Tag Archives: UIL

Laredo hopes to bring basketball to LEA

The City of Laredo and the Laredo Energy Arena are pursuing the installation of a basketball court this summer and expect to be hosting games on the hardwood this fall and winter.

“I think it’s very good (odds we purchase a basketball court),” said LEA general manager Xavier Villalon.  “We’ve been given the direction to start looking at getting the court, getting the bids out there and analyzing the storage required for that.

“It’s pending a couple issues to get answered, but for the most part, I think we’ve been given pretty much kind of a ‘move forward and see what it takes to make it happen’ (directive).”

The court will be used to host high school games, NBA preseason contests and, possibly, Laredo’s own professional basketball team.

Logistics

Villalon said initial estimates suggest a court will cost the city between $170,000 and $200,000.

The highest current priority, however, is finding storage space for the court.

City Budget Manager Martin Aleman said he was walking potential storage facilities two weeks ago.

“These portable courts require special storage areas (to protect them from) humidity and heat so they don’t warp,” Aleman said. “We need to make sure they’re properly kept. We have to make sure we have a proper space to store it before we order it.”

A large amount of research remains to be gathered before a final decision is made on whether to bring basketball to the LEA, but progress is being made at a rapid pace.

“Hopefully, within the next 60-90 days, it can be done,” Aleman said.

Read the rest of this story in Wednesday’s edition of the Laredo Morning Times.

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Lady Panthers run-ruled by McAllen

The United South Lady Panthers got more than they bargained for when the McAllen Lady Bulldogs came to town for their bi-district championship Friday at the SAC. It was game one of a best-of-three series.

The Lady Bulldogs pounced on the Lady Panthers with a six-run first inning, in which they worked their way through their entire lineup and things didn’t get any better for United South from there.

The Panthers were sent home early when the game was run-ruled, 12-0, in five innings.

“I don’t know if they had nerves, I mean, it just seemed like we’ve never made that many errors in one game all season long,” United South coach Diana Isassi said. “The most we ever had in a game was two or three. It’s one of those things; you’re here in a big game, they’re maybe a little nervous, and they all come out at once.”

The typically-sound Panthers (28-4, 15-3) committed eight errors on the night.

Things weren’t any better for the Panthers at the plate, where McAllen’s Zabana Sanchez struck out eight of the 17 batters faced.

“We didn’t adjust well enough,” Isassi said. “The pitcher threw outside pitches all night and it seemed like no matter how many times we told them to adjust to the outside, they kept their regular pace.

“She was throwing pretty hard — harder than any other pitcher in the district — (and) we have to make that adjustment, come out a lot faster (and) start our swing sooner.”

United South pitcher Selena Rubio had an especially stressful outing where — true to the theme of the night — she struggled to adjust to the Valley’s style of play.

“Something we haven’t seen in our district, (McAllen) swings on that first pitch,” Isassi said. “Usually a pitcher tries to throw their first pitch for a strike, so they were just teeing off, (saying), ‘Hey, if you’re going to throw me a fattie, I’m going to swing on it.’

“We might have to adjust and start by throwing out of their reach (on the first pitch Saturday) and adjust from there.”

“Thank God,” said Asassi, the playoffs are determined by a series and not a single game.

The Lady Panthers will get another crack at the Lady Bulldogs today in McAllen. They can keep their playoff quest alive by winning two in a row.

“We saw what they did and I have the notes of what we threw to them so hopefully (Saturday) we can come out with a better outcome,” Isassi said. “We need to regroup and refocus and hopefully they can do that tonight.”

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STAAR tests and two-a-day cuts dig into spring football

Alexander plays a small scrimmage against each other as part of their spring football at United’s freshman campus on Thursday afternoon. LBJ and the three LISD schools won’t participate in spring football this year.
Photo by Ulysses S. Romero | Laredo Morning Times

