In years past, the Muenster Hornets football team has been on the wrong end of the University Interscholastic League’s realignment.
Two years ago after winning the Class 2A state championship over Tenaha, the Hornets had trouble filling out their schedule the next season with larger teams not wanting to drop down and potentially lose to a smaller school and smaller teams not wanting to go up in classification and face a stout Hornets squad.
This time around, Muenster head coach Brady Carney said filling out the schedule was much more pain-free.
“It was way easier with the varsity,” Carney said. “I had some teams I thought lined up that I was excited about that didn’t work out, but I still feel like it’s a really good schedule for us next year because we’re going to be playing seven or eight sophomores on varsity. Lindsay will be a very tough matchup. Overall, it will be way easier than it was two years ago.”
Muenster will face six teams in its non-district schedule, including kraut bowl rival Lindsay, Valley View, Newman International, Blue Ridge, Electra and Maud.
Non-district is typically designed to be a gauntlet for the Hornets to prepare them for the playoffs, so there is a bit of a drawback in regard to this year’s schedule.
“We’re not where we were two years ago, so it makes it easier for those smaller schools to say yes to playing us,” Carney said. “That does make my job of filling out my schedule easier.”
Another consequence was Muenster was placed in the same region with Mart, the now three-time defending state champions.
This season was much kinder to the Hornets as they avoided being in the same region with Mart as they moved to Class 2A Division II Region II while Mart stayed in Region III.
Carney wanted to go back West, but he was happy to avoid being in the same region as Mart, which has knocked Muenster out of the playoffs the past two seasons in the regional final.
“With us being in Region II, we match up with Albany and Hamlin, who are very tough, but if we were to get out of there, we’d match up with Region I and we wouldn’t have to worry about the Mart Panthers until the state championship game,” Carney said. “That was the biggest thing for me. Anytime you make it to the regional final, you feel good, but nobody can get by Mart. For our level, they have better athletes than the rest of us.”
Along with Mart’s speed, the Panthers’ tradition goes a long way, according to Carney.
“It’s tough knowing you’ll run into those guys and it’s going to take a perfect night from us and an off game from them to beat them, so to get away from them was a huge plus,” Carney said.
He said the Hornets are still trying to cement their own tradition and they’ll do that in a new district this season.
Muenster is in a five-team district with Era, Chico, Petrolia and Windthorst compared to last season’s four-team district with Era, Tioga and Cumby.
Carney said he is happy to have more teams in the district, especially after Campbell had to drop out of the district last season due to an insufficient number of players.
“I think our district is a little tougher overall and it will help us in the playoffs,” Carney said. “Windthorst is a school with great football tradition and they’re always going to be a tough opponent. We need that in district, so I’m happy we have them in our district. We’re familiar with the other teams as well.”
Muenster went undefeated through district play last season and hasn’t lost a district game in five seasons.
The Hornets smallest margin of victory last season in district play was a 17-point win over Cumby, so Carney is excited about what Windthorst can bring to the table.
“They stand out as that one opponent that is going to give us everything we want,” Carney said. “They are going to throw the football all over the place. They are well coached and of course they are going to play hard.”
Despite the changes, the Hornets’ expectations for next season are still the same.
“The goal is always to win district and play in December,” Carney said. “Next year, it’s in our favor for our kids to have an opportunity to grow up.”
Patrick Hayslip can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @PatrickHayslip