In keeping with its biennial custom, Texas’ University Interscholastic League realigned high school sports classifications in February. For the uninitiated, this highly anticipated, even-year ritual rechecks schools across the state for enrollment size and district compatibility in hopes of keeping things competitive and fair. By-products include a range of emotions among coaches and fans, from distressed gnashing of teeth to unbridled joy.
And this year, for the first time, new angst was introduced with the inauguration of a 6A classification for the state’s largest schools. But, for the most part, the new 6A is simply last year’s 5A schools renamed. In fact, all groupings were renamed that way, by adding “1” to last year’s designation, starting with six-man football becoming the new 1A. For the detail-minded, Class 6A includes schools with 2,100 students or more and the 5A range is 1,060 to 2,099. That’s essentially the same as 2013’s 5A and 4A classes, respectively. Locally, McKinney Boyd moves to 6A, while McKinney High and McKinney North will reside in 5A. And, yes, the new arrangements pertain to all sports.
So the bigger news across Texas this year is ... the same as it is every two years: Many schools will face new opponents this fall – some bigger, some smaller. Some will like it, some won’t.
Some highlights, focusing on McKinney ISD football – (hey, it’s September!):
• In the new District 6-6A, McKinney Boyd sticks with Allen and the Plano schools, bids McKinney High adieu and adds four Lewisville and Flower Mound area schools; Boyd is the smallest school in its new league.
• In new District 10-5A, McKinney and McKinney North renew their rivalry, dormant since 2011. After two years as one of the smallest (former) 5A schools in the state, McKinney is now the largest program in its district, and the only MISD school with an entirely new district slate.
• North faces much the same district schedule as last year – minus Greenville and Royse City, plus Prosper and McKinney – and is the second largest school in its new home.
• The top four teams from both 6-6A and 10-5A will make the playoffs.
For history buffs, only once have all three McKinney schools played together in the same district: during the 2006-07 alignment, in 9-4A. North had the best head-to-head football record those two years, 3-1, with the one loss administered by Boyd.
Now, a look at each school’s new gridiron environment in more detail:
McKINNEY BOYD BRONCOS
If you thought Boyd’s district was tough last year – and it was – look out. Besides enrollment behemoths Allen, Plano, Plano East and Plano West, the Broncos add these bigger-than-Boyd schools in the new 6-6A: Lewisville, Flower Mound, Flower Mound Marcus and Hebron. And with McKinney gone, that’s a net increase of three teams from Boyd’s six-team league of a year ago – meaning a longer district grind.
Photo by Lisa Owens, LisaOwensPhotography.com
Running back Dedrick Scrivens and McKinney Boyd’s Broncos charge into District 6-6A this month.
“If you take the district we’re coming out of and pair it with the four Lewisville schools, there’s quality in every sport across the board, not just football,” says Don Drake, Boyd’s head football coach and athletic coordinator.
“It’ll be a lot different than what we’ve been accustomed to for the last couple of years. With us having five district games in previous years, we’ve had plenty of time to prepare ourselves for district play. We’re not going to have that luxury now. ... But we look forward to the challenge of lining up every week, going against those folks. Of course, that’s the same issue everybody else is going to have too,” Drake says.
Drake doesn’t think being the smallest school in its district will mentally affect his team. “I mean, the last couple of years we’ve been the second smallest,” he says. “We’ve always been there at the bottom, enrollment-wise, the last several years, ever since we’ve been competing with the Allens and the Planos. So that doesn’t bother us at all.”
Paired again with North, the Lions in 10- 5A will also clash with Wylie, Wylie East, Sherman, Denison, Lovejoy and Prosper. And, like Boyd, the Lions’ “preseason” schedule will shrink from last year to squeeze in eight district contests.
“Obviously, we’re excited about the opportunity to play in the new 10-5A,” says Jeff Smith, McKinney’s head football coach and athletic director. “These are schools we’re familiar with, that we see around, that we’ve played before in the past and had really good games with. ... Good programs, good schools, good fans. It’s going to be a great year.”
Smith, who says his team loved playing Boyd and will love playing North too, adds, “It’ll be cool to reunite and play [North] again. Coach [Mike] Fecci does a great job and they’ve got some great players coming back.”
Smith also notes the Lions have a lot of history with Sherman and Denison.
While dropping down to face schools more its size should help McKinney, Smith is quick to note, “The truth is this is going to be one of the best 5A districts in the state. It’s very, very good. ... The difference between this and the 6A districts is just numbers. It’s just depth,” he says. “I guess the good thing is everybody [in 10-5A] is kind of in the same boat, and it’s going to be a good, tight race, I can tell you that.”
Another history note: North won the last Bulldog-Lion contest, 34-24, on Oct. 14, 2011.
McKINNEY NORTH BULLDOGS
The Bulldogs’ chore got tougher in the new 10-5A, though they’re still in an eight-team pack with most of the same foes. “I think 10-5A is fixing to be probably the most competitive 5-A district around,” says Mike Fecci, North’s head football coach and athletic coordinator. “Losing Greenville and Royse City and trading them for Prosper and McKinney High is a tough deal.”
Prosper, down last year, is always tough and McKinney comes in fresh from knocking heads with Allen, Boyd and the Planos. “It’s going to be very competitive,” Fecci says. “I think it’s a situation where you really can’t prognosticate and find out where that line’s going to be between the top-four and bottom-four yet.”
Fecci notes his Bulldogs are excited to play the cross-town Lions again. “I’ve got an immense amount of respect for Jeff Smith and the type of job that he does over there. They honestly scare me a lot due to the fact that they’ve been playing some big-time people the last two years. They’re kind of battle-tested.”
Fecci at least likes where McKinney falls on North’s schedule: at the mid-point of district play. “That’s that part of the district where you’re always trying to make a push,” he says. “We won’t have to worry about motivating our kids at that point because they’re going to have that motivation playing those guys.”
The change-up season is just underway, folks! Grab a schedule and back your team!
About the author: Rick Atkinson is a McKinney-based freelance writer and cartoonist. He has covered McKinney high school football for McKinneyOnline.com for the last two seasons.