A longtime conference opponent is joining the Houston football team’s district next season.

The Missouri State High School Activities Association announced football district assignments for the next classification cycle Saturday. Mountain Grove is one of five teams dropping from Class 3 to Class 2.

The Panthers will join Class 2 District 3 with the Tigers, Ash Grove, Fair Grove, Liberty (Mountain View), Pleasant Hope, Strafford and Willow Springs.

Cuba, which has competed in Houston’s district the past four years, was moved to District 6.

Also dropping to Class 2 with Mountain Grove are Bowling Green, Holden, Lutheran North and North Callaway

The Panthers will have a new head coach when they begin the 2012 season. Steve Ary has accepted the position as head coach of West Plains High School.

The 2012 football season will also introduce a new playoff system. Teams will play a nine-game regular season with the 10th week beginning a seeded tournament that will include every team in the state. Week 10 will be considered the opening round of a three-week district tournament. Matchups will be 1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6 and 4 vs. 5 seeds.

The new district assignments are a two-year cycle. The 2012 and 2013 seasons conclude with the annual MSHSAA Show-Me Bowl at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. The championship dates for 2012 are November 23-24, while the event will be held November 29-30 in 2013.

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