Lyford’s district football schedule reduced by half

In this file photo, a Lyford Bulldog hits a tackling dummy during practice earlier this week. The Bulldogs had a solid 2017 season and are now ready to prove that last year was no fluke.

LYFORD — Football coaches, athletic directors and schools officials for District 16-3A Div. I teams have been regularly meeting via Zoom to discuss the upcoming season.

Last week, they made a big change due to the COVID-19 pandemic and decisions made by the UIL.

The district, which houses seven teams with various mandates regarding school and athletic start dates, split into two zones for the upcoming season, randomly selecting which teams went into which zone. There are four teams, including the Lyford Bulldogs, in Zone A and three teams in Zone B.

“We sat down as athletic directors and tried to decide what would be the best for the kids’ safety, obviously, first, and what could maximize our games and give each team the time they need to prepare for the season,” Lyford football coach/athletic director Israel Gonzalez said. “There were several things on the table, but we thought going to divisions would give us the best opportunity to have enough time to play some games to decide who would represent our district in the playoffs.”

In Zone A, the Bulldogs will be playing Progreso, Corpus Christi London and Santa Gertrudis Academy. Lyford was the district’s third-place finisher last season, C.C. London won 16-3A Div. II and Progreso made the playoffs as the fourth seed in 16-4A Div. II.

Zone B is made up of Bishop, Falfurrias and San Diego, the district’s fourth-place finisher in 2019. District play is set to begin Oct. 16.

Gonzalez hopes to get a scrimmage and a non-district game scheduled, but that will come with time. The Bulldogs can’t begin practice until Sept. 21 due to current Willacy County orders.

“We like the competition on our schedule. We know that C.C. London is bringing back a lot of talent from a district championship last year, Progreso was a playoff team and Santa Gertrudis always plays tough,” Gonzalez said. “We were lucky to get into the four-team zone, that was a big thing. Just like I told the coaches, it doesn’t matter who we end up with because they were already on the schedule, so we’re good with that.

“We’re glad the UIL gave us the opportunity, we’re glad the county is taking care of us … and first and foremost we’re glad to have the chance to play,” Gonzalez added.

Gonzalez said coaches left a loophole in case the UIL pushes back the football calendar for Class 1A-4A programs that could expand the district schedule. They’re meeting again today to continue ironing out some details for the season, including trying to develop a concrete plan for deciding playoff representatives.

Right now, they’re discussing the possibility of play-in games between the top three teams in each zone to determine reps and seeding.

Regardless of when they hit the field or how many games are played, Gonzalez is just thankful his players have a chance to get back in the game.

“Everybody is super excited (to have a plan),” Gonzalez said. “We know kids miss competing, we miss the kids and if it’s safe — that’s the top priority — if it’s safe, we want to offer these kids the opportunity to play and enjoy themselves. We’re ready to get on the field again and to be able to compete, and hopefully play well and make the playoffs.”