Salado coach Brent Graham wasn’t expecting his Eagles to fly south on UIL Realignment Day.
But the Eagles are ready for Class 4A.
Beginning this fall, Salado will be one of five teams competing in District 11-4A, Division II in football and will be one of six teams competing in District 25-4A in basketball, the UIL announced Monday as part of its biennial realignment.
Salado was a member of Class 2A in the previous realignment but will move up with Class 3A, which is now being referred to as Class 4A in the new alignment.
Joining the Eagles are Caldwell, Giddings, La Grange and Smithville, which all competed at the 3A level the last two years.
In basketball, Salado will rejoin former district mates Burnet, Lampasas, Liberty Hill, Llano and Taylor.
Graham, who is completing his first season as Salado athletic director and head football coach, said he expected changes for the basketball team but admitted the new football district caught him off guard. He was, ultimately, happy with the move, though.
“(It will be) a lot of nondistrict games so we’re looking forward to playing some different teams and getting to know some different folks,” he said.
As football coaches statewide scrambled to fill schedules for 2014, Graham appeared to take the surprise in stride, having set the Eagles’ tentative nondistrict schedule an hour after the announcement.
Salado is set to open with Troy this fall, then will face West, Rockdale, current district mate Academy, Gatesville and Llano before beginning district play.
With five teams competing in the district, only one will miss the playoffs, but Graham wasn’t convinced that will make it any easier.
“It does change the approach, but just like any other team out there, every game is going to matter,” he said. “There are only five teams competing for four spots, but let me tell you something, all five teams want to get in the playoffs.”
Meanwhile, non-football coaches, and even Graham, welcomed the jump in classification, as the program has expected it for a while now.
For head boys basketball coach Kenny Mann, any competition is welcome.
“Even since we’ve been in 2A, basketball-wise, we’ve been playing those types of teams anyway because we like that competition,” he said.
Although Monday’s realignment was only for football and basketball, Salado head baseball coach Chad Krempin pointed out that his team finished a game out of first place the last time it competed at a 3A level.
On a team with players who aspire to play at the college level, Krempin didn’t figure a rise in classification was going to be unwelcome.
“Three schools in there are twice our size, but you only need nine guys in baseball,” he said with a laugh.
At the end of the day, while chaos reigned in different parts of the state, it appeared to be a fairly quiet day on the athletic front at Salado.
After all, the Eagles have long expected this day to come, and now they are ready to go.
AREA 4A BASKETBALL DISTRICTS AND ENROLLMENT NUMBERS
Waco La Vega 740
China Spring 718
Liberty Hill 954