Neil Searcy’s hunch was right.
Heading into Thursday, Killeen’s head football coach had a sense the University Interscholastic League would inflate the Kangaroos’ district when it unveiled its biennial reclassification and realignment of the state’s schools.
He was correct.
Beginning next school year, Killeen and all other teams from the current District 8-6A — Ellison, Harker Heights, Shoemaker, Copperas Cove, Belton and Waco Midway — will relocate to District 12-6A along with some familiar faces.
Former district rivals Temple and Waco will join the squads for the next two seasons after being moved up from Class 5A.
Although Searcy expected the outcome, he also knows the change brings challenges.
“The speculation about us being in a nine-team district has been out there for weeks,” Searcy said, “and it makes sense to add those teams.
“Still, putting good teams like Temple and Waco in an already tough district is going to make life harder, but we expected it.”
Before dropping a classification prior to the 2014 season, Temple and Waco were regular opponents against Killeen area schools, but each transformed in recent years.
In the past four seasons, the Wildcats have become a perennial power, amassing a combined record of 42-12 with a pair of trips to the state finals and two runs into the state quarterfinals.
Meanwhile, the Lions, who went 8-4 in 2013, are a mediocre 19-23 since with no playoff wins in two appearances but are coming off a 6-5 showing, tying their best campaign during the span.
“This is going to be a very competitive district,” Copperas Cove head coach Jack Welch said. “This will be one of the better districts as far as the level of each team being fairly similar.
“Most of the teams are within range of each other, so I think it’s going to be good.”
The changes do not only alter the competitive landscape, though.
“In a nine-team district,” Shoemaker head coach Toby Foreman said, “the team that stays the healthiest usually comes out on top.
“It makes things really tough, because no matter what, you’re almost always going to be banged up going into the playoffs.”
Schools are reclassified every two school years based on enrollments before being placed in districts constructed in part to make geographic sense.
Class 6A schools have an enrollment of 2,190 students and above.
Waco is the smallest Class 6A school in the state with an enrollment of 2,195, while Temple has an enrollment of 2,269, matching Copperas Cove’s total. Ellison’s enrollment of 2,979 is the largest in Killeen ISD with Harker Heights (2,787), Killeen (2,646) and Shoemaker (2,576) following.
Belton is the district’s largest school with 3,366 students, and Midway has 2,448.
Based on enrollments, Class 6A schools are split into two separate divisions for football playoffs after district standings are determined with the two largest qualifying schools playing in Division I and the remaining teams going into the Division II bracket.
With the change in district, area schools will play against opponents from District 11-6A — Longview, Mesquite, Mesquite Horn, North Mesquite, Rockwall, Rockwall-Heath and Tyler Lee — in the first round of the playoffs.
While local teams will no longer contend with standout programs like Cedar Hill and DeSoto, which have each won a state championship since 2014, postseason runs will not get any easier, according to Searcy.
“There will be different faces and different-color uniforms,” he said, “but it is still going to be tough, and the level of competition will still be high.”
- Copperas Cove
- Harker Heights
- Waco Midway