It was an early start to the work week because coaches, ADs and media gathered at 9am on Monday for the 2020-2022 UIL Realignment announcement at Education Service Center Region 13 in Austin. The latest lineups were revealed as attendees flipped through the packets that were handed out to them.
Multiple Austin area schools needed a new home, including former 5A Division I football members Hutto and Austin LBJ Early College. The Hippos had become an all-sports power the last few years and are now joining the state's highest classification.
"We've had to play some good competition in 5A and we know it's going to be the same brand as we move up," said Hutto athletic director and head football coach Brad LaPlante. "But I think just knowing the teams we're going against, week in and week out, we need to be ready, play a high level of ball and certainly build our depth as you play the bigger schools."
Hutto will team up with former 13-6A and Region II members Austin Vandegrift, Cedar Park Vista Ridge, McNeil, Round Rock, Round Rock Cedar Ridge, Round Rock Stony Point and Round Rock Westwood in 25-6A. The North Austin grouping greatly advances the competition level in Region IV and will face the other Austin area 6A district, 26-6A, in the bi-district round of the postseason. The teams will battle former 25-6A competitors Austin High, Austin Akins, Austin Bowie, Del Valle, Hays, Lake Travis and Westlake or returning 26-6A school San Marcos in the opening round of the playoffs. The latter is notable because the Rattlers return to an Austin area group for the first time since the 2016-2018 alignment. If you're lucky enough to get past the first test, you'll play a mix of Central and South Texas squads in the rest of region play.
"There's quite a few going into Region IV," said LaPlante. "When you have new districts and you think playoffs, there's a different frame of mind. Do you want to win district or do you want to make a deep run in the playoffs? Of course, everybody traditionally talks about Region IV having the possibility of making a deep run, so we're just going to go day by day and get our kids ready for some good opponents down the road."
Austin LBJ Early College found similar athletic success by sharing the 12-5A Division I football crown in 2018 and clinching another playoff appearance in 2019, but new Austin ISD school LASA (Liberal Arts and Science Academy) took enough of its student body to drop it down to 4A. It has 4A Division II numbers for football, but opted to compete in 4A Division I the next two seasons. The Jaguars will lean on their past experience against former district tests Dripping Springs and Seguin to get them ready for their new challenges against Burnet, Canyon Lake, Fredericksburg, Lampasas and Taylor in 13-4A Division I action.
"I think the new road is exciting," said Austin LBJ Early College athletic director and head football coach Jahmal Fenner. "When you look at your athletic programs, you always want to put them in the best situation to compete and be successful."
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For the second straight year, the UIL 6A Division I Region IV final featured Lake Travis and Converse Judson and was played at San Antonio's Alamodome. The Cavaliers won 38-21 in 2018 and earned a come-from-behind 48-35 victory on Saturday.
A big part of that was Texas 2020 quarterback commit Hudson Card, who played in his first football game since he suffered a foot injury in Lake Travis' 26-25 rivalry win against Westlake on October 11th. The VYPE Player of the Game finished with three passing touchdowns and a rushing score.