Coaches react as redistricting could cause Port Neches-Groves and Nederland to travel further

Published 12:30 am Friday, December 24, 2021

Local school districts have already started to brace themselves for the fallout surrounding the looming redistricting set to take place early next year.

The University Interscholastic League is set to announce the new districts on Feb. 3.

District 12-5A Division II, which is home to Nederland and Port Neches-Groves, already saw a shake up as Crosby and Barbers Hill opted to move up to Division I, where they will likely join the Memorial Titans.

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The moves by Barbers Hill and Crosby take away two perennial district contenders but could force Nederland and PNG to travel further for their football schedules.

Dave Campbell’s Texas Football predicts Nederland and PNG playing Brenham, Dayton, Huntsville, Montgomery, Montgomery Lake Creek and Nacogdoches. Each of the trips outside of Dayton are roughly 130 miles away with the furthest being Brenham at 167 miles away.

Earlier this month, the PNG school board approved the purchase of four buses for athletics with the expectation of longer road trips. The board approved the purchase of four 71-passenger Blue Bird buses for the cost of $471,120.

Superintendent Mike Gonzales said the district wants to have buses the students can depend on.

“We’ve always had a fleet that’s been pretty strong,” he said. “However, if anybody’s following what’s going on lately, the realignment is going to create some issues for us. We’re going to have to travel a pretty good ways. Our students are going to be having to take 2-3 hour trips. Right now, what we do is, anything over an hour, we try to get charter buses for our students to make sure that we have some buses we can depend on in our fleet. We have some pretty great maintenance guys; however, when you have that many buses on the road, the wear and tear on those buses is pretty extreme.”

Head Football Coach and Athletic Director Brandon Faircloth said coaches knew that travel would become more likely when the UIL split 5A into two divisions.

“As those teams that are outside of Houston continue to grow at an extremely fast pace — a lot faster than we are growing — they get bumped up to 5A Division I… There are not a lot of people close to us. Us and Nederland will probably stay close together. After Dayton, and us and Nederland, it will be anyone’s guess who they will put us with.”

Faircloth said next year’s likely opponents could be Montgomery, Huntsville or further west in the Fort Bend district.

“Their going to have to group us together, some of those schools,” he said. “I don’t have an answer other than gas up your car and be ready to go.”

Nederland Head Coach Monte Barrow said he tries not to worry too much about the redistricting until the official announcement in February.

“What I have learned is to not predict what the UIL is going to do,” he said. “You don’t have a lot of choices in the area outside of Port Neches. There is a lot of movement in the Houston district. It looks like there is two different ways to go. At least it is in February and you have some time to prepare for the fall.

“We may end up in a district that is not eight teams. We may be looking for more non-district games or having to drop if you end up in a bigger district. You can drive yourself crazy trying to figure those things out for the next couple of months.”