Casey Walraven

Cleburne coach Casey Walraven said realignment brought "positive" changes for the Yellow Jackets, primarily moving from a nine-team district back to an eight-team district.

The University Interscholastic League released its 2020-22 realignment Monday morning, and there’s not many big changes coming for Cleburne.

The Cleburne Yellow Jackets, Burleson Elks and Joshua Owls will remain in District 5-5A Division II along with Aledo, Arlington Seguin, Everman, and Waco University. The only changes from the previous alignment are adding Mansfield Timberview while dropping Burleson Centennial and Midlothian, which are now 5A DI.

The biggest positive in Cleburne coach Casey Walraven’s eyes is the return to a more traditional eight-team league as opposed to the nine-team league from 2018-19.

“I do think it’s a positive for us,” Walraven said. “We traded two really good programs for one in our district by losing Midlothian and Centennial, but we did gain Timberview. I think it helps getting out of a nine-team district. Moving back to an eight-team district gives you more preparation in preseason. So I’m glad to see that. 

“All in all, I think it’s a solid, very competitive district that we know. We understand that each and every week we’ll have to be at the top of our game or we could give one up to any of those guys, evidenced by last year. We have to make sure we’re focused week in and week out to have a chance to achieve our goals.”

Joshua coach Gary Robinson’s initial impressions were similar to Walraven’s regarding the eight-team league.

“I kind of figured we’d be pretty close to same district so it wasn’t a big surprise to me,” Robinson said. “I was relieved because I saw some predictions where we could’ve been in a nine- or 10-team district so I was relieved we lost a school and are in an eight-team district. I kind of figured we’d get Timberview or Ennis or Corsicana added, and it was Timberview.”

Cleburne will kick off the 2020 season with a rematch 100 years in the making. The Jackets are scheduled to face Houston Heights in a season-opening showdown featuring the two programs that met in the first-ever UIL state championship game in 1920. While more information on this historic rematch — such as location and date — will be revealed later, Walraven said it’s a great opportunity to feature Cleburne’s strong football history.

“It’s a real honor for all of us here to be a part of something like that,” Walraven said. “Cleburne has strong tradition and we’ve always tried to recognized that and welcome it as long as we’ve been here. Growing up and knowing the tradition of Cleburne and the powerhouse they used to be, it’s really cool to be a part of something where we get to see 100 years later kind of a remake of that game. To be able to make that happen, I think it’s great for both communities and both school districts to get their name out there and let people see that good things are happening.”

The Jackets will scrimmage Fort Worth Paschal before facing Houston Heights in the season opener, followed by Fort Worth Southwest and Weatherford to round out the Jackets’ non-district opposition. Cleburne’s district schedule is as follows: at Arlington Seguin, vs. Waco University, vs. Burleson, at Everman, vs. Joshua, at Timberview, and vs. Aledo.

Robinson likes the way his Owls’ 2020 season schedule came out.

“I’m pleased with the order that it came out in [for district],” Robinson said. “I like our chances as far as winning some games in district. We’ve got some good competitive games lined out in non-district and I think we could build some momentum. I think the order we got as far as when we play teams looks good for us.”

Joshua will open the season with back-to-back home games in the first two weeks against Fort Worth Eastern Hills and Fort Worth Western Hills before wrapping up non-district play week 3 at Lake Worth. After a week 4 bye, the Owls play at Waco University, vs. Mansfield Timberview, at Aledo, vs. Arlington Seguin, at Cleburne, vs. Burleson, and at Everman.

District 5-5A DII’s opponent in the bi-district playoffs will be District 6-5A DII, featuring Mesquite Poteet with Dallas ISD schools Adamson, Conrad, Hillcrest, Jefferson, Kimball, Seagoville, South Oak Cliff, and Spruce.

While Burleson, Cleburne and Joshua only saw minor changes to their football districts, the Burleson Centennial Spartans will essentially be in an entirely new football world.

Centennial moved up to Class 5A Division I due to enrollment numbers, so the Spartans are not only in a new district and region, but an entirely new division. The Spartans will reside in District 4-5A DI along with Birdville, Colleyville Heritage, Mansfield Legacy, Mansfield Summit, Midlothian, Red Oak, and Richland.

“I was surprised — not what I expected,” Centennial coach Kyle Geller said. “Of course, it wasn’t what I expected last time, either. I guess it keeps you on your toes. I was talking to our defensive coordinator when we were riding home, and I said every single game on our schedule is going to be very, very competitive. There’s no games where you’re saying, ‘OK, now we’re going to take on Aledo and maybe later on it’s 10 notches below that.’ ... Every single team out of the group made the playoffs last year. You talk about parity. We’ve got some parity in our district now. It’s crazy.”

Despite Burleson and Burleson Centennial being separated by division and no longer in the same district, the Elks and Spartans are keeping the crosstown rivalry game on their schedule as they will meet in week 2, part of a tough non-district slate for Centennial.

“Plus our non-district schedule with Plano High, Burleson High and McKinney North, those are all good teams,” Geller said. “We’ve got 10 games where we better bring our A game. It’s exciting. It’s going to be a challenge every week.”

While Cleburne football saw some change, the Jackets’ basketball and volleyball districts will remain the same — District 14-5A with Corsicana, Ennis, Joshua, Midlothian, Red Oak, and Waco University.

In Burleson, there will be only minor changes for the Elks and Spartans in basketball and volleyball as they move from District 5-5A to District 8-5A and will face Arlington Seguin, Crowley, Everman, Mansfield Legacy, Mansfield Summit, and Mansfield Timberview. Summit is the lone newcomer to that district as the Jaguars replace Granbury.

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