16, 18, 19, 20 and 24 stayed mostly the same. This is because large school districts typically stick together. Cypress ISD engulfs the majority of 16-6A and has three schools in 17-6A along with Jersey Village and some Houston ISD schools.

The Katy schools comprise all of 19-6A once again, Fort Bend ISD has all of 20-6A other than George Ranch, and Dickinson and the League City schools make up 24-6A.

Another intriguing district is 23-6A. Alvin and the Alief schools are with Pearland and Pearland Dawson once again, but they add a new face in Shadow Creek. The Sharks are one of the best athletic programs in the state despite this being the first UIL re-alignment in the schools’ early history. Shadow Creek has a program record of 31-1 in football and has never not played for a state championship. The basketball team is currently ranked No. 2 in the state in 5A.

With the ridiculous amount of talent in the Houston area in 6A, I’m excited to see how the Sharks fit into the equation. Teams like Fort Bend Travis and Katy Tompkins are really good. But each suffered early exits; Travis to Tompkins in round one and Tompkins to Atascocita in round three. Is Shadow Creek more like North Shore or more like Tompkins? That’s the question I can’t wait to have answered come August, and the Sharks will start the year off with a heck of a game.

Class 5A notes

Class 5A Division II is pretty sparse in Houston. Lamar Consolidated, Lake Creek, Huntsville and others join the Bryan and College Station schools in district 10 while Marshall reigns over a weak district 11. The Buffs are joined by Willowridge, Galena Park and six Houston ISD schools. I’d be surprised if Marshall had a district game come closer than 10 points, and that’s with losing major Division I recruits Malik Hornsby, Devon Achane and Avery Helm.

District 12 isn’t bad with Crosby, Barbers Hill, Nederland, Port Neches-Groves, Texas City, Santa Fe, Dayton and Kingwood Park. However, 5A DII has about a fifth of the talent of 6A I Houston. Of course that’s only half of the 5A picture, but it feels as if it leaves something to be desired. Fort Bend Marshall is the only team I look at and think “yeah, they could make a deep run.”

Part of this is because Manvel moved back up to 5A Division I. The Mavs will play in what should be a pretty competitive district 10 with Angleton, Foster, terry, Hightower, Kempner, the new-ish Katy Paetow and two Houston ISD schools.

Other than that, Houston area schools occupy part of district 8 with Caney Creek, Magnolia and Magnolia West, New Caney and New Caney Porter. District 9 will be a terror on the hardwood with Beaumont United (currently No. 8 in 6A) dropping down, joined by No. 4 Port Arthur Memorial. The district also includes Friendswood.

Best non-district games

As the district re-alignments came out this morning, teams immediately started scheduling non-district opponents and several football matchups caught my eye right off the bat.

First off, Atascocita scheduled one of the most comprehensively strong non-district slates I’ve ever seen. The Eagles will kick off the season against Klein Collins, before taking on DFW powerhouse Allen followed by Klein Oak. Collins went 11-2 while Allen went 11-1, failing to make the state semifinals for the first time since 2012. Klein Oak finished 10-3.

Atascocita made it to round four last season as mentioned above. They’ll play those three powers before having to face North Shore in district play. Not many teams will be as battle tested as the Eagles will be in 2020.

Speaking of North Shore, they’ll face an out-of-state national powerhouse at home in week zero. The Mustangs will battle De La Salle from California, who finished 12-2 in 2019. The Spartans finished ranked No. 12 nationally according to USA Today, and their playoff loss came against St. John Bosco, who finished as USA Today national champions. North Shore finished No. 4 in the nation according to the same poll.

That game will be immediately followed by Shadow Creek’s season opener against St, Joseph’s Prep from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, also to be played at Galena Park ISD stadium. St. Joe’s finished ranked No. 18 nationally, while Shadow Creek should now gain more respect from the USA Today polls as a 6A team.

Katy has a pretty killer non-district schedule as well.

Other non-district games that I’m interested in include Foster vs. Travis (week three), Mayde Creek vs. Conroe (week one), Cy-Fair vs. Cy-Ranch (week one), and a Cy-Creek back-back against Klein ISD: The Cougars will play Klein in week one and Klein Cain in week two.

Plenty to look forward to in the first three weeks of the season!