The University Interscholastic League, which governs high school sports in Texas, announces a new realignment and re-classification every two years. The realignment for 2022-23 and 2023-24 was announced in February.
Typically, the changes primarily involve the smaller schools in the Big Country – who is moving up or down in classification and what district will teams be placed in. The biennial announcement is critical for travel expenses for school districts, especially in West Texas.
This year’s realignment, however, brought a bigger change at the top. For the first time in the more than 100-year-old history of Abilene High, the Eagles are no longer in the state’s largest classification. The remarkable growth in the state metropolitan areas along the Interstate 35 corridor and a slight decline in AHS enrollment caused Abilene High to drop from Class 6A to 5A.
The change has some interesting ramifications. Abilene High will be in Class 5A Division I for football, but Abilene Cooper dropped to Class 5A Division II. So the annual Crosstown Showdown between the Eagles and the Cougars at Shotwell Stadium will again be a non-district contest.
Cooper and Wylie have played each other in football the last three years, but Cooper’s drop to Class 5A Division II means this year’s match-up at Wylie’s Sandifer Stadium will be a District 2-5A Division II game to close out the 2022 season.
Abilene High’s shift to Class 5A also means that the Eagles, Cooper and Wylie will all be in the same district for the first time in all other sports, including volleyball.
Another interesting development caused by the realignment is District 4-2A Division I. A year ago, Hawley edged Cisco 17-14 in the state quarterfinals en route to a berth in the Class 2A Division I state championship game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. This year, Hawley and Cisco, again expected to be two of the top teams in the Big Country, are in the same district.
The schedule-makers have put that game as the season finale on Nov. 4 in Hawley. It could be billed as an early start to the playoffs.
The great thing about high school sports is the unexpected. Two years ago, it was Jim Ned capturing the Class 3A Division I state football championship. Last year, it was Hawley reaching the state title game.
Who will be the surprise team in the Big Country this year? Can an area football team make it to AT&T Stadium again this year? Can a Big Country volleyball team advance to the state tournament, something that hasn’t happened since Albany did it in 2020 in Class 2A.
I hope you enjoy learning about the Big Country football and volleyball teams – and find out who is in what district – in our second annual fall issue of Varsity Preview.