Realignment shakes up key East Valley districts

La Feria coach Oscar Salinas, left, discusses his team's 2020 schedule with other 16-4A Division I coaches Monday at the Harlingen Aquatic Center after the University Interscholastic League released its reclassification and realignment packets. By Stefan Modrich, Valley Morning Star

HARLINGEN — Consolidation was the name of the game Monday at the Harlingen Aquatic Center as coaches from across the Rio Grande Valley reacted to the University Interscholastic League’s new biennial realignment and reclassification for football, basketball and volleyball that will affect the 2020 season and last through the 2022 season.

New to District 32-6A are Weslaco High and Donna North, an expansion that draws in a pair of programs who previously competed in District 31-6A and are geographically adjacent to the East Valley. The moves make 32-6A an eight-team district.

“It should be a great challenge,” Harlingen High coach Manny Gomez said. “Anytime you start talking Valley football, it’s always a challenge. There are some teams down here that are very competitive. … Being around these coaches today and talking football and our schedules is definitely exciting.”

The Cardinals’ non-district slate kicks off with Laredo United South in Week 1, followed by a rematch of their 2019 bi-district playoff bout with Edinburg Vela in Week 2 and wrapped up with Laredo United South in Week 3.

“(The expansion) just makes 32-6A a little bit tougher,” Brownsville Hanna coach Mark Guess said. “That’s what we like, because we feel like we’re battle-tested and ready to make runs in the playoffs coming out of 32-6A.”

The Eagles will scrimmage against Sharyland Pioneer and Edinburg High, and open the 2020 regular season against Mercedes. Hanna is set to face Sharyland High in Week 2, one week after Brownsville Pace opens its season against the Rattlers.

“We’ll see if (Sharyland High) does a good job preparing us,” Pace coach Danny Pardo said. “And hopefully we’ll do a good job of preparing them. It’s definitely going to make us tougher for the district games.”

Other non-district games of note are Mission Veterans Memorial at San Benito in Week 2, and Rio Hondo against Brownsville Rivera in Week 3.

The Raiders also face PSJA North in Week 1, and Edinburg High in Week 2.

Harlingen South is slated to play Brownsville Veterans Memorial in Week 1 and Sharyland Pioneer in Week 2 before concluding its non-district slate against Alice.

District 16-5A Division I added McAllen High, McAllen Memorial, McAllen Rowe, and Weslaco East, all of whom moved down from Class 6A. Pace, Brownsville Veterans, Brownsville Lopez and Brownsville Porter remain in 16-5A DI.

Rio Grande City shifted to District 14-5A Division I, and PSJA Southwest and PSJA Memorial were bumped down to District 16-5A Division II.

“It’s going to make for an interesting district,” Brownsville Veterans coach David Cantu said.

The Chargers will scrimmage against Sharyland High and Weslaco High and take on Harlingen South before beginning their gauntlet of nine district games.

“It’s going to be a heck of a game,” Cantu said. “Coach Ricci’s done a fantastic job, they’re a playoff team just about every year. We’ve got our hands full, but so does everybody else in our district.”

An item of significance to fans in Brownsville looking ahead to the 2020 season is a directive from Brownsville Independent School District superintendent Rene Gutierrez to minimize Saturday games by utilizing Charger Stadium as an additional neutral site venue, along with Sams Stadium and Brownsville Sports Park.

“We’ve had three varsity contests there in my eight years here,” Cantu said. “But now, there might be a game there every week. … We haven’t settled our schedule yet, but it looks like we will have quite a few games at our actual campus.”

The other major shakeup occurred in District 16-4A Division II, which also expanded to eight teams. The district remains home to Rio Hondo, Raymondville and Port Isabel, and lost Progreso, which dropped to 16-3A Division I.

For the three teams from the East Valley in 16-A DII, that means plenty of additional travel for at least the next two seasons, as Corpus Christi West Oso, Ingleside, Robstown, Rockport-Fulton, and Sinton are new to the fold.

Rio Hondo begins its season against La Joya Juarez-Lincoln and is scheduled to play PSJA Memorial in Week 2.

Bobcats coach Rocky James was excited about the prospects of a more competitive district, as well as his team’s Week 3 non-district tilt against his friend, Beto Leal, and Rivera.

“I called Beto to see if he was looking (for a game) and he said he was,” James said. “So we were able to hammer one out. They’re a big school, but it will be fun playing them.”

Leal was equally enthusiastic about squaring off against one of 16-4A DII’s perennial playoff contenders.

“(James) has a good program,” Leal said. “They can easily compete (against Class 5A and Class 6A schools).”

Stefan Modrich Total Posts: 158 Stefan Modrich is a 2017 graduate of Arizona State University, where he was the Sports Editor for The State Press, ASU's independent student news publication. He is also a graduate of the University of Zagreb in Croatia, where he completed a foreign language program in 2018. A native of Franklin Park, Illinois, Modrich previously covered high school sports for The Arizona Republic, Chicago Tribune, and Mars Reel Media.