11-5A race shaped by many miles, few games

Raw numbers sounds favorable enough: six teams, four playoff spots.

But in District 11-5A , which starts its five-week schedule Friday, a top-four finish isn’t a snap. It isn’t unusual for a very good football team to be left out of postseason.

With three Mesquite schools and DeSoto to the west and Longview and Tyler Lee to the east, the road to success in 11-5A follows along I-20.

The opening-night schedule for 11-5A on Friday matches North Mesquite at DeSoto, Longview at Mesquite and Mesquite Horn at Tyler Lee.

“I’d put this district in the top three in the state,’’ said DeSoto coach Claude Mathis, whose team is No. 2 in the ESPNDallas.com 5A Top 10. “I tell our guys this first district game is so important. If you win, you have a good chance to be in the playoffs. If you don't, it is an uphill battle.''

At its greatest distance, from DeSoto to Longview, 11-5A spans 139 miles.

DeSoto (5-0) and Longview (4-1) are expected to once again contend for the title after tying at the top with 4-1 district records in 2010. To heighten the drama, the game will be played Week 10 in Longview. The game was recently switched from Friday to Thursday night to accommodate television.

Mathis points out that last year, three 11-5A playoff teams -- DeSoto, Mesquite Horn and Longview -- advanced to the state quarterfinal round. Longview took it a step further, to a state semifinal.

North Mesquite, off to a 4-1 start this season, was the hard-luck 11-5A team not to make the playoffs in 2010, despite pulling off the rare win in Longview.

“You can say we only play five district games, but playing Longview in Longview is like playing three games,’’ Mathis said.