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PIGSKIN

Preview 2016

JOHN TYLER LIONS // ROBERT E. LEE RED RAIDERS // TAPPS // WHITEHOUSE WILDCATS // CHAPEL HILL BULLDOGS Complimentary Copy 1

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FEATURED HIGH SCHOOLS 6A

Robert E. Lee Pg.10 John Tyler Pg. 14 Longview Pg. 26 Lufkin Pg. 26

TAPPS

All Saints Pg.20 Grace Pg.22 Bishop Gorman Pg.23 Brook Hill Pg.24

5A

Whitehouse Pg.28 Lindale Pg. 30 Jacksonville Pg. 31 Nacogdoches Pg. 32 Hallsville Pg. 32 Pine Tree Pg. 33 Marshall Pg. 33

4A

Brownsboro Pg. 34 Van Pg. 35

Athens Pg. 36 Henderson Pg. 37 Chapel Hill Pg.38 Bullard Pg. 40 Palestine Pg.41 Kilgore Pg.41 Canton Pg. 42 Wills Point Pg. 42 Rains Pg. 43 Gladewater Pg. 43 Gilmer Pg. 44 Spring Hill Pg. 44 Pittsburg Pg. 45 Rusk Pg. 45

3A

Mineola Pg. 46 Grand Saline Pg. 49 Sabine Pg.49 Winnsboro Pg. 50 Quitman Pg. 50 White Oak Pg. 51 Westwood Pg.51 Elkhart Pg. 52 Malakoff Pg. 52 Winona Pg. 53

Alba-Golden Pg. 54 Harmony Pg. 54 Edgewood Pg. 55 Arp Pg. 56 West Rusk Pg. 57 Troup Pg. 57 Frankston Pg. 58

The photography technique I used to create this year’s colorful football portraits is called painting with light. It’s one of my favorite forms of photography. To create these images I needed three things: darkness, my camera on a tripod and lots of colorful lights.

Big Sandy Pg. 58 Cayuga Pg. 59 Union Grove Pg. 59 Alto Pg. 60 Hawkins Pg. 60 Cushing Pg.61 Carlisle Pg. 61 Overton Pg. 62 Mt. Enterprise Pg. 62

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STAFF WRITERS Chris Parry, Nathan Wright, Travis Yoesting

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS COPY EDITORS

Joe Buie, Alexandra Dal, Phil Hicks, Chris Parry, Nathan Wright, Travis Yoesting, Danny Mogle, Hakim Zakaria

PHOTOGRAPHER Sarah A. Miller

GRAPHIC DESIGNER Haley Holcomb

ON THE COVER

1A/6 Man

Leverett's Chapel Pg. 63 Fruitvale Pg. 63 Union Hill Pg. 64 King's Academy Pg. 64 Tyler HEAT Pg. 65

Damion Miller & Makyle Sanders Design by: Haley Holcomb Photo by: Sarah A. Miller © TBB Printing, Inc., 2015

SARAH A. MILLER EXPLAINS HOW SHE CREATED THE AMAZING IMAGES IN THE PIGSKIN PREVIEW

To create harder to fund colors like maroon and orange, I used an app called Magic Lights for my phone to create the colors on

HOW I CREATED THE SHOTS My friends at Spade Design in downtown Tyler let me borrow a room in their office for a week to set up a makeshift photo studio. I hung a large black canvas from the ceiling to the floor. I picked a room with no windows to ensure it would be pitch black with the lights off. Darkness is needed because in all of the shots I am in front of the camera but you can’t see me because I point the light away from myself and onto my subject. If there’s too much light, I would show up in the image. I bought LED wire lights in school colors such as red, blue, yellow and green off amazon.com. I also bought finger lights and mini flashlights from the Dollar Tree.

Phil Hicks

Joe Hale

2A

LIGHT IT UP

SPORTS EDITOR

my phone’s screen. I set my Nikon D810 on a tripod on the bulb setting. This setting allows for a long exposure, keeping the shutter open as long as needed. You can also use a timer setting

or a remote shutter release. I had each football player pose in front of the camera. With the exposure open I ran to one side and flashed a bright light from my Nikon Speedlight to freeze the player in motion. Next, I would grab a set of LED lights or my phone and move the lights around behind the football player. When I felt I had added as much light to the scene as I needed, I would close the camera shutter and check the image on the back screen. For some shots I had the football player walk or run with lights taped down his side or arms or on the football. Doing this creates streaks of light that suggest motion. Depending on how much light I “paint” into the scene with flashlights and other tools, this effect can also blur the player as he moves. It’s a lot of trial and error. I work all in-camera as opposed to creating images in Photoshop. Creating artistic photos in camera can take a lot of patience, but it’s rewarding work to me. I hope you enjoy looking at these portraits as much as I enjoyed making them.


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REUNITED & IT FEELS SO GOOD

John Tyler's Damien Miller and Robert E. Lee's Makyle Sanders 6

East Texas Football Preview | ETFinalScore.com


By CHRIS PARRY & TRAVIS YOESTING // sports@tylerpaper.com

J

ohn Tyler vs. Robert E. Lee (or Robert E. Lee vs. John Tyler), “It’s a real rivalry again,” Holmes said. on the final day of the season, as district rivals, as city rivals, John Tyler is led by Damion Miller, who committed to the as archrivals. University of Texas last summer before the 6-2, 195-pound receiver For years that’s how it was, how it should be, how it was racked up 42 catches for 916 yards and nine touchdowns. meant to be. On the other side of scrimmage, prepared to stop Miller and In 2004 the schedule changed. the Lions is Lee cornerback Makyle Sanders, No longer did Lee and JT play on the who is currently undecided with offers on final day of the season, but they were still the table from the likes of Memphis. The 6-2, "It’s exciting that competing for the same playoff spots. senior finished with 67 tackles, you’ve got two schools 181-pound At least for a few more years. 10 pass breakups and two interceptions. In 2010 John Tyler’s enrollment “I have known Damion since we were in the same town who stipulated a drop to Class 4A, exiting the little and we have always been playing against have a lot of tradition state’s highest classification for the first each other since Pop Warner,” Sanders said. time. “He played for the Hurricanes and I played in the town. Any time Lee stayed up, and the Rose City rivalry for the Ravens. Last year I floated around and diminished as the two were no longer in matched up against different (JT receivers), that the two teams the same district, let alone classification. but this year I want to go to his side.” face each other it’s a The anticipated annual meeting turned Bragging rights are merely the cherry on from a late-season showdown into a top of the red and blue sundae that is the big game.” September scrap. Rose City rivalry. Playoff berths, postseason “For the last couple of years it’s just seeding and district championships will be -Clayton George, Lee coach been for bragging rights for the rest of the on the line — as it once was. year,” said Lions coach Ricklan Holmes, a “I hope we are both in contention,” Lee JT player in the 90s. “It really had no value, really had no weight.” senior defensive end Campbell Miller said. “I have a lot of respect Now, for the first time in 13 years, the Lee-JT game (or JT-Lee), for JT and I like playing them. It’s all love until we play them; is back where it belongs: the final day of the regular season. that whole week (is where the love stops). I hope we are both in John Tyler’s numbers passed the cut-off line to boost the Lions contention and it’s a good game.” back into perhaps the strongest division in the country. Added Holmes: “It could keep one of us in or kick one of us In the new District 11-6A, league schedulers placed the Red out.” Raiders and Lions on Nov. 4, the last day of the schedule — as it As if that wasn’t enough, Lee has a chance to tie the all-time once was. series for the first time.

