AUSTIN - High schools across Texas waited anxiously last week as the University Interscholastic League officially announced district realignments for 2024-26.
The districts will be the official leagues of play for schools for the next two school years, and in Liberty County, coaches are reacting to that announcement and how it will impact their teams in football and other sports.
Locally, Liberty, Dayton and Tarkington will see significant changes on the gridiron, while Hardin, Hull-Daisetta and Cleveland will be playing in similar leagues.
The Liberty Panthers are moving up to Division I in Class 4A.
They will compete in the new District 10-4A-I with Bridge City, Hardin-Jefferson, Huffman, Livingston, Lumberton, Little Cypress-Mauriceville, and Vidor.
"We are happy with the new district and look forward to competing against some new teams," said AD/Head Football Coach Chris Lackey. "Huffman used to be a nice rivalry, and it will be fun to compete with the Falcons again in district on the football field."
Lackey has already filled his non-district schedule as the Panthers will play Coldspring, East Chambers, and Splendora, who just moved to 5A.
"The kids are also looking forward to playing against some new teams, so it's a very exciting time for us," added Lackey. The Dayton Broncos are now in District 8-5A-II with Huntsville, Montgomery, Montgomery Lake Creek, Nederland, New Caney West Fork, Nederland, Port Neches-Groves, and Splendora.
The Broncos will play in District 8-5A-II with Port Neches-Grove and Nederland, but the similarities end here as Dayton welcomes Splendora, West Fork, Montgomery, Montgomery Lake Creek and Huntsville to the fray.
"We feel good about getting a chance to play against some new competition," said Dayton Athletic Director Geoff McCracken. "And also glad we still play PN-G and Nederland with all the tradition both schools bring to the table."
The Broncos will participate in District 18-5A in all other sports with Crosby, Kingwood Park, Porter, West Fork, Pasadena, Splendora, and Kingwood Park.
"Having to play in Nacogdoches or Lufkin on a Tuesday night was tough on our students, so the travel for our sports programs will be much better in the next couple of years."
The Tarkington Longhorns will see the biggest change as they move to Class 4A.
The Horns will be in one of the toughest districts in the state in 9-4A-II with Hamshire-Fannett, Jasper, Shepherd, Silsbee, and West Orange-Stark. In all other sports, Tarkington will participate in 19-4A along with Hamshire-Fannett, Hardin-Jefferson, Huffman, Liberty, Livingston, and Shepherd.
There is little change for the Hardin Hornets and District 10-3A-I with Anahuac, Buna, Kirbyville, Orangefield, East Chambers, and newcomer Coldspring.
The Trojans will bring a lot of playoff experience into the new district on the football field.
The Hull-Daisetta Bobcats are moving to District 12-2A-II with Colmesneil, Deweyville, Evadale, West Sabine, Sabine Pass, and West Hardin.
In the seven-team district, the Bobcats and West Hardin will be together again in district, and their match-up on the gridiron will be even more important to win.
Not much of a change for the Cleveland Indians in Class 13-6A. Cleveland will still compete in their nine-team district with Conroe, Caney Creek, Grand Oaks, Oak Ridge, The Woodlands, College Park, New Caney, and Willis.