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2014-16 UIL realignment sends Hawks west

Monday’s University Interscholastic League (UIL) realignment announcement for 2014-15 includes big changes for Iowa Park football, with the Mean Green placed in a five-school District 1-4A Division II along with Vernon and three Panhandle teams.

The good news is Iowa Park is now in a district and division with far more comparable enrollment numbers than the former 3A classification.

The not-so-good news is pure geography ... Hawk teams and fans will have much farther distances to travel for District 1-4A away games.

First though, it must be understood that “4A” is the old “3A,” as the UIL has created a 6A division for super schools, moving all other classifications up one notch in the process.

4A will also, for the first time, include two divisions. Iowa Park and Vernon are together in the Division II category from the current District 5-3A (enrollments of 465 to 685). Graham, Hirschi, and Burkburnett are now in Division I for larger division schools (enrollments of 686 to 1059).

For the next two years in football, Iowa Park (534 enrollment) will be a member of District 1-4A DII along with Vernon (581), Dalhart (512.5), Perryton (603.5), and Bushland (465).

Region 1-4A DII includes Iowa Park’s district, plus District 2-4A (Fort Stockton, Lamesa, Midland Greenwood, Monahans, Pecos, and Sweetwater), District 3-4A (Anna, Aubrey, Bonham, Bridgeport, Celina, and Krum), and District 4-4A (Dallas Lincoln, Dallas Madison, Dallas Roosevelt, Ferris, Godley, and Venus).

Burkburnett, Hirschi and Graham will now be in District 4-4A DI along with Mineral wells, Decatur, and Gainesville.

“There are definitely big changes for Iowa Park football with the release of the new district alignment,” Iowa Park CISD Superintendent Steeve Moody said Tuesday. “It is always exciting to have an opportunity to compete against new competition and, with the exception of Vernon, we have not played the other schools in our new district.

“Of course, travel is the biggest change we will contend with, having to drive to Dalhart, Perryton, and Bushland,” Moody continued. “On a positive side, we will only travel to the Panhandle twice next year, and once the following year because the schedule rotates each year.”

Moody estimated that Dalhart is approximately a six-hour drive, while Perryton is five hours away. Bushland is four hours away. “When considering travel, going east was more appealing,” he said. “Looking at a map of the location of the three teams in the Panhandle, it made sense for the UIL to align Iowa Park and Vernon with the west district. We will put on our travel shoes and accept the challenge of competing with the new teams in our district.”

The Iowa Park superintendent likes the UIL’s decision to split the current 3A classification into two divisions. “It creates a level playing field with a smaller enrollment. It allows the Hawks to compete against schools closer to our size not only in district, but throughout the playoffs,” he said, adding “We are also able to maintain the rivalries with area schools during pre-district including Burkburnett and Hirschi.”

One other big consideration with the realignment will be scheduling the sub-varsity games (junior varsity and freshman). Moody said there will be several options presented to the district committee, including the possiblity of Saturday games.

“We will make decsions based on the safety of our students and fans when discussing 5-6 hour trips,” he said. “There has been some talk about neutral sites, but for every neutral site game, you lose a home game opportunity for two years.” Moody added that finding a neutral site between Iowa Park and the Panhandle would also be a challenge.

“I believe we can be creative and schedule home and home games,” he said. “Our goal is to make this an enjoyable and safe experience for everyone involved.”

With the Iowa Park CISD board and administration currently reviewing applications for a new athletic director, Moody said the remaining staff worked together to finalize next year’s schedule. “All of the coaches have worked hard to keep the offseason program running in top form,” he said. “Our student athletes are working hard to maintain the high standards of the Hawk athletic program. We are very proud and appreciative of the effort of all coaches and students. Their hard work and dedication will ensure a smooth transition moving to a new district under the guidance of a new athletic director.”

Moody said that Iowa Park is tentatively scheduled to travel to Dalhart and Perryton in 2014, with Bushland and Vernon coming to Hawk Stadium.
The Hawks’ non-conference schedule has also been tentatively set, with locations still to be decided. They are as follows:
8/15 Holliday (scrimmage)
8/21 Graham (scrimmage)
8/29 Burkburnett
9/5 Cache, OK
9/12 Decatur
9/19 Mineral Wells
9/26 Hirschi
10/3 Wimberley (neutral site)
10/10 @ Dalhart
10/17 Bushland
10/24 Vernon
10/31 Bye
11/7 @ Perryton

For the 2014-2016 seasons, Iowa Park will compete in District 5-4A along with Burkburnett, Vernon, and Hirschi.