It did not seem possible.

Gatesville survived one of the toughest district schedules in the state last season, facing one former state finalist after another en route to the playoffs.

Somehow, however, the Hornets were relocated to an even tougher district.

After enduring against teams like Waco La Vega, China Spring, Liberty Hill and Burnet for the previous two seasons, the challenge intensifies after the University Interscholastic League released its reclassification and realignment of schools Thursday morning.

Along with the Pirates and Cougars, Gatesville will compete in District 5-4A, Division I against Brownwood and Stephenville.

Between them, the quintet of schools has amassed 15 state championships with the most recent coming in 2015 (La Vega).

While Hornets head coach Kyle Cooper knows enough to expect anything, he admits being stunned by the news.

“I didn’t think there was any way they would do this,” Cooper said, “but I also didn’t think there was any way they would build three four-team districts in West Texas. To me, that is a little crazy.

“So, something like this, I really never saw it coming.”

While Cooper must navigate the upcoming difficult schedule, his colleagues feel for him, including Gatesville head volleyball coach Rickey Phillips.

“When I saw that district,” he said, “I just thought, ‘Holy crud. That is going to be tough.’”

When it comes to his sport’s district, though, Phillips is pleased after the newly formed District 18-4A — Gatesville, China Spring, Lorena, Robinson, Waco Connally and La Vega — remained intact with Hillsboro’s departure being the only change.

“We have the familiarity of playing these guys over and over,” he said,” and for the fan base, it is just a short drive to any of the games.

“This has been a tremendously competitive district over the years, and that’s not changing, so I’m glad we are staying where we’re at.”

Alignments were only released by the UIL for football, basketball and volleyball, but the volleyball and basketball districts typically mimic those of all sports other than football.

Elsewhere in Class 4A, Lampasas inherited a pair of familiar rivals in Fredericksburg and Comal Canyon Lake. The programs share the new District 14-4A, Division I with Burnet, Liberty Hill and Taylor in football.

“There’s two slot-T teams in Canyon Lake and Liberty Hill,” Lampasas head football coach Troy Rogers said, “so that will beinteresting because teams aren’t going to have to deal with it once — they’ll have to see it twice.

“But it is going to be a competitive district.”

Outside of the name, Salado’s football district remains relatively unchanged with Madisonville joining the cast of Fairfield, Lorena, Mexia, Robinson, Connally and the Eagles in District 8-4A, Division II.

For other sports, Salado will join District 27-4A with current rivals Lampasas, Burnet, Liberty Hill and Taylor. The lone newcomer is Austin Eastside Memorial, which is replacing Leander Glenn.

One change can make a big difference, though, according to Salado head football coach Alan Haire.

“It’s huge,” he said. “We’re going to a seven-team district in football, and that means everybody’s bye date is going to be staggered. Kids aren’t really used to going six, seven or eight weeks straight without a bye.

“It also feels like we’re going straight into district play, and that’s going to take some getting used to after being in a six-team district.”

DISTRICT 5-4A, DIV. I (football)

  • Brownwood
  • China Spring
  • Gatesville
  • Stephenville
  • Waco La Vega

DISTRICT 14-4A, DIV. I (football)

  • Burnet
  • Comal Canyon Lake
  • Fredericksburg
  • Lampasas
  • Liberty Hill
  • Taylor

DISTRICT 8-4A, DIV. II (football)

  • Fairfield
  • Lorena
  • Madisonville
  • Mexia
  • Robinson
  • Salado
  • Waco Connally

DISTRICT 18-4A (other sports)

  • China Spring
  • Gatesville
  • Lorena
  • Robinson
  • Waco Connally
  • Waco La Vega

DISTRICT 27-4A (other sports)

  • Austin Eastside Memorial
  • Burnet
  • Lampasas
  • Liberty Hill
  • Salado
  • Taylor

Contact Clay Whittington at clayw@kdhnews.com

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