District football comes down to one thing.
Not in how many games you win, but in the what and where — as in what district you have been assigned, and where you have to travel.
District play, the most important play, is under way, with more than half of the 10 area high schools having already played against one district foe.
But don’t go programming your GPS just yet. As it does every two years, the Florida High School Athletic Association will draw new districts for the 2011-12 school year, which means all these teams may have a new slate of opponents next year.
And until then, all the coaches can do is wait and see.
Keep in mind these schools are not just thrown together as if they were ingredients in a shepherd’s pie. It’s all about enrollment and occasionally, geography — though don’t try telling that to Bradenton Christian, Saint Stephen’s and Out-of-Door Academy, schools with a litany of district foes such as Moore Haven and Southwest Florida Christian.
But it’s truly out of everyone’s hands. Schools can appeal, of course, which is what Southeast wisely did when the Seminoles were staring at the possibility of playing district games against teams such as Immokalee and Wauchula Hardee.
Southeast won its appeal — even if it means the Class 2A Noles had to get a bump to Class 3A — and has spent the past two seasons competing for a championship alongside county foes such as Braden River and Bayshore.
Not every appeal is a winner, however, meaning coaches and players and athletic directors sometimes can’t do anything but roll up their sleeves and get to work.
Fair or not, that’s the way it goes, and teams have to roll with the proverbial punches because everything trickles down from district assignments.
They dictate a team’s non-district schedule, which is one of the reasons the Seminoles appealed prior to this season. Had they stayed in Class 2A-District 6, which at the time had nine teams, the Noles would have been able to schedule just two non-district games, which meant saying good-bye to some county rivalries, and most importantly, the revenue those country rivalries bring in at the box office.
And then, of course, comes the competitive side of things. Fledging North Port, for example, has never had a winning season. But the Bobcats were still placed in the same district with state powers Manatee and Venice because when it comes to redistricting, size matters. North Port may not yet have the players, but it has the enrollment.
I like how the FHSAA shakes things up every couple years because, a) a school’s enrollment fluctuates, and b) it gives schools a chance to establish new rivals while maintaining relationships with the old ones.
So, enjoy these district alignments while they last, for they won’t be here forever.
And this time next year, they may not be here at all.
John Lembo, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2097,