When the Alexander Bulldogs took to the field to crack the seal on spring football drills Thursday, they were in the minority.
Only three teams are holding spring ball this year – Alexander, United and United South – half as many as the six programs that participated last year.
The four coaches who aren’t participating cited shifting UIL regulations and an increase in requisite test dates brought on by the new state-mandated STAAR tests as factors in their decision to sit spring out.
“You’ve got to work yourself around the testing days now,” said LBJ coach Oscar Villaseñor, who opted out of spring ball. “There are so many testing days that the state is handcuffing you. You have to work around them.
“I think the extra week (of practice) for us in August is better.”
Coaches are given a choice of either 18 spring practices – all of which must be held within a 30 calendar day span – or an extra week of practice in August.
Traditionally, programs were able to cram a large number of preseason practices in a short time by holding two-a-days in August. The UIL recently banned two-a-days, however, putting August practice time at a premium.
“We’ve just got to look at the logistics that go into it,” said Martin coach David Charles. “It’s a difficult decision to make, but you have to look at the pros and cons from now to August.
“The new guidelines they’re putting on us and restricting two-a-days in August … it just kind of scares us that they’re taking a lot of practices from us in August.”
That’s not to say spring football has lost all its allure. Alexander coach Joel Lopez said he’d rather get a good look at his team now than have to wait until the final weeks before the season to evaluate his talent on the field.
“I need to know my starters by the time I get out of school,” he said.
So long as Lopez doesn’t plan on shocking Laredo by starting a freshman, the new STAAR test shouldn’t impede that goal.
While sophomores and upper classmen continue to take the familiar TAKS test, only freshman will take the STAAR tests this spring, but that will change in the years ahead.
“STAAR is an end of course test the state is now working to implement and it starts with our fish this year,” Lopez said. “Next year, it will be sophomores and freshman (taking the test), and it will be juniors, sophomores and freshmen the year after that.”
Efforts to schedule around the plethora of STAAR and TAKS test-dates have resulted in three very different spring football schedules.
The Alexander early-birds will practice from Thursday until their spring game on April 19 at the old United High campus off Shiloh due to ongoing construction on the Bulldogs’ home campus.
United starts next, opening camp on April 9 and working out through May 8.
United South hits the field last, going from April 30 to May 25.

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LISD joins 31-4A, UISD stays

When Laredo Independent School District superintendent A. Marcus Nelson announced his district’s move to the 4A ranks, the debate instantly ignited as to whether the move was savvy or silly. Laredoan’s were equally concerned about the fate of the four United Independent School District teams, which risked being caught by the winds of realignment and thrown helter skelter.

The first step toward a verdict was made Thursday when the University Interscholastic League revealed its new district alignments.

Nixon, Cigarroa and Martin were placed in District 31-4A with Corpus Christi competition, and United, United South, Alexander and LBJ were left alone in a reduced 29-5A with familiar foes — Eagle Pass and Del Rio.

A look at 31-4A

The LISD schools were granted their wish; competition against programs of similar enrollment, but only time will tell if the move was smart or a jump out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Martin, Nixon and Cigarroa will face Corpus Christ Moody, Corpus Christi Miller, Corpus Christi Ray, Corpus Christi Flour Bluff and Alice in District 31-4A.

“I was looking forward to our teams participating in this new district,” said LISD athletic director Rene Ramirez. “I know our athletes will be ready for the challenge. I’m very confident in our coaches’ abilities to prepare our athletes for the new alignment and the challenges ahead of us.”

Ramirez said LISD will be very competitive in most sports — citing Martin’s position atop the basketball standings and the Tigers’ recent soccer dominance — but admitted his teams have a ways to go to compete with Flour Bluff and Alice in football.

“I really feel our programs are headed in that direction right now,” he said.

No LISD program is positioned to benefit more from the move than Nixon.

Previously, the Mustangs enrollment lagged behind the middle of the pack in District 29-5A. Now, Nixon’s 2,026.5 students rank behind only CC Ray’s 2,058 in District 31-4A.

“The more population you have on campus, the odds are you will do better,” Nixon football coach Tommy Ramirez said. “I feel like we’ve got a boost right now and an opportunity to jump.”

LISD teams that reach the playoffs will face Rio Grande Valley programs from District 32-4A in the first round. After that, they’ll run into San Antonio competition a round sooner than they would have in District 29-5A.

“I like our odds (against the Valley schools),” Rene Ramirez said. “We should be able to compete with anybody from 32-4A. If you get past the first round, anything can happen.”

A look at 29-5A

Left alone in a reduced District 29-5A with Eagle Pass, C.C. Winn and Del Rio, UISD athletic director Bobby Cruz’s day lacked in the uncertain excitement of Ramirez’s, but he’s fine with that.

“It makes sense what the UIL did, and we’re satisfied for the next two years,” he said. “It’s like Christmas day. You open your packet — your present — (and) it will (either) be an awesome gift you enjoy for two years, or a lot of people are upset with it, and they have to put up with it for two years.

“We’re pretty pleased and satisfied.”

United football coach David Sanchez called it the best possible outcome.

“We were hoping it would stay that way and it’s a good situation for everybody,” he said. “If you’d (asked) any of the coaches, they’re all happy we stayed in 29-5A.”

The only uncertainty UISD was truly concerned about, said several coaches, was the possibility of 29-5A being renumbered as 28-5A.

“They talked a lot about us moving to 28-5A and, if that was the case, our first round in the playoffs would have been San Antonio North side, and that’s not what we want,” said Alexander football coach Joel Lopez. “We wanted to stay with the Valley for the first couple rounds, that was one of the key things we were looking for.”

Getting what they expected allowed UISD’s four programs to quickly fill their non-district schedules. Looking at United’s, one would never guess the Longhorns didn’t want a piece of San Antonio competition.

