Kyle Cooper feels he is getting the best of both worlds.
After the University Interscholastic League’s realignment process redesigned Texas’ athletic landscape Monday, Gatesville found itself back in familiar territory.
Beginning next season, the Hornets football team will compete against some old foes, returning to a Waco-based district similar to the ones it resided in prior to the 2012 realignment.
Gatesville joins La Vega, Robinson and China Spring in the newly formed District 13-4A, Division I, along with current district rivals Burnet and Lampasas.
For Cooper, who served as Gatesville’s athletic director and head football coach since 2007, it is an ideal situation.
“I like all the schools we’ll be playing,” he said. “I like Waco. There are good coaches, there are good athletes over there, they get good support, but I also like the district we are (currently) in. We’ve got a bit of an advantage because we’ve got a leg up on some of these guys. We are in the middle of the melting pot. We get some of the guys we’ve historically been with and then some of the guys we’ve been with for the past two years.”
Tentatively, the Hornets are scheduled to scrimmage McGregor and Waco before opening the season against Brownwood and playing Stephenville, Waco Connally, West and Salado prior to district.
While comfortably situated in his new district, Cooper feels out of water as a member of Region IV, consisting of primarily Central and South Texas schools stretching all the way to border of Mexico.
“That is going to be the interesting thing,” he said. “As far as our district, I’m familiar with all these schools, but since I’ve been here, we have never been in Region IV. That will make for an interesting playoff run if we can handle our business in what is shaping up to be a pretty tough district.”
Outside of being placed in Region IV, neither Gatesville nor Lampasas experienced much of a surprise in the aftermath of the biennial realignment. Both fell exactly where prognosticators expected, and the release of conference cutoff numbers back in December eliminated much of the drama typically associated with the unveiling process.
Regardless, Lampasas head coach Brian Emerson, who just completed his first season with the Badgers, was content with the outcome but had already resigned to his fate.
“It really doesn’t matter to me one way or another,” he said. “Really, after you’ve been through a few realignments, you try to guess (what is going to happen) but you go into it with no expectations because the best-laid plans that you have can get thrown out the window.”
Although the nondistrict schedule is not set in stone, tentatively, the Badgers will scrimmage Wimberley and Waco Connally before playing Fredericksburg, Lago Vista, Austin Reagan, Lorena and Canyon Lake leading up to their district opener.
Outside of Class 5A and the freshly implemented Class 6A, all other classifications are split into Division I and Division II for football purposes, creating some vastly different districts in other sports, such as basketball, which also had its realignment unveiling Monday.
Lampasas will be in District 25-4A along with several teams from its current district, including Burnet, Liberty Hill and Llano, while Salado, which is being elevated from Class 2A, and Taylor are new to the mix.
“Our middle schools play the same teams, so literally, our kids, who are coming through the program, since seventh grade have played Llano, Burnet and Liberty Hill,” Lampasas head boys basketball coach Rob Shivers said. “They know each other, and when we play basketball, they know every kid on those teams. They know what they can do and what they can’t do, unless there is a move-in or something like that. So it is probably kind of nice to get Taylor and Salado, so they are playing someone else.”
Gatesville, on the other hand, moves to District 17-4A with China Spring, Lorena, Robinson, La Vega and Waco Connally.
With two teams — No. 1 La Vega and No. 9 Robinson — currently ranked in the top 10 of the Class 3A girls basketball poll, Lady Hornets head coach Chris Carroll, who has reached the playoffs three times in his four seasons at Gatesville, is looking forward to the challenge.
“Everybody here in Gatesville is real excited because of the old rivalries,” he said. “That is who our fans want to see us play. ... Looking at it on paper, we are probably fourth or fifth in that district next year. So we’ve got our work cut out for us, but we are very excited about it.”
While the move is logical for Gatesville in terms of travel, Cooper believes splitting football from other sports removes some of the overall charm associated with traditional alignments.
“I just feel like one of the things that makes Texas high school sports special to me over the years as both a player and a coach is developing those rivalries,” he said. “I just don’t like that we are going to lose some of that. I feel like you just don’t get the opportunity to know each other and see each other from sport to sport to sport. … I don’t like that aspect of it. I’m not disappointed with where we are at, but I think we’ve lost something in Texas high school athletics by going this route.”