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The Red Raiders (then the Rebels) lost the first five meetings between the two starting in 1958 and have been playing catch-up ever since, with JT currently holding a 30-29-1 lead. Lee won 12 of 13 from 1999 to 2009 (including two games in 2002 and 2003) to pull within one game of JT in the all-time series. The Red Raiders twice had chances to tie the series while the two were playing as non-district foes for the last six years. Both teams won three of those games played in September, though only one was decided by a touchdown or less. John Tyler’s three wins were all shutouts (17-0 in 2010, 21-0 in 2012, 44-0 in 2013). The 2010 and 2012 wins kept the Red Raiders from tying the series. Lee upset the eventual state semifinalists 39-30 in 2011 and has won the last two in excruciating fashion for the Lions. The 2014 game was the closest in 13 years, a 37-31 Lee win in which the Red Raiders rallied from a 17-3 halftime deficit to stun the No. 1-ranked Lions. But 2015 was perhaps even better for Lee, which won 69-38, the most points ever scored in the rivalry’s 60 meetings. The Lions haven’t forgotten the 2015 loss, which sent them to a 0-3 start. “I remember they embarrassed us and we felt that,” JT senior quarterback Bryson Smith said. “It’s our town; it’s our city. “We don’t really see Lee as a part of Tyler when it comes to football, so at the end of the day we’ve got to bounce back from that and do what they did to us.” Campbell Miller said the Red Raiders understand the Lions will want to avenge last year. “They will be coming after us, but it’s the same way as before,” Miller said. “My sophomore year they were going to win state and we beat them and last year they had our name circled too and we went out there and soundly beat them. “All the talk this year is about how they have all of the athletes and everyone is sleeping on us, but we can play and we can beat them again if we just play our game.” The new phase of the longtime rivalry will begin with a new man in charge at Lee in first-year coach Clayton George. While George didn’t play in the Rose City rivalry like his JT counterpart, he did grow up in nearby Athens and is well aware of the history between the two schools. “I think it’s exciting that you’ve got two schools in the same town who have a lot of tradition in the town,” George said. “Any time that the two teams face each other it’s a big game.” Holmes, meanwhile, was undefeated against Lee during his four years as a player (1994-97). As a head coach, he’s 2-2. “It’s a little bit more important game now like it was when we were playing back in the 90s,” he said. “When we were all in district together that game meant something and now it means something again.” Whether they play in the sweltering September sun, a cool October night or a crisp November day, Robert E. Lee vs. John Tyler (or John Tyler vs. Robert E. Lee) will always mean something. Back in the same district and on the final day of the regular season, it just means so much more.

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ROBERT E. LEE

Quarterback Chance Amie

RED RAIDERS

By CHRIS PARRY // cparry@tylerpaper.com

R

obert E. Lee coach Clayton George has a simple motto that he tells his players: we are going to control what we can control. George wants the Red Raiders to take things one practice at a time and one game at a time with the hopes of winning the first game and making sure they win the last game of their season. That philosophy worked well at his last coaching stop, Southlake Carroll, where George helped turn the Dragons into a perennial power. As an assistant in two separate stints at Carroll, the team won undefeated state championships in 2001 and 2011. “There is a lot of excitement going on right now,” George said. “The kids are working real hard and had a great offseason and spring and it continued through the summer.” That excitement did not impress forecasters at Dave Campbell’s Texas Football or those at Old Coach Friday Night Football. Despite Lee going 5-5 last year to miss out on the playoffs by a tiebreaker,

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both magazines picked Lee to finish last in the new District 11-6A. “We are going to control what we can control,” George said. “I tell our players that we are going to prepare, play physical and protect the football and of the other stuff (like rankings) will take care of itself.” The Red Raiders open the 2016 season against Marshall on August 26 as part of the Christus Trinity Mother Frances Football Classic. It will be Lee’s first regular-season meeting with the Mavericks (REL has scrimmaged Marshall the past three years) since 2001.

OFFENSE Chance Amie was thrust into the limelight a little earlier than planned last year after quarterback Zach Hall suffered a knee injury. Amie lost his first two starts before the sophomore generated a nine-point comeback late in the fourth quarter to defeat Garland


Cornerback Makyle Sanders

Defensive end Campbell Miller

Lakeview Centennial for his first varsity win. Amie returned to the reserve role, once Hall returned healthy. In a little over three games, Amie rushed for 394 yards and six touchdowns and completed 42 of 76 passes for 910 yards and nine touchdowns with only one interception. The junior is the unquestioned starter for the Red Raiders in 2016. “I am just going to try and lead and be an example every time I step on the field,” Amie said. The Red Raiders return three players who started on offense a year ago. George said REL will employ a fast-tempo spread attack in which “things are always moving quickly and trying to get the ball in playmakers’ hands and let them do their thing.” Along with Amie as a returning starter are senior offensive linemen Santos Perez and Davone Morgan. Both suited up all 10 games as juniors, with Perez listed at 6-1, 255 pounds and Morgan at 5-11, 275. At receiver, Keashun Davis possesses 4.5 speed and displayed

that last year on his lone touchdown, a 60-yard house call, which was one of four catches Davis had last season. Junior Rhett Parker also is expected to deliver production out of the slot when not playing outside linebacker on defense and George said he is excited about the potential of Isaiah Davison, who joined the varsity after playing basketball last year. “We throw every day for about an hour and I almost force them to do it because I know we need the work and the reps,” Amie said. “(The more we do it), the easier it is going to come in the game for us, like second nature.” The Red Raiders set a school record a season ago by averaging 44.8 points per game. Amie believes this group can produce more of the same. “A lot of the (big touchdowns) I had last year were broken plays and I just last minute was reacting and throwing it,” Amie said. “I believe if we execute, it can be just like last year.” Thanks to graduation, the entire backfield is new. Sophomore Ladarius Wickware scored 16 touchdowns on the freshman team ETFinalScore.com | East Texas Football Preview

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ROBERT E. LEE RED RAIDERS Coach: Clayton

George

2015 record: 5-5 (4-3) Records since 2011: 1-9, 1-9, 4-6, 5-6, 5-5 Last playoff appearance: 2014 All-time playoff appearances: 18 Returning starters: 3 offense / 3 defense

Defensive end Campbell Miller, quarterback Chance Amie and cornerback Makyle Sanders. and provided a little glimpse of what he could do at the varsity level during the spring game with scoring runs covering 50 and 80 yards.

DEFENSE The numbers from last year read like an episode of American Horror Story: 49.1 points per game allowed; 316 yards passing allowed per game, 241 yards rushing allowed per game — and a massive collapse against Lufkin in which REL squandered a 42-10 halftime lead. “We haven’t thought about or talked about last year’s defense,” REL senior cornerback Makyle Sanders said. Sanders is one of three returning starters from last year’s unit. The 6-2, 185-pound senior finished with 67 tackles and 10 pass breakups a year ago to go with two interceptions. He is joined by defensive linemen Campbell Miller and Nathan Niedrauer. Miller makes the move from linebacker to defensive end after he piled up 60 tackles and forced two fumbles a year ago. Niedrauer, a junior, produced 28 tackles to go with eight quarterback pressures and three sacks. Miller said there is a greater belief on the defensive side of the ball, which was demonstrated early and often during spring practices. “Everybody has the belief that we can be something good,” said Miller, who is a three-year letterman. At linebacker are juniors David Antunez and Rhett Parker, who both saw significant playing time last season as sophomores. Parker (5-10, 180) is penciled in on offense and defense after he totaled 13 tackles with one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries a year ago. Antunez had 12

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12 tackles, with three of those for loss. Miller said he has been “really surprised and pleased” with the emergence of several young cornerbacks to join Sanders. Some of the names of Lee’s secondary include Triston Wesley, Roland Black, Billie Simmons, Marquis Gray and Keyshawn Rivas. “The defense is going to be the X factor for us,” Miller said. “That is what we want to win ball games with.” Sanders pointed to REL being picked last in the district and the defense returning three starters from a unit that underachieved as a chance to surprise. “We just have to prove them wrong,” Sanders said. “It’s going to take a lot of hard work and we have to push each other.”

OUTLOOK Coach George preaches taking one game at a time. He is adamant about his players not looking ahead to Game 2 until they take care of their first opponent. That first opponent is Marshall. “I am excited about our schedule and our focus right now is on August 26th and Marshall,” George said. “Marshall has a good program and had a really good year last year with a lot of guys returning from that playoff team. We are definitely not looking past Week 1.” Marshall is one of three opponents Lee matches up with in non-district that haven’t faced the Red Raiders in 15 years. Lee goes to Corsicana next before returning for Homecoming against Nacogdoches. District 11-6A play begins on the road against Rockwall-Heath, with a date against Longview the next week. It all culminates in the Rose City Rivalry against John Tyler.

