by Patrick Olson
AUSTIN – Monday’s biennial district realignment announcement by the University Interscholastic League effectively terminates a longstanding rivalry between the Austin High and Bowie athletic teams.
“We grew up playing baseball at Oak Hill and some would go to Austin High and some would go to Bowie. In Pop Warner, it was the same way,” said Bowie assistant soccer coach Sam Miller, who played football and baseball for the Bulldogs. “Our biggest rival was Austin High. It’s going to be a shame. Kind of like losing the Texas/Texas A&M rivalry.”
With decreased enrollment, Austin High will drop to Class 5A and compete in District 25 with six other AISD schools including Crockett, LBJ, Lanier, McCallum, Reagan and Travis. Maroons athletic coordinator/head football coach Mike Rosenthal lined up non-district opponents for 2016 in McNeil, Akins, A&M Consolidated and Anderson. A previous rivalry with Crockett will be renewed as Austin High aims to improve on 15 wins in 34 overall games versus the Cougars.
Bowie athletic coordinator/head football coach Jeff Ables moved quickly to locate five non-district foes for the fall pigskin season after the UIL placed the Bulldogs in Class 6A District 14 with previous district foes Akins, Anderson and Del Valle, in addition to San Marcos and a new entry to the state’s highest classification in Manor. Ables kept rival Westlake on the 2016 slate and intended to preserve a rivalry with the Maroons. “We had hoped to keep the rivalry going, but it didn’t work out,” Ables noted. “It’s been a good game for 28 years…it is what it is.”
Pflugerville will again be the opening opponent for Bowie before Ables’ crew tangles with a perennially athletic LBJ squad. The Bulldogs will then face a Vista Ridge team led by former Austin High coach Rodney Vincent, after the Raiders reached the Class 5A state semifinals last year. Following a continuation of the annual showdown against the state finalist Chaparrals, Bowie will venture three hours north for an imposing road encounter with Abilene Cooper, a 2015 Region I semifinalist team. Bowie will scrimmage consistently powerful Converse Judson, a state semifinalist club last year, and nearby Crockett to prepare for an arduous non-district campaign.
Crockett will face Akins, Gonzales, Marble Falls and Burnet before hosting Austin High in the fifth week of the season. “I think the addition of Austin High is super,” Crockett athletic coordinator/head football coach John Waugh enthusiastically stated. “From the football perspective it’s good. In all of our sports, it’s going to enhance the competitiveness throughout the district. That’s a positive thing.” The Cougars will scrimmage an as yet determined foe at Burger on August 13th at 10 a.m. before a scrimmage against Bowie at Burger on Thursday, August 18th at 10 a.m. Waugh emphasized schedules are tentative until February 19th pending any appeals by schools following the UIL declaration.
High school baseball begins in three weeks and Bowie baseball coach Sam Degelia regrets the demise of the Bulldogs versus Maroons battles. “Austin High has always had a good sports program and they will continue to have one even though they are in a new district,” said the Bowie skipper. “The rivalry between Bowie and Austin High will definitely be missed. When these two schools play each other you can always count on a great game. Both schools are considered South Austin, both schools are very competitive, both are well coached, both have good kids and both schools don’t like to lose to each other. So that’s a perfect combination for an old fashioned rivalry.” And so it was, but unless something changes, the fat lady has sung for this longtime high school rivalry between friends and teammates who grew up together in Oak Hill.