Rio Hondo decision impacts District 16-4A DII

With Rio Hondo unable to play a football season this year, the South Zone of District 16-4A Division II that was formed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic is once again facing questions about its schedule.

Rio Hondo, Raymondville and Port Isabel were split into their own zone and were scheduled to play each other once with the No. 3 playoff spot going to the top team. The North Zone is comprised of Ingleside, Robstown, Rockport-Fulton, Sinton and West Oso — all teams that have started competition.

When Rio Hondo’s fate was decided, speculation began about how Raymondville and Port Isabel might handle the situation since they will be the only two teams in their zone. But for now, Raymondville coach and athletic director Frank Cantu said the plan is to play a single previously scheduled Nov. 6 district game in Port Isabel, with the winner advancing to the playoffs.

“Basically, now it’s a one-game district with the opportunity to advance, that’s what it’s looking like,” Cantu said. “I’m going to propose that we get together with the other teams just to make sure that is the plan, that there’s no changes in that. But at the end of the day there will be one team from this zone that gets to make the playoffs, and now with only two teams, that should be the winner between Raymondville and Port Isabel.”

Raymondville started practicing Sept. 11 and has one other game on its schedule, a non-district contest against Mission Veterans Memorial on Oct. 16. Cantu said he’s trying to find games to fill the open weeks, including the now vacated Oct. 30 date before the showdown with Port Isabel, but it has been difficult.

Despite a schedule that is “very thin,” Cantu said the Bearkats — who began football activities Thursday — are thankful to have any games and for the chance to play, especially after the Rio Hondo news.

“We took a really tough game in Mission Veterans. They’re one of the better teams year in and year out, but we just wanted to play and our kids are excited about the opportunity to play them. But we’re not looking forward to having that much time off in between. We’re just trying to call people and say, ‘Hey, keep us in mind,’ … but everybody’s pretty much starting district as soon as they get back on, so it’ll be a tough task, but we’ll keep trying.

“With knowing that somebody so close, a year-in and year-out rival, does not have that opportunity, it just makes us more grateful that we are able to play and compete,” he added.

Port Isabel was reported to be targeting a return to athletics Sept. 28. The Tarpons had been scheduled to play the Bobcats on Oct. 23 in Rio Hondo.