Players to watch: QB Chance Amie, WR Keashun Davis, DE Campbell Miller, CB Makyle Sanders What’s new: Besides being back in a district with John Tyler, Longview and Mesquite ISD, Lee is squaring off with Marshall, Nacogdoches and Corsicana for the first time since 2001. That year REL went 3-0 against them. Team strengths: Quarterback, defensive line Mark your calendar: Robert E. Lee vs. John Tyler (Nov. 4): This one is not only for city supremacy, but could determine a playoff spot and overall district finish. Adding a little extra spice, a win by Lee would tie the all-time series in which JT has always held an advantage while the Lions are looking to avoid the series’ first three-game losing streak since 2006-09 when the Red Raiders won four in a row. Schedule: 8/26 vs. Marshall; 9/2 at Corsicana; 9/9 vs. Nacogdoches; 9/16 at Rockwall-Heath*; 9/23 vs. Longview*; 9/30 at Mesquite Horn*; 10/14 at Mesquite; 10/21 vs. Rockwall; 10/28 at North Mesquite*; 11/4 vs. John Tyler*. * — District 116A


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JOHN TYLER

Cornerback Javontavius Mosley

LIONS By TRAVIS YOESTING // tyoesting@tylerpaper.com

F

or six years, John Tyler football thrived as one of the biggest schools in the state’s second-largest classification. Now it’s back to playing with the big boys. The Lions say they’re more than ready. “I love it,” senior Javontavius Mosley said of the school’s move to Class 6A. “It’s going to be better competition than 5A so we’ve got to bring it.”

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John Tyler’s jump to Class 6A is the biggest storyline for a Lions team that returns most of its players from an 8-4 campaign last year in Class 5A. Though JT must replace most of its offensive line and interior defensive line, fifth-year coach Ricklan Holmes has college-bound athletes at almost every position as the Lions prepare to move up in classification for the first time. “Football is football, whether you’re

playing 1A, 2A, 3A, 4A, 5A and now we’re in 6A,” Holmes said. “We’ve been in the highest classification before. It was just 5A then. “The way I look at it, it’s going to be 11 guys going against 11 guys and hopefully my 11 guys are better than the other 11 guys on the other side of the field.” John Tyler went 63-19 in six years at the Class 4A (and later 5A) level, reaching the state semifinals three times and winning


Receiver Damion Miller this leadership that he has embraced last year going into this year ... he’s going to be a mainstay and we just gotta make sure we keep him healthy.” In his first year under center, Smith threw for 2,437 yards and 20 touchdowns while running for 1,441 yards and 21 touchdowns, resulting in an oral commitment to follow Ward to Houston. “It’s special when you get compared to Greg but at the same time I’m my own man and I’m trying to get to him,” Smith said. “I’m just trying to learn what he’s doing and be even better. He’s a great player and I look up to him a lot.” Smith’s top receiving option is back in Damion Miller. The Texas commit led the Lions with 916 yards and nine touchdowns as a junior. Replacing Gross’ team-high 63 receptions will fall on a combination of Michael Givens-Washington, Javontavius Mosley, Joshua Parker, Jerry Young, Ke’Andre Street, Jaivon Williams, Jared Mosley, Victor Campbell and Devlen Woods, who together combined for 31 varsity catches last year. That group helped the Lions’ 7-on-7 team reach the Division I state semifinals during the summer, which Holmes said showed the growth of the team. “It helped us a lot with chemistry and timing,” Smith said. “It helped us come together as a team.” Running the ball will be a pair of junior linebackers in Martrevious Allison and Kiante Stoker. Allison scored six touchdowns and is the team’s secondleading returning rusher behind Smith. The questions on offense will be for those clearing a path for the runners or buying time for Smith to throw. Four of JT’s five linemen graduated and will play in college this fall, with only center Dau’quawn Montgomery returning. The senior will be a three-year starter but with have an all-new crew around him. Players like Jackson Bridges and Trejon Blake bring varsity experience while sophomore Ja’Bralen Yarber is a player Holmes said will be productive not just for the Lions but at the next level as well.

Quarterback Bryson Smith

DEFENSE four district championships. But the Lions are no stranger to the top level, having won their three state championships (1930, 1973, 1994) at the highest classification. They went 12-2 in 2009, their last year in 5A, which is now 6A.

OFFENSE After sporting No. 2 on his jersey last year, quarterback Bryson Smith takes over

the coveted No. 1 jersey worn in recent years by Duntayviun Gross, Jeremy Wilson, Greg Ward and Chris Hackett. Smith has been compared to Ward, the starting quarterback at Houston, for both his running, throwing and leadership abilities. “He’s a special kid,” Holmes said of Smith. “He does special things with the ball in his hands. “He knows how to run the offense. With

Without a doubt the biggest hole for the 2016 Lions to fill will be on the defensive line, where Braylon Jones (Houston) and Pierre Leonard (Texas A&M-Commerce) were a dominant force together for two years. Senior Howard Hawkins will move inside after playing defensive end last year and could line up beside junior Kaylon Douglas. Montgomery may play both ways like Jones did last year. Junior Tobias Marshall led the 2015 team with seven sacks as a defensive end

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JOHN TYLER LIONS Coach: Ricklan

Holmes

2015 record: 8-4 (7-0) Records since 2011: 11-4, 13-2, 7-4, 12-3, 8-4 Last playoff appearance: 2015 All-time playoff appearances: 35 Returning starters: 6 offense / 8 defense Players to watch: QB Bryson Smith, WR Damion Miller, CB/WR Javontavius Mosley, LB Shaundrick Williams, RB/ LB Martrevious Allison What’s new: New district, new classification Team strengths: Skill positions, secondary, linebackers Cornerback Javontavius Mosley, quarterback Bryson Smith and receiver Damion Miller.

but could see playing time inside. Also at end are Dekalen Goodson (six sacks) and Gregorio Guerrero (two sacks) after strong sophomore seasons. Linebacker and secondary will be strengths for the Lions. In the middle, senior Shaundrick Williams and juniors Dewayne Jones and Allison are back at linebacker after the trio combined for 220 tackles. Though safety Bryston Gipson and his team-leading 97 tackles are now at Henderson State, the secondary could be one of the best in the area. Senior corners Javontavius Mosley (60 tackles, two interceptions, 12 pass breakups, UTSA commit) and Kieran Freeman (43 tackles, five interceptions) are back to lock down key receivers while senior Da’Quaylon Kennedy (79 tackles, three interceptions) will be joined by Tyus Grayson at safety. “The only spot that’s maybe questionable ... is our interior linemen but with the spring we had with those guys they’re going to be ready,” Holmes said.

OUTLOOK Despite being in a district with five Dallas-area schools, John Tyler only makes 16

East Texas Football Preview | ETFinalScore.com

the trek to the Metroplex once to play North Mesquite, though the Lions also play at former league foe Ennis in non-district. The other two non-league games are Saturday afternoon affairs. First is the Christus Trinity Mother Frances Football Classic at CTMF Rose Stadium with JT playing Plano West in the season opener and then a Battle on the Border clash with New Orleans Warren Easton at Independence Stadium in Shreveport, Louisiana. Last year JT lost its first three games before reeling off eight straight and Holmes said the Lions can’t afford to do that this year. District play opens at home against Rockwall, the reigning District 11-6A champion having gone 10-4 to reach the 6A quarterfinals last year. League play ends with archrival Robert E. Lee in the season finale. While the road to the 6A playoffs won’t be easy, the Lions showed during the summer state 7-on-7 competition they’ll make it just as hard on the opposition. “We proved that we can play with anybody on any given day,” Smith said. “We just see everybody as the same as us. They put on their pads just like we put on ours. “At the end of the day we still gotta play football and the best team is going to win.”

