The atmosphere for Justin Northwest’s boys basketball game at Byron Nelson on Nov. 19 was about as good as you could have imagined.
Talk filled the each school’s halls for days leading up to the game. Fans packed the gym. Noise became deafening. For what could be considered the first real trial run of the Northwest-Nelson rivalry – there have been a couple of meetings in other sports, including girls basketball – this was better than coaches, administrators, fans and other supporters could have imagined. Northwest won the game, 60-51.
“The intensity of the rivalry is the best I’ve seen ever coaching at the high school level,” Northwest coach Mike Hatch said. “It was all good. There was never any negative stuff. Everybody was talking that week about being there for the game. It really was a lot of fun.”
Now, this is going to happen in every sport in the future. When the University Interscholastic League releases its new realignment around Feb. 3, Northwest and Nelson will be in the same district. Each is going to be a Class 6A school.
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With the new reconfiguration, Class 5A will now be 6A, Class 4A will be 5A and so on. Northwest turned in an enrollment of a little more than 2,700 students. Nelson turned in a little more than 2,300. The UIL announced the enrollment cutoff numbers earlier this month.
The other area schools we cover – Keller, Keller Central, Keller Fossil Ridge, Keller Timber Creek, Carroll and Colleyville Heritage – will also “move up” to 6A. Grapevine is the only school that will technically drop down in classification by remaining at 5A. The UIL cutoff was 2,100. Grapevine turned in 2,085.5. Don’t look for Grapevine to appeal that when everything becomes official.
Statewide, coaches and administrators are grateful the UIL took this step to at least release the cutoffs so they could have a better understanding of who they could and could not play in non-district games.
You still will find the meeting room at the Birdville Fine Arts & Athletics Complex filled with anxious coaches and athletic directors trying to put together games. But the chaos you’re used to seeing will be tempered somewhat.
For Grapevine, this drop may be the best thing for it. While the other sports enjoyed success, including baseball, boys and girls basketball, and softball, football had its struggles. A low enrollment at the 5A level really impacts a program. That proved telling, because the Mustangs were 4-16 in the last two years. Now, Grapevine will be one of the largest 5A programs in Texas. The last time that happened, that worked well for the school because it won football titles in 1996 and 1998.
“It helps as far as depth is concerned,” Grapevine coach Dave Henigan said. “You’ll see that in terms of linemen on both sides of the ball. I think it’s great that the UIL did this so you can have an idea of who you can schedule and who you can’t.”
Don’t look for the Grapevine-Colleyville Heritage rivalry to disappear. Henigan said he and Colleyville Heritage coach Mike Fuller have talked about continuing the series during the non-district season. Both communities want this.
Now trying to guess where Grapevine will end up is a pointless exercise. You would think that Grapevine would stay in a district with the likes of Birdville and the Saginaw schools. The bottom line is that Grapevine should get a lift from this new world.
“Any coach will tell you that being on the bigger side of a classification than being on the smaller side is a big advantage,” Henigan said. “This should help us be more competitive in everything.”