University Interscholastic League announces 2024-26 football realignments

Feb. 2—AUSTIN — The University Interscholastic League announced the new district alignments for fall sports on Thursday, setting new district opponents for the next two seasons for most football, volleyball and basketball teams across the state. This will be the first of a three part series taking a look at the newly formed districts in our area, with all the new faces coming in, and old rivalries that have come to an end, starting with football.

District 9 4A-1

The Palestine Wildcats will see many of the same teams over the next four year run, but will see two traditional rivals depart from the district due to reclassification. The Jacksonville Indians will once again move to 5A-2, and the Athens Hornets will move down to 4A-2. Palestine remained slotted in the 4A-1 class, but plans to see the Hornets in the pre-district schedule to keep the Highway 19 rivalry alive. The Wildcats will welcome new district rivals in the Longview Pine Tree Pirates and Mabank Panthers, who went 6-5 and 1-9 respectively this past season.

District 9 4A-1 competition for the Wildcats for the next two years will include the Henderson Lions, Kilgore Bulldogs, Lindale Eagles, Longview Pine Tree Pirates, Mabank Panthers and state runner-up Bulldog's of Tyler Chapel Hill.

District 9 3A-1

The Westwood Panthers will also welcome in two newcomers into their district this season, which will include six teams this year, down one squad from a year ago. The Woodville Eagles fell in classification to 3A-2, with the Shepherd Pirates and Coldspring-Oakhurst Trojans moving on to new districts. The Fairfield Eagles, 3-8 in 2023, and the Teague Lions, a formidable opponent who went 8-4 last season, will fill the gaps left behind.

District 9 3A-1 foes for the next two seasons for the Panthers include The Crockett Bulldogs, Diboll Lumberjacks, Fairfield Eagles, Huntington Red Devils and Teague Lions.

District 8 2A-1

The Cayuga Wildcats and Frankston Indians will be district fellows for the next two years in an almost completely revamped District 8, which could plant the seeds of a new high level rivalry in East Texas. Cayuga will be familiar with a few of the schools, having played with Kerens and Cross Roads for the past few years and meeting with Mildred in the pre-district schedule for the past four years. Frankston will be in new waters, however, they will be the front runners for district favorites in their first year in the new territory.

District 8 2A-1 for the next two years will include the Cayuga Wildcats, Frankston Indians, Kerens Bobcats, Cross Roads Bobcats, Mildred Eagles and Carlisle Indians.

District 11 3A-2

The Elkhart Elks will be playing an almost completely new group of schools for the next two years, as the Buffalo Bisons will be the sole team to move with the Elks to a new home. The move will test the Elks, as their new district fellows combined to go 36-20 a year ago, and will include five teams that made the 2023 playoffs.

The District 11 3A-2 district schedule for the next two years for the Elks will be occupied by the Arp Tigers, Buffalo Bisons, New Diana Eagles, West Rusk Raiders, Troup Tigers and Winona Wildcats.

District 11 2A-2

The Grapeland Sandies were the one team in the area to be reclassified this year, dropping from 2A-1 to 2A-2 for the next two years. While the drop moves the Sandies away from two of the best 2A-1 teams in the state in Timpson and Garrison, they will now deal with three in the 2A-2 ranks, in Lovelady, Tenaha and Overton, who last season went a combined 33-6.

District 11 2A-2 will introduce a whole new district for the Sandies, including the Alto Yellowjackets, Cushing Bearkats, Lovelady Lions, Mount Enterprise Wildcats, Overton Mustangs and Tenaha Tigers.

District 12 1A-2 6-man

The Oakwood Panthers will remain in a four team district for the next two years, but will trade out two opponents for the 2024-25 and 2025-26 campaigns. The Panthers will see the departure of the Fannindel Falcons and Apple Springs Eagles, but will welcome new foes in Bynum and Mount Calm. The Bynum Bulldogs won their district in 2023, and look to be the best chance to spoil the Panthers bid for a fourth consecutive district championship this coming season.

The Panthers will also see the Trinidad Trojans again for the next two years, as they also were slotted into district 12 with Oakwood, Bynum and Mount Calm.