Mark your calendar: John Tyler vs. Warren Easton (Louisiana), Sept. 10: While the Lions’ annual rivalry game with Robert E. Lee is once again a district clash, the matchup with the oldest public school in New Orleans at the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana, is a rare treat. Schedule: 8/27 vs. Plano West; 9/2 at Ennis; 9/10 vs. Warren Easton in Shreveport, Louisiana; 9/16 vs. Rockwall*; 9/23 at North Mesquite*; 9/30 vs. Mesquite*; 10/14 vs. Rockwall-Heath*; 10/21 at Longview*; 10/28 vs. Mesquite Horn*; 11/4 at Robert E. Lee*. * — District 11-6A


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Running back Jace Evans

All Saints TROJANS By TRAVIS YOESTING // tyoesting@tylerpaper.com

A

ll Saints was expecting a big year in 2015, especially after winning its first two games. When district play rolled around, the Trojans couldn’t get rolling. With Drew Starnes replacing Mike Hall as head coach, All Saints is again eyeing a first playoff berth since 2011. Starnes takes over the Trojans after spending the last three years as an assistant at Bullard. The Trojans lost their final eight games of the season last year, including all seven district contests. Starnes has 15 starters — nine on defense — returning and he’s already noticed a strong desire to change the way last year ended. “I’ve seen quite a bit of dedication,” Starnes said. “The athletes have really bought into what we’re doing and they’re really excited about the upcoming season.” Last year All Saints started the year throwing the ball well, but couldn’t replicate that success consistently enough in league play. This year the Trojans will utilize an option offense similar to that run by Air Force or Navy. Jace Evans is the team’s top returning rusher and Starnes said he’s a premier

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East Texas Football Preview | ETFinalScore.com

back. He’ll be joined in the backfield by fullbacks Ian Hathaway and Ryan Jeong while Wills Greene will be another running back. Colton Cavendar, Tanner Towns and Garrett Brown will be in a three-way competition for quarterback, with Starnes looking for a playmaker and a leader. But it will all start up front with the strong offensive line of Matthew Latta, Grant Perkins, Smith Vickery, Cade Borgeson and Landon Brown. The defense is moving to a 3-4, led by senior safety Noah Bain. The quarterback of the defense is an aggressive safety and the team’s biggest hitter. All-state jumper Nathan Jasper will be a shut down corner. A strong linebacking corps will be made up of Greene, Perkins, Hathaway and Evans while the line will include Landon Brown, Vickery and Borgeson. The key for All Saints, Starnes said, is improving as the season progresses and making sure the Trojans’ best game comes in Week 10 so they can play in Week 11. “I think we have a good group of seniors,” Starnes said. “Our goal is to send them out on top to give them the senior season they’ve always dreamed of.”

ALL SAINTS TROJANS Coach: Drew

Starnes

2015 record: 2-8 (0-7) Last playoff appearance: 2011 All-time playoff appearances: 3 Returning starters: 6 offense / 9 defense Schedule: 8/25 vs. Harmony at Bishop Gorman’s McCallum Stadium; 9/2 vs. West Rusk; 9/9 at Alba-Golden; 9/16 at Cross Roads; 9/23 vs. Bullard Brook Hill*; 9/30 at Dallas Christian*; 10/7 vs. Trinity Christian-Cedar Hill*; 10/14 at Grace Community*; 10/28 vs. Carrollton Prince of Peace*; 11/4 at Bishop Gorman*. * — TAPPS D-II District 2


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Quarterback Christopher Wilhelmi Spitzer at linebacker. With a possibility of a big season, Maddox scheduled a tough non-district slate with games against Waxahachie Life, Canton, Waskom and Malakoff. Those four teams combined for a 39-12 record in 2015. The pre-district meetings will have Grace ready for the TAPPS D-II District 2 opener against reigning league champion and state runner-up Dallas Christian. “It’s the toughest schedule we’ve ever put together,” Maddox said. “From the standpoint of strength or speed, it should prepare us for anybody that we’ll play.”

Grace COUGARS By TRAVIS YOESTING // tyoesting@tylerpaper.com

G

race Community had a busy summer. The Cougars are hoping to parlay that into a big fall. Last year Grace went 10-2, setting a school record for wins. The Cougars outscored opponents by an average of 20.7 points per game, with their two losses coming by a total of five points. Over the summer Grace won the consolation bracket at the state 7-on-7 Division II championships and the TAPPS Lineman Challenge. With 12 starters back in key positions, coach Mike Maddox has the pieces in place for another strong season. Senior quarterback Christopher Wilhelmi returns after throwing for 2,260 yards with a 67 percent completion rate in 2015. He also led the Cougars with 1,300 yards rushing. Grace spreads the ball around and Wilhelmi’s top targets are all back, led by senior Parker Ary who totaled 510 yards on 40 catches. Garrett Tauscher, Zach West, Brady Newman and Caleb Glenney will also be plenty involved in the offense after aiding the 7-on-7 success against UIL schools.

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East Texas Football Preview | ETFinalScore.com

“One of the best benefits of 7-on-7 is being able to polish up your routes and get your timing better,” Maddox said. Last year offensive line was a point of inexperience; this year it’s a point of strength, having helped the Cougars win the lineman challenge. Senior Ronnie Baker, an all-state selection, leads the way and will be joined by Huston Yeatts, Jacob Williams and Luke Crozier. “They’ve worked well this summer in the weight room,” Maddox said. “They went through a lot of the fire last year. This year being more experienced is a good thing.” The defense will be led by Josh Spitzer, a senior linebacker who was named first-team all state after amassing nearly 100 tackles last year. He could also play running back. Defensive tackle Ndukwe Uduma is the only other returning all-district defender after tallying 56 tackles last year. One of the team leaders, he’s putting off ankle surgery to play his senior season. Adam McKinney and Landon Walker will be vital in the secondary while Luke Graham and Jared Gilley line up with

“They went through a lot of the fire last year. This year being more experienced is a good thing.” ~ Coach Mike Maddox GRACE COUGARS Coach: Mike

Maddox

2015 record: 10-2 (6-1) Last playoff appearance: 2015 All-time playoff appearances: 7 Returning starters: 9 offense / 3 defense Schedule: 8/26 vs. Waxahachie Life at Bishop Gorman’s McCallum Stadium; 9/2 at Canton; 9/9 vs. Waskom; 9/16 at Malakoff; 9/23 vs. Dallas Christian*; 9/30 at Trinity Christian-Cedar Hill*; 10/14 vs. All Saints*; 10/21 at Carrollton Prince of Peace*; 10/28 vs. Bishop Gorman; 11/4 at Bullard Brook Hill*. * — TAPPS D-II District 2


Helping Bell break that record could be another Hobbs. Sophomore Tyler Hobbs will be competing with fellow sophomore Jake Smith for the starting quarterback job, tasked with following Michael Goodwin (3,901 total yards last year). Smith completed 6 of 21 passes for 255 yards and three touchdowns while Hobbs caught nine passes for 73 yards in limited action as freshmen. “They’ve been preparing for a long time,” Gipson said. “Their time has come and they’re ready for it.” Ethan Milton is the team’s top returning rusher after going for 431 yards, but for the first time in a few years Gorman’s offensive and defensive lines won’t be loaded with quality and quantity. On the defense, the Crusaders’ secondary is experienced with three returning starters while linebacker Reed Navara is the top returning tackler and one of the team’s leaders. He’ll also have a new role on offense. After anchoring the 4x100-meter relay for the TKG track team in the spring, Navara told Gipson he would be willing to move from tight end to offensive line to help fill in at a spot of need. “He’s just an unselfish young man,” Gipson said. It’s that kind of spirit that Gipson hopes carries Gorman to a third straight winning season for the first time since 1972.

