This season when the H.M. King Brahmas and the rest of the remaining original District 31-4A football teams take the field, there will be some unfamiliar opponents standing across from them.
After the University Interscholastic League's recent realignment, three new schools are joining the Brahmas and 31-4A leftovers and Corpus Christi schools Flour Bluff, Tuloso-Midway, Calallen and Alice.
The new kids on the block are Laredo schools Nixon, Cigarroa and Lyndon B. Johnson.
All three schools are making the move down from Class 5A to 4A.
While Calallen has been the anchor in District 31-4A with its unchallenged number of district championships and runs at state titles, the Nixon Mustangs could arguably be a threat for the Wildcats.
During the late 1990s and continuing until three seasons ago, the Mustangs built a reputation as one of the best defensive programs in Class 5A's Region IV.
The green and gold at one point rallied off a Calallen-like string of five consecutive District 30-5A titles and a streak of 35 straight district wins. Their head coach, Brad Hopkins, is no stranger to this area, nor to Kingsville. Hopkins is a Kingsville native and a graduate of H.M. King.
And as the offensive coordinator during the Mustangs dominating run a few short seasons ago, he might have the Mustangs in the title chase their first season in the district.
"It's going to be fun coming back to the area to play," Hopkins said. "A lot of people are telling me that we just got moved to one of the toughest districts in the state. I half-jokingly told them that I think it just got tougher."
Hopkins could be foreshadowing what might shape up to be a wild chase for the 2009 District 31-4A championship and he isn't shying down from competition.
"The move down is just that. It's a move down in classification," Hopkins said. "It's also a step up for us because it is one of the toughest districts in the state. However, (as a 5A program) we've beat some good teams from Corpus Christi, the Rio Grande Valley and we've competed against San Antonio teams. We've also scrimmaged Calallen a couple of times in the past."
Nixon was a Class 5A playoff team last season after missing the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons.
While they will be the toughest competition for the original District 31-4A teams, the Cigarroa Toros and LBJ Wolves could play the spoiler's role, Hopkins said.
"Cigarroa's numbers are down, but they always have some great kids and they have a good young coach in Manny Martinez," he said. "LBJ has a new coach in Okie Villasenor and had some competitive teams since they started playing a varsity schedule a few years ago."
The Toros were the first Laredo team to advance three rounds deep in the schoolboy playoffs in 1998. Nixon then topped the Toros by doing it twice in the early 2000s and recently the United Longhorns, led by current Texas A&M-Kingsville quarterback David Garza, did it three seasons ago.
Hopkins said playing in the Coastal Bend only helps Laredo schools become better and perhaps in the process rid the border town of its reputation as a pushover on the gridiron.
"We're all looking forward to playing against kids from the Coastal Bend because it raises our level of play and the same goes for the Rio Grande
Valley," Hopkins said. "I'm really excited and looking forward the start of the season."
Hopkins summed it up with a quick quip and a bit of a fair warning.
"We're going to run the ball, we're going to throw the ball and we're going to play our brand of defense," he said. "They're (31-4A teams) going to have a bunch of little guys at their ankles and we can tackle."