Every other February for nearly the last 25 years, Sherman and Denison put their rivalry aside and hand-in-hand went wherever the University Interscholastic League told them to go in realignment.
Two years ago they headed west. That was after they took a trip together down Highway 75. Before that they went east. The Bearcats and Jackets could look at each other and know: “Wherever I go, he goes.”
For the first time since the early 1990s, however, these two football buddies will not be traveling together. And because of that, predicting what is in store for Sherman and Denison when the UIL releases their biennial realignment for the 2018-20 school years might be as futile as ever.
“I don’t know. I’m excited to see what happens,” Denison head coach Chad Rogers said. “The thing is that we’ve said we don’t care about travel. If you look at the map, we’re all by ourselves. Depending on how you draw it, you’re going to have large districts. We may have to fill in one somewhere.”
Back in 1993, when Sherman dropped from what was then 5A to join Denison in 4A, the fundamental premise of realignment, which is based on school enrollment first and then location, was the two programs would end up as a package deal no matter where they were placed. You knew Denison wasn’t going east while Sherman went south.
“One thing I know is we’re not going north. We could south or east. I don’t see us going west because there’s nothing for us near Wichita Falls,” Sherman head coach J.D. Martinez said. “A lot of us are going to be in eight-team districts. I always plan for eight and then when it’s seven or six, I’ll be relieved.”
For the first time in football, Class 5A will be split into Division I and Division II before the playoffs instead of what has happened in the past, when districts were created and then the enrollment of the playoff teams determined who went into what bracket.
“For us I would have preferred to stay 5A — all of us, because it would keep us and Denison together,” Martinez said. “But I understand where everyone else was coming from. We want to be in a district with Denison but we’ll be together in the other sports.”
Sherman’s enrollment has it in Division I and Denison is in Division II, so they are not in the same district for football the first time in 25 years. The other sports will be together as they have been, and it could be in the same district they have been the past two seasons. That could be a benefit because even without the cycle over, every sport has made the playoffs with the exception of Denison boys basketball and Sherman girls basketball.
Those worried about the 120th meeting in the Battle of the Ax will have very little to be worried about. Both schools agreed to play it as the opening game — the first time since 1923 it will kick off the season — and only a crazy surprise this morning would jeopardize it.
“We didn’t want to take the a chance of it not being played,” Martinez said. “We have to get it in before district play and this was the best way to make sure of that.”
Added Rogers: “We’re still going to play and that’s what matters. What will confuse some people is basketball and those sports will still be in the same district.”
The rest of the area teams have a pretty good idea of what to expect. When the UIL released the cutoffs for the classifications and divisions in early December, it provided a much clearer picture.
The overall cutoffs are: 6A: 2,190 and Above; 5A: 1,150-2,189; 4A: 505-1,149; 3A: 225-504; 2A: 105-224 and 1A: 104.9 and below.
The cutoffs for football divisions are: 1A Division I: 55.5-104.9; 1A Division II: 55 and below; 2A Division I: 161.5-224; 2A Division II: 105-161.4; 3A Division I: 335-504; 3A Division II: 225-334; 4A Division I: 790-1,149; 4A Division II: 505-789; 5A Division I: 1,840-2,189; 5A Division II: 1,150-1,839.
There were a couple of changes in Class 4A football as Melissa and Celina are moving up from Division II to Division I. Anna is already there and they could all end up together in a district.
The area lost its foothold in 4A Division II because Bonham is dropping in classification. The Warriors are going to be in 3A for all sports after Bonham’s enrollment of 488 fell under the cutoff of 505. With Farmersville making the move up to 4A, the Warriors could find their non-football sports with many of the teams that currently inhabit 10-3A.
That is not a guarantee, however, because both Bells and Blue Ridge are entering 3A with a move up from Class 2A. For football, they are expected to slot back in with Gunter, Leonard, S&S and Whitewright — a group that has been together before.
But with the other sports, the return of those programs will have a domino effect on the current versions of 9-3A and 10-3A. 9-3A could easily be Pottsboro, Whitesboro, S&S, Gunter, Pilot Point, Callisburg, Howe and Van Alstyne with 10-3A consisting of Bonham, Bells, Blue Ridge, Whitewright, Leonard, Commerce and Lone Oak.
The only divisional change in football in 3A is that Callisburg is dropping, by three kids, from Division I to Division II. The UIL will have a decision to make with the Wildcats, who could end up going west with some additional travel or find a way to squeeze in the east, which is top-heavy with Bells and Blue Ridge coming up.
The move of those two will have an impact on the Class 2A schools in the area. For football it might mean that 6-2A (I) stays mostly intact without those two — Celeste, Collinsville, Tom Bean, Trenton and Valley View plus Lindsay, which is moving up from Division II — while the other sports might see a slight change in their districts.
Part of that could be the inclusion of Tioga. While the football Bulldogs are headed to Class 2A Division II and will probably take Lindsay’s place in what is 8-2A (II) with holdovers Era, Muenster, Ranger and Santo, the other sports might fit in nicely with the current 12-2A by simply replacing Bells and joining Collinsville, Sam Rayburn, Lindsay, Tom Bean and Valley View.