BISHOP GORMAN CRUSADERS Coach: Coby

Gipson

2015 record: 8-3 (5-2) Last playoff appearance: 2015 Receiver Judah Bell

Bishop Gorman

CRUSADERS By TRAVIS YOESTING // tyoesting@tylerpaper.com

B

ishop Gorman graduated 15 starters from last year’s team, including four all-state players and one of the most prolific quarterbacks in Crusaders history. Fortunately for coach Coby Gipson, he’s been here before. Heading into the 2015 season Gorman was dealing with the graduation of 17 seniors but still managed to go 8-3, reaching the playoffs for the second straight year.

Gipson and the Crusaders will hope for a similar response this year with two starters back on offense and four on defense. One of the two offensive players returning could be the best receiver in the district, Judah Bell. Now a senior, Bell had an area-best 14 touchdowns last year. Bell has 2,172 yards in two seasons, putting him 682 yards behind Connor Hobbs (2011-14) for the school’s career receiving record.

All-time playoff appearances: 24 Returning starters: 2 offense / 4 defense Schedule: 8/27 vs. Garrison; 9/2 at White Oak; 9/9 at Ore City; 9/16 at Waskom; 9/23 at Carrollton Prince of Peace*; 10/7 at Bullard Brook Hill*; 10/14 at Dallas Christian*; 10/21 at Trinity Christian-Cedar Hill*; 10/28 at Grace Community*; 11/4 vs. All Saints*. * — District TAPPS D-II District 2

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Receiver Parker Galbraith

Brook Hill

GUARD

By CHRIS PARRY // cparry@tylerpaper.com

T

eams better be in shape when they step on the field this season against Bullard Brook Hill. The Guard’s purpose is for opponents to not be able to catch their breath from the moment the ball is kicked off until the final whistle and handshake. “The officials are going to slow us down, but we are going to go fast and they allow us,” new Brook Hill coach Scott Ryle said. “The kids are fired up for what we are doing and the philosophy I am bringing along. “No matter how fast we go at practice, I tell them we are going too slow. I like to be very aggressive on offense, defense and special teams.” Ryle said the fast-paced style was successful for him at North Cobb Christian School (Kennesaw, Georgia) and before that when he was offensive coordinator at Fort Worth Southwest Christian. The Guard went 4-6 last year and missed the playoffs for the first time since their inaugural season in 2005. The offense begins with senior transfer quarterback Hood Taylor, who helped lead Bullard to the playoffs last season. Ryle credits Taylor with having “a pretty

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East Texas Football Preview | ETFinalScore.com

good arm and he is very fast for us at that position.” His top receiving threat will be senior Parker Galbraith, who finished with 504 yards receiving and four touchdowns last season. “We’ve all been really fired up and ready to go with a new offense and new system,” Galbraith said. “Last year was definitely a letdown. We had a lot of graduated seniors, so we have a new mentality, a new environment.” Ryle said Brook Hill is “very deep” at running back, with three returners and a transfer ready to lead the way. Senior Jordon McGowen was the team’s leading ground gainer along with sophomore Carson Ezell and junior Jermiah McGowen. Brooks Parham, like Taylor, played in the postseason for Bullard and is anxious to make his mark for the Guard. On defense, Ryle is employing a 3-3 stack in which linebackers are stunting from everywhere. The name of the game is pressure on the quarterback, which puts defensive backs Alec Kitt and Galbraith a little bit on an island with single coverage. “They are going to have to come up and make big plays for us,” Ryle said.

BROOK HILL GUARD Coach:

Scott Ryle

2015 record: 4-6 (3-4) Last playoff appearance: 2014 All-time playoff appearances: 6 Returning starters: 9 offense / 8 defense Schedule: 8/27 vs. St. John Paul II (Boca Raton, Fla.), 9/2 at Mount Vernon; 9/9 at Dallas Triple A; 9/16 vs. Katy St. John; 9/23 at All Saints*; 9/30 vs. Prince of Peace*; 10/7 at Bishop Gorman*; 10/28 at Trinity ChristianCedar Hill*; 11/4 vs. Grace Community*. * — TAPPS D-II District 2


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Longview LOBOS

Coach: John

King

2015 Record: 11-3 (6-1)

By CHRIS PARRY // cparry@tylerpaper.com

Last playoff appearance: 2015

ost teams that graduate most of their starting rosters while moving up in classification would not be picked as a favorite to win a district title. Longview is not most teams and whether the Lobos are a Class 4A/5A team or a 5A/6A team, district titles usually follow. Longview has won district championships in 11 of the last 12 years with the lone hiccup in 2012. The Lobos return to District 11-6A, along with Mesquite ISD schools, Rockwall ISD schools, John Tyler and Robert E. Lee. As for the vacancies due to diplomas, Longview will simply reach down into its district champion JV squad and reload. “On paper we return the fewest starters of anybody,” Longview coach John King said. Longview senior tailback D’Crayvan Polk looks to improve upon last season when he rushed for 772 yards and scored seven touchdowns in limited opportunities. Polk is the returning starter but King said

All-time playoff appearances: 41

M

the Lobos “have four or five really good backs to utilize” in their power running game. Also back is 6-3, 300-pound offensive lineman Kendall Starling, who had 136 knockdowns in the process of clearing the way for Polk and others last season. On defense, senior linebacker JaQuavian Faggans returns after he posted 75 tackles and two fumble recoveries with senior Traveion Webster back after the 6-0, 195-pound corner posted 88 tackles and four pass breakups. “Our biggest question mark will be our defensive line,” King said. “Anybody we have this year will be new to the varsity level, but I feel like our secondary will be a strong point.” The newly created District 11-6A brings together six playoff teams from a year ago with only four postseason spots available. “We are just going to have to focus on what we can control and hopefully get hot at the right time and stay healthy through district,” King said.

Lufkin PANTHERS By TRAVIS YOESTING // tyoesting@tylerpaper.com

T

he Lufkin Panthers are back where they (apparently) belong: the state’s highest classification. After two years in 5A due to incorrectly reported numbers, Lufkin returns to its Conroe/Woodlands-based district in 6A. Fortunately for coach Todd Quick and the Panthers, they have plenty of returning playmakers to make the leap to District 12-6A. The offense returns seven starters, including most skill-position players. Quarterback Kordell Rodgers threw for 2,142 yards and 23 touchdowns last year and is also a threat to run the ball. Rodgers was named District 16-5A Offensive Player of the Year in 2015. Top receiving target D’Hailon Phillips is back after a season in which he had 43 catches, 675 yards and six touchdowns. Javante Ellington will give Rodgers another speedster to throw to. The passing game will be balanced by

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LONGVIEW LOBOS

East Texas Football Preview | ETFinalScore.com

running back Kahlil Brown, an all-district second teamer who had eight touchdowns last year. More work is needed on defense where five starters return, two of whom were sophomores last year. Four defensive alldistrict players were among six starters to graduate. Savon Fields was a revelation as a sophomore safety while Quick will expect even bigger things from junior linebacker Isaiah Phillips. The kicking game will be a strength with Rodrigo Molina back to perform kicking and punting duties. The schedule starts with Longview and Nacogdoches before out-of-state teams in Bossier City Parkway (Louisiana) and Monterrey Prep Tech (Mexico). The second game in district will be a barometer of how the Panthers will fare back in 6A as they visit The Woodlands, which won the state 7-on-7 championship in July and has an enrollment twice that of Lufkin.