“We play San Antonio Southwest week zero, Smithson Valley week one, then McArthur San Antonio week two, (and) then we’ve got Reagan San Antonio (week three),” Sanchez said. “We want to get used to playing them so we can beat them one of these days.”

Alexander filled its non-district schedule with Alice (which it faced the past two years), Zapata, Sharyland and Edcouch-Elsa.

LBJ plays Gregory-Portland week zero, Roma week one, Uvalde week two, and the Wolves added Sinton to their schedule for week four, after being unceremoniously dropped from the Martin Tigers’ schedule Thursday.

United South plays McAllen in week zero, Cigarroa in week one, Martin in week two, and Rio Grande City in week three.

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Laredo Soccer’s State of the Union

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Valley may not have room for LISD in realignment game

I spent the earlier portion of these week calling a number of high schools throughout the valley to collect their enrollment numbers and do some realignment forecasting. You can find the full story in today’s Laredo Morning Times or on the newspaper’s website. Bottom line is it looks like, based on these self reported numbers, there are 8 4A sized schools in the valley, and therefore there won’t be enough room for LISD to squeeze in (as 10 teams is the maximum allowed in a district by the UIL). That said, some of the projected 4A schools could sign waivers to play at the 5A level, and some unmentioned 3A schools might sign waivers to play at the 4A level, so this projection is by no mean signed in stone.

Here are the full enrollment numbers, along with projections of where that puts them, of the high schools who were able to provide their numbers to me:

LAREDO SCHOOLS

  •  Cigarroa: 1,435.
  •  Nixon: 2,026.50.
  •  Martin: 1,879.

ASSUMING 2100 cutoff, future 32-4A

Valley View high         pop. 1,022       distance. 151 miles

Edcouch-Elsa              pop. 1,336       distance. 165 miles

RGC High                   pop. 2,003       distance. 103 miles

Roma high                   pop. 1,777       distance. 89 miles

Mercedes high             pop. 1,123       distance. 166 miles

Juarez Lincoln high     pop. 2,026       distance. 138 miles

Mission high                Pop. 2,084       Distance. 138 miles

Palmview High           pop. 2,092       distance. 137 miles

 

ASSUMING 2100 cutoff, future 5A   (I was assured by the Brownsville athletics director that all Brownsville schools will be playing at the 5A level next year, though exact enrollment numbers were not provided.)

Weslaco East   pop. 2140        distance. 164 miles

Veterans Memorial      pop. ? 5A        distance. 139 miles

Weslaco high   pop. 2544        distance. 160miles

Lopez high      pop. ? 5A        distance. 208 miles

Hanna high      pop. 2600        distance. 202 miles

Pace high         pop. ? 5A        distance. 202 miles

Porter high      pop. ? 5A        distance. 204 miles

Rivera high      pop. ? 5A        distance. 207 miles

La Joya high    pop. 2,253       distance. 128 miles

 

FUTURE 3A

RGC Grulla high         pop. 968          Distance. 114 miles

Hidalgo early college high      pop. 952          distance. 151 miles

PSJA Southwest         pop. 786                      Distance 151 miles

For contrasts sake, here’s where the above schools currently belong.

 

CURRENTLY IN DISTRICT 32-4A

Weslaco East   pop. 2140        distance. 164 miles

Edcouch-Elsa  pop. 1336        distance. 165 miles

RGC High                   pop. 2,003       distance. 103 miles

Veterans Memorial      pop. ? 5A        distance. 139 miles

Roma high       pop. 1,777       distance. 89 miles

Mercedes high             pop. 1123        distance. 166 miles

Hidalgo early college high      pop. 952          distance. 151 miles

Juarez Lincoln high     pop. 2,026       distance. 138 miles

Valley View high         pop. 1,022       distance. 151 miles

(There is also a Brownsville Veterans Memorial High School – as opposed to the above Mission Veterans Memorial High School – which competes in 32-4A in all sports but football.)

 

CURRENTLY 5A

Weslaco high   pop. 2544        distance. 160miles

Lopez high      pop. ? 5A        distance. 208 miles

Hanna high      pop. 2600        distance. 202 miles

Pace high         pop. ? 5A        distance. 202 miles

Porter high      pop. ? 5A        distance. 204 miles

Rivera high      pop. ? 5A        distance. 207 miles

La Joya high    pop. 2,253       distance. 128 miles

Palmview High           pop. 2,092       distance. 137 miles

Mission high    Pop. 2,084                   Distance. 138 miles

 

CURRENTLY 3A

RGC Grulla high         pop. 968          Distance. 114 miles

PSJA Southwest         pop. 786              Distance 151 miles

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Billy Williams ruled OK for play

Billy Williams III crossed the goal line into the end zone and fell to the ground. He’d just scored the first touchdown of his senior year to put his Longhorns up 7-0 over C.C. Winn on Thursday night en route to a 66-0 United victory.

