AUSTIN — The “District of Doom” as you knew it disappeared with series of moves instituted during Thursday morning’s University Interscholastic League realignment.
Included in the dismantling of one of prep sports’ toughest pairings was Lancaster’s move to District 13-5A, Midlothian’s move to District 5-5A, and Red Oak’s move back into to District 14-5A.
“You’ll look at the new districts and an say, ‘Whoa, they are tough’ to some. As much as every coach wants that competitive piece, it isn’t part of the [UIL] decision making,” said Susan Elza, the UIL director of athletics from the organization’s main office caddy corner to the University of Texas. “We’re looking at the geographics and we’re trying to keep the travel to a minimum. Sometimes where people are located are around some really tough districts.”
It, however, was rebuilt with the help of Mansfield’s athletics machine, a upstart from south of Dallas, and pieces of the former 7-6A. The moniker that’s ruled the Cedar Hill, DeSoto, Mansfield, and Ellis County areas for seven years just made a shift to the Class 6A level.
“We had a highly competitive state championship this year and the stars aligned,” she continued. “That was the result of [the previous] realignment. When realignment happens, it can change what the postseason looks like.”
All eight teams in the newly-minted District 7-6A — Cedar Hill, DeSoto, Mansfield High, Grand Prairie, Mansfield Lake Ridge, Mansfield Summit, South Grand Prairie, and Waxahachie — made it to the UIL playoffs last season. Mansfield High finished 40- 12 the last four seasons under current Head Coach Daniel Maberry and former coach Jeff Hulme.
The Tigers reached the postseason each year, as far as the state semifinals once and the regional quarterfinal round twice.
“As soon as the districts were released at 9 a.m., I looked up at the board with our coaches and we leaned over to someone and said, ‘This is the new district of doom,'” Mansfield Lake Ridge coach Kirk Thor chuckled about the new district compilation. “We kind of laughed about it but when you look at the depth of the district, it’s scary.”
Cedar Hill and DeSoto are perennial playoff contenders and recent and former state champions. Grand Prairie broke a 28-year playoff slump after making it to the postseason for the first time since 1989. Waxahachie, who joins Mansfield Lake Ridge and Summit as the remaining components of the former 5A “District of Doom,” appeared in the playoff picture for the first time since 2012.
“Cedar Hill’s won a state championship. DeSoto’s won a state championship. South Grand Prairie and Grand Prairie are really good teams. Waxahachie went three rounds deep this year and we’ve been in the state finals,” Thor added. “Mansfield High’s gone five rounds deep and [Mansfield] Summit went three last season. It’s a seasoned group that does more than just make the playoffs. When they get there, they make a long run.”
Duncanville, which lies 21 miles northeast of Mansfield and seven miles south of DeSoto, escaped the pairing. It joined three Dallas ISD and four Richardson ISD schools in District 8. Only three of those schools made the playoffs and just one made it past the first round.
Dallas Molina, Richardson Lake Highlands, and area-round qualifier Richardson Pearce. Though not a huge difference between the two options on the table, Duncanville joining DISD and RISD made more logical logistical sense.
“I think a good look at the map really explains it. Waxahachie had to go somewhere,” UIL Deputy Director Jamey Harrison said. “Going south would have been much more travel for Waxahachie and bringing them north made a lot more sense. You do have some schools that came up from 5A to 6A that were very competitive — football in particular. That will be a challenging district but those schools were all there grouped together.”
Harrison added Duncanville, logistically speaking, was a better fit with Dallas ISD based on travel estimates.
According to UIL regulations, district schools must be arranged together unless they surpass the 10-team threshold. This forced a grouping of the two Grand Prairie schools, three Mansfield schools, and the one-high school districts in Cedar Hill, DeSoto, and Waxahachie.
The road to the postseason will be tough — perhaps more than in the district Mansfield and Waxahachie moved from — for each of the seven that comprise the 7-6A with only four berths available for the new grouping.
Marcus Matthews-Marion is the managing editor of TexasHSFootball, covering prep football throughout the Lone Star State and collegiate and professional football throughout the country. Follow him on Twitter, @TheMJMatthews, and read more of his content here.
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