Returning starters: 2 offense / 2 defense Schedule: 8/26 at Lufkin; 9/2 at Marshall; 9/9 vs. Dallas South Oak Cliff; 9/16 vs. Mesquite Horn*; 9/23 at Robert E. Lee*; 9/30 vs. Rockwall*; 10/14 at North Mesquite*; 10/21 vs. John Tyler*; 10/28 at Rockwall-Heath*; 11/4 vs. Mesquite*. * — District 11-6A

LUFKIN PANTHERS Coach: Todd

Quick

2015 record: 7-4 (6-1) Last playoff appearance: 2015 All-time playoff appearances: 37 Returning starters: 7 offense / 5 defense Schedule: 8/26 vs. Longview; 9/2 at Nacogdoches; 9/10 vs. Bossier City Parkway (Louisiana); 9/16 vs. Monterrey Prep Tech; 9/23 vs. The Woodlands College Park*; 9/30 at The Woodlands*; 10/14 vs. Beaumont West Brook*; 10/21 at Conroe Oak Ridge*; 10/28 vs. Conroe*; 11/4 at Montgomery*. * — District 12-6A


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Quarterback Tanner Roach

Whitehouse WILDCATS By TRAVIS YOESTING // tyoesting@tylerpaper.com

C

oach Adam Cook won’t deny last year wasn’t up to the high standards Whitehouse has set for itself in recent years. “We definitely didn’t perform the way we wanted to,” Cook said. “If we don’t make the playoffs, it’s a disappointing year for us.” But Cook knows the lingering taste in the mouths of 16 returning starters from not winning a district game will only fuel a better season this time around. One positive is the confidence gained from the Wildcats baseball team’s run to the state semifinals, with key players like Patrick Miner and Tanner Roach trading their gloves for shoulder pads. “I know it’s a different sport but winning any type of game gives you a little bit of confidence,” Roach said. “It’ll be hard to be worse than last season but I think we’re striving to be a lot better and make a run this year.” Roach is in the driver’s seat to take over the starting quarterback job after throwing for 1,183 yards last year, though Miner and Jake Clemons will also vie for playing time. Whoever throws it will have plenty of receivers, with four of the top six receivers back including Zach Parker (473 yards), Isaac Little (330), Ashton Melton (247) and

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Roach (126) while sophomore Cameron Cantrell also enters the mix. Parker and Cantrell are younger brothers of Jake and Dylan, respectively, both current Texas Tech receivers. The offensive line is experienced with the likes of Josh Deal and Alex Lawson. Braylon Shackelford and Khyree Key are both running backs who double as linebackers on defense. The defense is switching from a 3-4 to a 4-2-5 under new coordinator Marcus Gold, who Cook said brings a lot of excitement to his side of the ball. In addition to Key and Shackelford, Little will play linebacker. Javier Neal returns as safety and is the team’s leading returning tackler with 58 to go with two interceptions a year ago. Other players to watch on defense include corners Ken’tavian McDade and Kaleb Ford-Dement, safety Connor Clark, tackle Christian Owens and end Nick Parrish. “I think it’s going to be good for us,” Cook said of the 4-2-5. With John Tyler and Lufkin gone from the district, the battles will be as fierce and competitive as ever for the four playoff spots and Whitehouse fully expects to be in the mix.

WHITEHOUSE WILDCATS Coach: Adam

Cook

2015 record: 2-8 (0-7) Last playoff appearance: 2013 All-time playoff appearances: 12 Returning starters: 7 offense / 9 defense Schedule: 8/26 vs. Hallsville; 9/2 vs. Chapel Hill; 9/9 at Carthage; 9/16 at Sulphur Springs; 9/23 vs. Kennedale; 10/7 at Ennis*; 10/14 vs. Jacksonville*; 10/21 at Nacogdoches*; 10/28 vs. Corsicana*; 11/4 at Lindale*. * — District 17-5A


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Lindale's Stephen Clemmons Photo by Victor Texcucano

Lindale EAGLES By CHRIS PARRY // cparry@tylerpaper.com

I

n 2015, the Lindale Eagles gave new meaning to the phrase: 10 points or less. Lindale lost six games by a combined 24 points. A 10-point loss to John Tyler in which Lindale led in the second half; heartbreakers to Lufkin and Nacogdoches by one point apiece; four-point setbacks to Ennis and Carthage — and finally Marshall in the first round of the playoffs. Lindale completed its season at 5-6. The Eagles are back and anxious to build on last season’s successes and have another chance to avenge their missed chances. Well, Lindale will be able to avenge some of their losses. Both John Tyler and Lufkin moved up in class and Carthage is not on the schedule. The Eagles return more on defense than offense, which is fitting because Lindale has become a defensive stalwart. In this era of pass-happy, high-scoring offenses the Eagles must contend with week after week, Lindale has been up for the challenge. Despite matching up with some of the most high-powered attacks around (John Tyler, Marshall), the Eagles surrendered a meager 20.8 points per game. The stop unit is led by returning alldistrict first-team defensive lineman

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East Texas Football Preview | ETFinalScore.com

Terrell Cooper. Last season, Cooper was a force with 74 tackles, seven for loss, including five sacks. The 6-3, 245-pound lineman is undecided despite being sought after by colleges with offers already from Memphis, Texas State and Arkansas State. “Defense is what gets the offense going,” said Cooper, who admits the biggest challenge will be getting the newcomers to Lindale’s defense up to speed. Just behind Cooper at linebacker is another veteran of the wars, senior fouryear starter Kale Ridge. An all-district first teamer a year ago, Ridge finished with 77 tackles, six of those for loss. The offense will look to improve as the Eagles averaged 24 points per game and never scored more than 28 in any game. Senior quarterback Montana Meador is an experienced starter, who passed for 1,649 yards and 11 touchdowns last year. Junior tight end Cameron Sir Louis was an all-district first teamer a year ago. The Eagles will have to replace their top receiver and running back, who graduated. The district Lindale faces is exactly the same, save for JT and Lufkin. The Eagles open at home against Nacogdoches and, if all goes according to plan, could play for a district title at home in November against Whitehouse.

Defensive end Terrell Cooper

LINDALE EAGLES Coach: Mike

Meador

2015 record: 5-6 (3-4) Last playoff appearance: 2015 All-time playoff appearances: 18 Returning starters: 3 offense / 5 defense Schedule: 8/26 vs. Kaufman; 9/2 at Forney; 9/9 at Van; 9/16 at Terrell; 9/23 vs. Gladewater; 10/7 vs. Nacogdoches*; 10/14 at Ennis*; 10/21 vs. Corsicana*; 10/28 at Jacksonville*; 11/4 vs. Whitehouse*. * — District 17-5A


Jacksonville INDIANS

JACKSONVILLE INDIANS Coach: Wayne

2015 record: 2-8 (1-6) Last playoff appearance: 2012

By TRAVIS YOESTING // tyoesting@tylerpaper.com

I

t’s been five seasons since Jacksonville had a winning campaign. With coach Wayne Coleman now in his second year and stud quarterback Cameron High back to man the offense, the Indians are hoping to trend back onto the right side of the win column. High, a 5-9, 158-pound senior, was a nightmare to tackle for opposing defenses. He ran for 1,510 yards and 15 touchdowns to go with 795 yards and 13 scores through the air. Vadall Johnson gives High a running partner after going for nearly 800 yards last year. Taquaelon Thompson is a sophomore running back to watch out for. The offense will run behind the stout 6-4, 280-pound Jadarius Blake as well as senior Justin Crowe and junior Sergio Cabrerra. High will hope to improve his passing game after he was picked off nine times. Receivers Tre Waggoner and Cameron

Coleman

Franklin will be just the guys to help him out, with Jaeshun Bush and Will Garland also being called upon to aid the air attack. Linebacker Josh McDowell is one of the team’s leading returning tacklers, having made 59 stops last year. He’ll line up alongside DeMontre Christopher in the middle of the defense. Up front, Zandrik Morrow is a returning all-district player having tallied 54 tackles and five sacks as a junior. The defensive backfield will include Braylon Riden, Brayden Horn, Dehavion Spencer and Izayah Mayfield. Juan Nunez will help out in the battle for field position after he was named firstteam all-district punter as a junior. The Indians had one district win during their 2-8 season but they know one more league win could put them in the playoffs in the six-team District 17-5A. Jacksonville's expectations for a turn-around year will be the same as its quarterback: High.

