Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: Division I, Division II sizes pave very different playoff roads for teams like Mesquite Horn, Plano
Drive around the state and you’ll find “state champions” proudly displayed on water towers, football stadiums and high school billboards. Many times a title classification, 1A through 5A, will be included.
But it’s rare to find the addendum of Division I or Division II. The added words steal some of the sign’s impact, and years later, does anyone remember the division?
“It doesn’t matter what it’s called,” Irving Nimitz coach Mike Farda said in 1990, the year that the University Interscholastic League introduced the split divisions in 5A. Farda, who coached Nimitz for 26 seasons and died in 2010, added this:
“A state championship is a state championship.”
Exactly. But the split divisions mean the road to a championship can be considerably different for teams in the same class. The road will always have some bumps, but sometimes it’s like an unpaved stretch at the edge of a cliff.
That’s especially true in Class 5A, in which the smallest quarter of schools have enrollments of less than 2,200 and the largest quarter average more than 4,000. Among the four playoff qualifiers in each district, the two largest schools go to Division I and the smallest are in Division II.
Not surprisingly, Division I usually offers the most perilous playoff journey. This year, eight of the top 10 teams in the area rankings, including the 1-2 punch of undefeated Allen and DeSoto, are headed to Division I. They’ll be joined by two other teams in the top five of the state rankings, Galena Park North Shore and Houston Lamar.
The notable exception is No. 3 Katy, which hasn’t lost since 2011 and has won five state titles in the last 12 years — all in Division II. Cedar Hill, which Katy rallied to beat in last year’s final, will be back in Division II. The bracket will have other tough teams, including 2010 Division II champ Cibolo Steele.
Still, Division II provides a greater opportunity for a deep playoff run. And for teams that could fall into either bracket, such as Plano and Mesquite Horn, that means checking on scores that aren’t their own.
Mesquite Horn is among four schools in 12-5A with two district losses. If Mesquite and North Mesquite make the playoffs, Horn will be in Division II. If Rockwall makes the playoffs, Horn will be in Division I. Rockwall and Mesquite play Friday.
And Plano’s situation offers a great example of how different the divisions can be, as well as how large schools can get into Division II. Despite an enrollment of more than 5,000, Plano (2-1 in district) is the third-largest school in 10-5A behind Plano East (1-2) and Allen (3-0). Plano can clinch a playoff berth with one more win, and if Allen and Plano East make the playoffs, Plano will fall into Division II.
In Division II, Plano’s first-round opponent could be Jesuit, Lake Highlands or Richardson Pearce, which had a combined nondistrict record of 2-7. In Division I, Plano’s first-round opponent would probably be powerhouse Skyline, which has gone at least four rounds in the playoffs the last two years.
That’s a pretty nasty roadblock.
Follow Matt Wixon on Twitter @mattwixon.
Straddling the brackets
Two other teams that could fall into either Division I or Division II
Justin Northwest (3-2 in District 4-5A)
Division I if: Richland (2-3) makes the playoffs
Division II if: Keller Central (3-2) makes the playoffs
Bracket game of the week: Northwest vs. Richland
Lancaster (3-2 in District 15-4A)
Division I if: Arlington Seguin (3-2) makes playoffs
Division II if: Mansfield Legacy (4-1) and Mansfield Summit (3-2) make playoffs
Bracket game of the week: Legacy vs. Summit