It was a joyous moment — a moment that looked at times like it would never arrive. The embattled senior running back had been suspended from play from the first seven games of his final season after being caught with a controlled substance on his high school’s campus four months ago.

Williams, who was not available for comment after scoring two touchdowns and compiling more than 100 yards combined receiving and rushing against Winn, worked hard to pay his dues and, finally, the last roadblock to restoring his eligibility was surmounted Thursday afternoon, a mere four hours before his team’s 7 p.m. kickoff against Winn.

It was a redemptive moment that came with the help of his coaches, his family and a UISD athletic department that never gave up on Williams, no matter the pressure.

A second chance

One simple principle guides United Independent School District Athletic Director Bobby Cruz’s work with the children of his district.

“We’re in this profession to develop, educate and guide young people,” he said. “We’re not in this profession to throw kids away for a mistake.”

That mantra guided him through the volatile waters of a difficult episode in which outside pressure frequently encouraged him to throw Williams to the wolves.

“Yeah, we would get those calls,” he said. “Everybody has their opinions on what the student should and should not do. At the end of the day, that’s what they are — their opinions.”

Cruz never wavered in his commitment to doing what he felt was right by his student.

“The student made a mistake,” he said. “He owned up to it (and) accepted responsibility for it; he has gone above and beyond everything the coaching staff threw in front of him to get back in their good graces.

“The question is, at what point does he stop paying for that mistake? How much do people want to make him pay?”

The most important factor in Cruz’s eyes was Williams’ efforts to reform and learn from the lesson of the past four months.

“If a student’s just being difficult and doesn’t want help and doesn’t want to comply, then at some point you cut them loose,” Cruz said. “But we’re not here to turn our backs on kids. We’re going to help them, guide them and we’ll just move forward.”

A fair process

Cruz said the lengthy process of restoring Williams’ eligibility was fair.

While he doesn’t agree with critics who say Williams should have been abandoned for his crime, he doesn’t think Williams should have gotten off more lightly, either.

“All of our student-athletes are held to a higher standard because they’re very visible,” he said. “They have to understand all of their actions can have devastating consequences.

“That’s what people, especially our student-athletes, need to take out of this.”

The consequences of this individual case, Cruz cautioned, are hardly done with, and not always obvious to the naked eye.

“He’ll continue to pay for it regardless of what happens this year,” Cruz said. “A lot of (college) schools that may have been interested in him may now be leery. This will follow him and he understands that.”

“Happy” is not a word Cruz would use to describe his feelings on the conclusion of the lengthy process.

“I’m kind of relieved,” he said. “I don’t think we should gloat or celebrate. We’re satisfied, we’re thankful and we’ll move forward.”

Precedent established

One of the best outcomes to have emerged from the whole ordeal might be the precedent established for students to follow if they find themselves in Williams’ footprints.

“It’s an unfortunate circumstance we had to go through, but we wanted to do it the right way,” Cruz said. “The easiest thing would have been to put him on the field and put the team in jeopardy, but we wanted to do it the right way. We didn’t want to hurt the team if there was any question about his eligibility.”

The UIL’s verdict was emailed and faxed to Cruz at 4 p.m. Thursday.

No reasoning for the decision was provided; the notice simply stated Williams had been declared eligible and quoted supporting text from UIL rulebooks on the matter:

“Students who have been assigned to a DAEP (disciplinary alternative education program) for a reason included in TEC §37.006 or those assigned under a separate section of the TEC and prohibited from participating by local policy, may resume participation in UIL activities the first day they return to regular classes after completing the assigned length of time in the alternative education program.” -UIL-TEA Side by Side 2011-12 Enrollment Requirements (Page 10) Question 5.

In the future, there will be no lingering questions about the eligibility of students who spend time at JJAEP or any other alternative education setting in Laredo. The UIL’s verdict on Williams’ eligibility was one Cruz had been expecting, if just barely. He thinks the UIL made the right call.

“You never know what the UIL (will do or) how (it’s) going to rule,” he said. “I think it’s fair because I believe — we believe — alternative settings are extensions of the school.

“The test scores go back to United. For realignment purposes, he was counted under their enrollment as if he was enrolled, and he’s always been at United, nowhere else, since he was a freshman.

“In that way, I was pretty satisfied with the way UIL saw it.”

Despite the extensive amount of time that went into obtaining the final verdict on Williams’ eligibility — time in which he missed participating in several games it’s now clear he could have legally played in — Cruz doesn’t think UIL needs to change any of the wording of its rules or the process by which it determines an athlete’s eligibility.

“I think UIL does an excellent job regulating,” he said. “I don’t think UIL will need to change anything.”

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