All-time playoff appearances: 25 Returning starters: 7 offense / 5 defense Schedule: 8/26 at Pine Tree; 9/2 vs. Palestine; 9/9 vs. Hallsville; 9/16 at Mount Pleasant; 9/24 vs. Alvarado; 10/7 vs. Corsicana*; 10/14 at Whitehouse*; 10-21 vs. Ennis*; 10/28 vs. Lindale*; 11/4 at Nacogdoches*. * — District 17-5A

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Nacogdoches DRAGONS By TRAVIS YOESTING // tyoesting@tylerpaper.com

N

acogdoches took a step back in 2015, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2012, coach Bobby Reyes’ first year in charge. With 16 starters back, including nine on offense, the Dragons are looking for another step forward in 2016. Nacogdoches finished in a three-way tie for fourth in the District 16-5A standings last year but lost out to Lindale for the final playoff spot. This year with John Tyler and Lufkin out of the district, the competition for that final spot will be even more heated among the six schools in District 17-5A. The Dragons have some big-time players to replace like Brandon Jones (Texas), Corey Lane (Trinity Valley CC) and Alex Gregory (Stephen F. Austin), but Josh Thompson and Jaylon Maxie are just the guys to help fill the void. Thompson (6-0, 182 pounds) has given an oral commitment to TCU, one of his 23 college offers. The defensive back who also

plays receiver, had 33 tackles, nine pass breakups and two interceptions last year. Maxie, a safety and receiver, ran for 293 yards and three touchdowns last year. Both Thompson and Maxie were on the Dragons’ successful 4x100-meter relay team along with Gregory and Jones. The other skill positions are well-spoken for, with quarterback Noah Hildebrand (1,693 yards, 16 TDs) and running back Phillip Jones (1,274 yards, 10 TDs) both back after first-team all-district seasons. Kicker Chris Campos-Gonzales will only improve after drilling 7 of 8 field goals as a freshman. Defensively, linebacker Derrick Wright, tackle Ben Gibbs (42 tackles) and lineman Brad Phillips (50 tackles, five sacks) will join Thompson and Maxie on what should be another strong unit. Reyes scheduled a challenging nondistrict slate that includes Class 6A schools Lufkin and Robert E. Lee as well as perennial powers in 4A Kilgore and Gilmer.

Hallsville BOBCATS By TRAVIS YOESTING // tyoesting@tylerpaper.com

H

allsville has been a team of impressive consistency under coach David Plunk. From 2005 to 2015, the Bobcats accumulated a record of 59-58, reaching the playoffs six times. However 2015 was the first time since 2003 Hallsville won a playoff game and Plunk’s crew did so by knocking off defending state champion Ennis. Though the Bobcats ultimately fell to Lancaster in the next round, they’ll be hoping to build off their taste of playoff success. To do so, Hallsville will look to rely on a defense that returns seven starters from a middle-of-the-pack unit that allowed 27.6 points per game. Four of those starters lost from defense were all-district selections but five alldistrict defenders are back, including senior linebackers James Nelson and Blair Fernandez. Nelson and Fernandez were both firstteam selections on defense after amassing 107 tackles apiece. Nelson added 11

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East Texas Football Preview | ETFinalScore.com

tackles for loss while Fernandez had five quarterback hurries. The secondary features two second-team all-district players in corner Tyree Davis and safety Ty Meissner. The speedy Davis made 71 tackles and six pass breakups last year while Meissner was also an all-district punt returner. The offense must replace eight starters, including quarterback Roger McCuller and standout offensive lineman Parker Braun (Georgia Tech). Senior Payton McGarvey will take the reins of the offense and will be pleased to have Josh Taylor to hand the ball off to and Chris Kuler will be McGarvey’s top receiving target. Taylor averaged 6.1 yards per carry on 92 touches at running back as a sophomore to be named the district’s Offensive Newcomer of the Year. Replacing Braun won’t be easy but Hallsville can make do with linemen like Slade Brown, Blake Trainor, Colton Shriver and Andrew Greear.

NACOGDOCHES DRAGONS Coach:

Bobby Reyes

2015 record: 4-6 (3-4) Last playoff appearance: 2014 All-time playoff appearances: 11 Returning starters: 9 offense / 7 defense Schedule: 8/26 vs. Kilgore; 9/2 vs. Lufkin; 9/9 at Robert E. Lee; 9/16 at Hallsville; 9/23 vs. Gilmer; 10/7 at Lindale*; 10/14 at Corsicana*; 10/21 vs. Whitehouse*; 10/28 at Ennis*; 11/4 vs. Jacksonville*. * — District 17-5A

HALLSVILLE BOBCATS Coach: David

Plunk

2015 record: 7-5 (4-3) Last playoff appearance: 2015 All-time playoff appearances: 19 Returning starters: 3 offense / 7 defense Schedule: 8/26 at Whitehouse; 9/2 vs. Wylie East; 9/9 at Jacksonville; 9/16 vs. Nacogdoches; 9/23 vs. Mount Pleasant*; 9/30 at Greenville*; 10/14 vs. Pine Tree*; 10/21 at Marshall*; 10/28 vs. Texas High*; 11/4 at Sulphur Springs*. * — District 16-5A


Pine Tree PIRATES By CHRIS PARRY // cparry@tylerpaper.com

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he Pine Tree Pirates welcomed Kerry Lane as their new head coach in early July. Lane is Pine Tree’s fifth head coach since

2010. The Pirates haven’t had a coach stay longer than two years since Tim Russell (now at Harmony), who departed in 2008 after five seasons. Lane was the passing coordinator and wide receivers coach at Gilmer the past four seasons. Gilmer quarterbacks passed for 3,199 (2015), 4,703 (2014), 3,579 (2013) and 3,035 (2012). Lane was part of a state championship in 2014. He turns his attention to a Pine Tree offense that was balanced a year ago with quarterback Daniel Bonamy (now graduated) throwing for 1,802 yards and the Pirates rushing for 1,656 yards. However the touchdowns did not match the yardage with Pine Tree scoring 25 points per game, having been held to 14 or less three times.

Pine Tree went 4-6 and its head coach moved on. Pirates fans hope Lane will put together the success he was able to help achieve at Gilmer. Senior running back Maliq Owens earned second-team all-district honors a year ago after rushing for 908 yards and scoring eight touchdowns. Fullback Shaffer Russell scored nine touchdowns a year ago on 35 carries. Russell should be a threat in the passing game for whoever steps in as quarterback. He led the Pirates with 39 catches for 414 yards and three touchdowns. Sophomore Trey Pruitt finished with 18 grabs for 288 yards and three touchdowns. On defense, Pine Tree lost top tacklers to graduation. Leading a relatively inexperienced unit will be juniors Logan Spann and Gary Wiley. Spann finished with 23 tackles and one sack while Wiley had 44 tackles and two forced fumbles.

Marshall MAVERICKS

PINE TREE PIRATES Coach: Kerry

Lane

2015 record: 4-6 (3-4) Last playoff appearance: 2001 All-time playoff appearances: 7 Returning starters: 5 offense / 5 defense Schedule: 8/26 vs. Jacksonville; 9/2 at Pittsburg; 9/9 vs. Kilgore; 9/16 at Henderson; 9/23 vs. Sulphur Springs*; 9/30 at Mount Pleasant*; 10/7 vs. Greenville*; 10/14 at Hallsville*; 10/28 vs. Marshall*; 11/4 at Texas High*. * — District 16-5A

MARSHALL MAVERICKS Coach: Clint

Harper

2015 record: 11-2 (6-1)

By CHRIS PARRY // cparry@tylerpaper.com

Last playoff appearance: 2015

ny lingering questions about the Marshall Mavericks being back in the perennial contender category were answered in 2015. And they were answered with emphasis. Marshall snapped a 15-year drought of defeating rival Longview as part of an historic season in which the Mavericks went to the regional semifinals while garnering a share of a 19th district title. The Mavericks outscored opponents 500-244, averaging 38.4 points per game. The 11 wins were the most for Marshall since reaching the state championship in back-to-back seasons in 2004 and ’05. Just two years after a 3-8 record in his first year in charge, Marshall coach Clint Harper has the team trending upward. The Mavericks return 12 starters off that team, the majority of which play defense. Defensive Newcomer of the Year Tre Macon burst onto the varsity scene last year as a sophomore with the linebacker racking up 100 tackles to go with three interceptions.

