With Cranfills Gap & Morgan looking to return to the Class 1A, DII postseason from different districts, Heart of Texas six-man football turns to league play
With the 2022-24 University Interscholastic League realignment last February, the all-Bosque County six-man football district became a thing of the past. And while the five six-man football schools will be facing some new opponents when the Texas high school football season moves into district competition this week, some of the key rivalries will remain in play.
Instead of placing all five county six-man squads – Cranfills Gap, Iredell, Kopperl, Morgan and Walnut Springs – back into the same district they had competed in over the last two seasons, the UIL split them up across two different districts. Defending district champion Cranfills Gap (5-2) remains in District 12-1A, Division II along with Walnut Springs (3-4) and Iredell (3-4), while Bluff Dale (6-1) moved in to complete the four-team league.
“Realignment was not what I expected but it will be fine,” said Walnut Springs head coach Lonnie Flippen, the dean of Bosque County six-man coaches. “I had hoped that the UIL would have seen the benefit of leaving the Bosque County district intact, but that wasn’t to be. It was fun while it lasted.”
Although 14th-ranked Bluff Dale goes into district considered the favorite, every day might prove to be a fight to the finish. The Bobcats visit Iredell at 7 p.m. Friday, while 30th-ranked Cranfills Gap travels to Walnut Springs to take on the 31st-ranked Hornets at 7 p.m. Friday in THE SPORTS BUZZ Game of the Week.
“We’ve had a week to heal a little and to begin to prepare for district competition,” Flippen said. “We open against the defending district champion Cranfills Gap Lions, who appear to be on a tear again this year. Hopefully, we can have a few players healthy and make a stand against the Lions.”
By winning their second district championship in three years in 2021, the Lions re-established themselves as a force to be reckoned with in Bosque County six-man football. And Johnston inherited a team loaded with 12 returning lettermen that includes five offensive and five defensive starters back. Cranfills Gap has been led this season by four seniors – Aiden Doty, Case Koehler, Hayden Kirby and Peyton Sorenson – as well as three juniors – Adan Flores, Blake Allen and Jonathan Rodrigues.
“I think our expectations are high this season,” Johnston said. “Cranfills Gap has had success the last few seasons, and that kind of raises the bar as far as expectations. District play will be tough. In a four-team district, every game seems to have the feel of a rivalry game. From my experience being around the other teams, it’s going to be a battle to the finish.
“I think the team to beat is Walnut Springs. Just being around them for several years, I can’t remember the last time they haven’t made the playoffs. Every year, they seem to have a competitive team looking to make the postseason. But with teams like Walnut, Bluff Dale and Iredell, this could be a district race that plays out until the final game of the season.”
The all-Bosque County district runner-up Morgan (4-3) moved to District 10-1A, DII along with Kopperl (3-4), joining pre-season favorite Bynum (2-5) and Mount Calm (2-4).
“We ended up with our previous district by going to the North East, and we are familiar with the teams,” Morgan head coach Edward Aviles said. “I think with our young group of players we should be able to contend with everyone in our district.”
Ranked 32nd in the state poll, Morgan goes into district play riding a three-game winning streak with back-to-back victories over Bosque County rivals Walnut Springs, 85-46, and Iredell, 107-82. The Eagles will open district on the road, visiting the 33rd-ranked Bynum Bulldogs at 7 p.m. Friday, while Kopperl hosts Mount Calm at 7 p.m. Friday.
“We are young and hungry,” Kopperl’s first year head coach Darrell Wallace said. “The kids have a great work ethic and deep desire to win. But they are still very young and inexperienced.
“Morgan remains the team to beat because they have been playoff contenders for the past couple of years. To be the man, you have to beat the man. We believe we can win the district because we will work harder, and we are hungrier than most.”
NEWCASTLE 83, CRANFILLS GAP 34
In their final non-district tune-up, the 30th-ranked Cranfills Gap Lions fell behind early as the 21st-ranked Newcastle Bobcats slashed their way to an impressive 83-34 victory last Friday night.
Senior Aiden Doty threw for 307 yards and four touchdowns in the losing effort, connecting with junior Adan Flores four times for 130 yards and two scores. Seniors Haydn Kirby, Case Koehler and sophomore Eli Whitmer also hauled in scoring strikes.
“Overall, it just wasn’t our night,” Cranfills Gap head coach Rodie Johnston said. “We were able to move the ball offensively, but weren’t able to capitalize on key drives.”
After trailing 47-22 at intermission, the Lions could not slow down the Bobcats in the second half. Freshman Diego Rodriguez junior Blake Allen led Cranfills Gap with five tackles each
“Defensively, we struggled to slow them down,” Johnston said. “Hopefully, we can use this loss at a teaching tool as we head into district play next week.”
Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS
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