Prairie Lea to have lengthy trips on gridiron and hardwood
By Kyle Mooty
While Prairie Lea will have lengthy football trips to Benavides and Knippa, it will have almost identical average drives compared to last year.
The updated UIL realignment for high schools was released last week. The Indians have moved up to 6-Man football’s Division 1 and will now play in the four-team District 16 with the likes of Benavides, Knippa, and Runge.
The cutoff for 6-Man football Division 1 and 2 was at 61.5 students. Prairie Lea now has 71 students between grades 9-12.
Last season, Prairie Lea finished 3-7 under Head Coach Steven Brown, just missing out on a playoff berth, which the Indians have not made since 1949, a 75-year drought.
The Indians lost to Benavides last season, 53-20, but they’ll only need to finish in the top two of the district to qualify for the playoffs.
The other District foes are Knippa and Runge.
The Runge Yellowjackets were winless in 2023. Runge is about 69 miles south of Prairie Lea.
The Knippa Crushers did not play football last season. That school is about 11 miles east of Uvalde and 150 miles from Prairie Lea.
The Benavides Eagles finished last season at 5-5, beating Runge, 62-13. Benavides is about 179 miles from Prairie Lea, 77 miles west of Corpus Christi.
“Making the playoffs is our goal, Prairie Lea Athletic Director and Boys’ Basketball Head Coach Jess Stephens said. “Our guys have certainly talked about it.”
Stephens said last year’s trip to Nueces Canyon was 183 miles.
“So, this district compared to what all we had before, we will just have one long drive,” Stephens said. “Last year our average drive was 129 miles and this is just a mile or two different.
“We had been in a district where some schools had a little more money and a little more facilities than us.”
Schools such as a former Prairie Lea opponent McDade have moved to 2A due to its enrollment.
Prairie Lea’s spring sports and basketball are pretty much in its same district, having lost Pettus while gaining the Matagorda Stingrays and the Austwell-Tivoli Redfish. Matagorda is about 165 miles southeast of Prairie Lea on the Gulf Coast. Tivoli is north of Corpus Christi and about 125 miles from Prairie Lea, also on the Gulf Coast.
“Our basketball teams are going to travel a lot of miles,” Stephens said. “At least I hear there’s good seafood in Matagorda.”
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Luling, which went 2-8 in 3A D1 last year, remains in its same District 13 along with Florence, Ingram, Llano, Marion, and Universal City Randolph. Blanco and Cole are no longer in the district.