A natural rivalry exists between the McAllen Memorial Mustangs and the PSJA North Raiders. Mustangs head football coach Bill Littleton will face his son, Raiders defensive coordinator Will Littleton, and North head coach Marcus Kaufmann served as Memorial’s offensive coordinator for 14 years before taking the job with the Raiders.
“I was there for a long time. And my wife is the principal at McAllen Rowe, so we are already talking,” Kaufmann said. “She said, ‘If we are in the same district, we are going to kick your butt.’ And then my daughter is a track coach at McHi. Now that it’s district, it will mean a lot more. It raises the stakes a lot.”
The new District 30-6A, announced Tuesday when the UIL unveiled its district alignments for the 2018-2020 academic years, includes PSJA North, McAllen Memorial, McAllen Rowe and McAllen High, along with Mission High, PSJA High, La Joya High and La Joya Juarez-Lincoln. PSJA High and North are the two newcomers to the district, with La Joya Palmview leaving 30-6A and dropping to Class 5A.
PSJA High coach Lupe Rodriguez is excited about facing Mission High, his alma mater. Rodriguez had a standout career with the Eagles, playing on some of the best teams in program history and making deep playoff runs. He also spent eight years coaching at Mission Veterans and four years with Mission High.
“It is always good to go back and play your alma mater,” Rodriguez said. “At Veterans, we played them for the last eight years, but having left and not playing them, it will be good to get back. And it will be an awesome experience to play in that new Tom Landry Stadium.”
PSJA High will face only PSJA North out of the three other PSJA ISD schools. With 5A schools PSJA Memorial and PSJA Southwest scheduling only one non-district game, Rodriguez chose to focus on luring tough competition during his non-district slate.
“I am very excited for our non-district schedule,” Rodriguez said. “We open with Flour Bluff, Week 2 is Corpus Christi King, and Week 3 we play San Benito. We will scrimmage Vela, so a very tough non-district schedule that will help us hopefully compete for a district title next year.”
Edinburg’s four high schools will remain in District 31-6A but will welcome Weslaco High, Weslaco East and new 6A Donna North.
Mike Burget, who has helped build a successful program at Weslaco East, was excited to move back into a similar district as the 2014-15 seasons, when East was with three Edinburg schools and two PSJA squads.
“We were in their district a few years ago, and I’m excited. Edinburg’s always got good football. They have good basketball, good baseball, so we’re excited,” Burget said. “Donna North, too, they’re an up-and-coming school with a good new coach.”
Weslaco East and Edinburg Vela have had some classic battles over the past few years in the playoffs, and that rivalry could heat up as two of the best teams in the Rio Grande Valley will now share a district. Burget was hesitant to call anyone a favorite in February.
“We’re excited about having Edinburg Vela, Edinburg North, Edinburg High and Edinburg Economedes,” Burget said. “I’m not going to point out one school. Everyone wants to say, ‘This team’s the favorite, this team.’ I don’t know what everyone’s got coming back.”
The Valley’s 21 Class 6A teams were divided into three districts: an eight-team District 30-6A, a seven-team District 31-6A and a six-team District 32-6A.
Edinburg High coach J.J. Leija was excited for the challenge of the new district.
“It’s going to be tough in our district,” Leija said. “Bringing in the two Weslaco schools, Weslaco High and Weslaco East, and we also get Donna North, who has a great coach who just got hired. So it is going to be tough. I was surprised that they went 8-7-6 instead of seven across the board. But we are going to do what we need to do, and hopefully we can make it into the postseason again.”
Edinburg High will play Harlingen South, Brownsville Rivera, Juarez-Lincoln and Mercedes in non-district competition.
Edinburg Vela also has a tough non-district schedule with games against Laredo United, Brownsville Hanna and Los Fresnos. The game circled on the calendar is a Week 3 meeting with McAllen Memorial.
“It is going to be really exciting,” Vela offensive coordinator Ross Matt said. “They have a good back coming back. That guy is really potent, and they have big linemen, so they can smash it down your throat. We feel confident going into that game that it should be a good matchup athletically.”
The new alignment pits Weslaco High coach Michael Salinas against Vela, the team he coached for five years until leaving at the end of the 2016 season.
Donna North was already tasked with adjusting to life in 6A with a new coach, but the Chiefs received no breaks in the realignment. North coach Joe Marichalar is ready for the challenge.
“The district is an extremely tough one,” Marichalar said. “We definitely have to get prepared for that. Knowing the situation, I’ve been there for two weeks now. I think we have some great kids, some good coaches, so it is only a matter of investing time, and the new look and the new way that we are going to attack offensively and defensively. Once our kids understand that concept, it is time to compete now. We will see what happens.”
The Valley’s remaining Class 6A teams are from the Lower Valley. Brownsville Rivera, Brownsville Hanna, Harlingen High, Harlingen South, Los Fresnos and San Benito will form a six-team District 32-6A.