All-time playoff appearances: 28

A

Also back for a unit that allowed just 18.7 points per game are senior defensive lineman Greg Hood, junior safety Corteze Hurd, junior defensive lineman Marje Smith and senior linebacker Sheldon Williams — all of whom were either all-district first or second team last season. The offense begins and ends with senior running back Cam Haller. The 15-5A Most Valuable Player a year ago, Haller is committed to Texas A&M for baseball but wants to do more damage on the gridiron. Haller rushed for 26 touchdowns and threw for 10 after switching to quarterback late in the year. All told, he rushed for 1,815 yards and passed for 765 yards. Penciled in at quarterback is Hunter Herrington, who will try to fill the shoes vacated by now-graduated Justin Hart, whose season was cut short by injury. The Mavericks no longer have Longview to threaten their district supremacy, but still have to contend with Texas High and Hallsville.

Returning starters: 4 offense / 8 defense Schedule: 8/26 at Robert E. Lee; 9/2 vs. Longview; 9/9 at Ouachita Parish (Monroe, La.); 9/16 vs. Corsicana; 9/23 vs. Texas High*; 9/30 at Sulphur Springs*; 10/7 vs. Mount Pleasant*; 10/14 at Greenville*; 10/21 vs. Hallsville*; 10/28 at Pine Tree*. * — District 16-5A

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Receiver Jamal Bell

Brownsboro BEARS By JOE HALE // Sports Correspondent

B

rownsboro enjoyed a turnaround season a year ago under secondyear coach Jason Hooker, going 5-5 overall and qualifying for the postseason for the first time since 2010. Realignment earlier this year moved the Bears from District 9-4A Division I where they finished fourth to 7-4A Division I with opponents Terrell, Kaufman, Van, Athens, Crandall and Mabank. Five of those six also qualified for the postseason in 2015. Hooker welcomes 16 returning lettermen. Of those are four offensive and nine defensive starters. Players to watch returning from last year include athlete Jamal Bell (6-0, 165), defensive end Kenneth Woods, running back/linebacker Kevon Thompson, offensive lineman Clayton Orr and defensive lineman Austin Fout. Bell, a senior, will move from receiver to quarterback as he replaces Tamrick Pace. As a receiver, Bell had 37 receptions for 720 yards and nine touchdowns, earning first-team all-district honors. In limited playing time at quarterback a year ago, Bell completed 3 of 12 passes for 83 yards and a touchdown, adding 64 yards

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East Texas Football Preview | ETFinalScore.com

BROWNSBORO BEARS rushing. On defense, Woods, a junior, got a little taste of varsity action as a sophomore and was credited with 31 tackles, a caused fumble and a fumble recovery. Thompson returns after rushing for 710 yards. Joining Orr on the offensive and defensive lines will be Stephen Whittle and Trey Ledbetter, while other defenders the Bears will count on for leadership will be linemen Phillip Smith and Emory Atkins and linebackers George Losack and sophomore Hunter Brackett. Orr was credited with 37 tackles and an interception while Darren Elder returns after being credited with 49 tackles and two sacks as a junior. Other top sophomores, who will be counted on to contribute are Izik Boykin, Saul Williams and Seth Rozell. “A strength will be having nine returning starters on defense back from last year’s playoff team, coming out of a tough district,” Hooker said. The coach said he believes developing consistent play along the offensive line and at quarterback will be areas the Bears need to address to be competitive once play-for-keeps begins.

Coach: Jason

Hooker

2015 record: 5-6 (3-2) Last playoff appearance: 2015 All-time playoff appearances: 21 Returning starters: 4 offense / 9 defense

Schedule: 8/26 at Canton; 9/2 vs.

Longview Spring Hill; 9/9 at Bullard; 9/16 vs. Mineola; 9/30 vs. Mabank*; 10/7 at Van*; 10/14 vs. Kaufman*; 10/21 at Terrell*; 10/28 vs. Crandall*; 11/4 at Athens*. — * District 8-4A, Division I


Van VANDALS

VAN VANDALS Coach: Jared

2015 record: 6-5 (2-3) Last playoff appearance: 2015

By JOE HALE // Sports Correspondent

V

an coach Jared Moffatt referred to the 2015 season as “a good but tough one” for his Vandals, who made the playoffs for the eighth year in a row before falling to LibertyEylau 48-41 in bi-district to finish with a 6-5 record. Four of those five losses were by seven points or less. Looking at losses to graduation last spring, the 2016 season won’t be easy but it’s one the Vandals are looking forward to. Aphonso Thomas, a four-year starter at running back, is now at SMU and will be hard to replace, as will finding replacements for four offensive linemen and a wide receiver to step in for the departed Kendrick Jones. Van’s spread offense returns three starters. Those are quarterback Garrett Moseley, the district Newcomer of the Year in 2015, receiver Isiah Allred, a first-team all-district selection, and center Caleb York, a second-team all-district selection.

Moffatt

Moseley, who became the every-down guy under center in Week 3, threw for 1,300 yards and 14 touchdowns with four interceptions and ran for 900 yards and 10 touchdowns as a sophomore. Allred (6-3, 185) had 27 receptions for 391 yards and six touchdowns as a junior. Wide receivers for the coaching staff to choose from should come from the likes of Trey Lovette, Holden Myers and Bray Doring. Among those vying for running back are Cooper, Bledsoe and Brax Thompson. Eight starters return on defense. Bledsoe is a three-year starter and was the leading tackler last season at free safety with 156 tackles. Connor Houston, Zeke Betancourt and D.J. Dutton return with experience at the corners. Linebacker Sam Reeves completed the season on a high note, playing what Moffatt said was his best football at the end of the season.

All-time playoff appearances: 28 Returning starters: 3 offense / 7 defense Schedule: 8/26 at Mineola; 9/2 vs. Princeton; 9/9 vs. Lindale; 9/16 at Palestine; 9/23 vs. Crandall*; 9/30 at Athens*; 10/7 vs. Brownsboro*; 10/14 at Mabank*; 10/28 vs. Kaufman*; 11/4 at Terrell*. * — District 8-4A Division I

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Linebacker Maalik Hall quarterback pressures, a caused fumble and a fumble recovery. Inside linebacker Noah Bush (6-2, 230) is back after he was voted Henderson County’s Defensive Player of the Year. Bush finished with 120 tackles, six quarterback pressures and an interception. Over the last two seasons, Bush has 264 tackles as a disruptive force for opposing offenses. Other top defensive returnees include nose guard Ross Boyd, defensive tackle Shemar Willis, defensive end Jacob Ickes, cornerback Xavius Fulton, linebacker Taylor Carson and safety Kamion Tanner. Among players to watch will be outside linebacker Victor Dawson, offensive lineman Jacob Moore and running back Bray Woods. Essary said he expects Fulton (5-10, 170), a second-team all-district selection in the secondary a year ago, to step into the vacancy under center. “I really look for Xavius to be our QB,” Essary said. “He started last year as a sophomore and did really well in the secondary.” The district made up of Kaufman, Crandall and long-time rival Van, along with Mabank and the additions of Terrell and improving Brownsboro will be a grind every week. Five of the six (all but Mabank) reached the playoffs in 2015.

ATHENS HORNETS Coach: Paul

Essary

2015 record: 8-4 (4-1) Last playoff appearance: 2015

Athens HORNETS

By JOE HALE // Sports Correspondent

A

thens reached the postseason for the sixth time in seven seasons a year ago and looks to stretch its streak as the 2016 season kicks

off. Coach Paul Essary is hopeful this year’s Hornets are ready to continue the winning tradition returning two offensive starters and nine on defense from last year’s 8-4 team that went two rounds deep in the playoffs.

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Returning starters on offense are fullback Maalik Hall (6-0, 190) and offensive lineman Alfredo Miranda (5-10, 255). Hall was named to the all-state third team at fullback after he rushed for 312 yards and a touchdown. Miranda will be asked to anchor the O-line. Hall is also a standout at outside linebacker where he earned first-team accolades after totaling 58 tackles, three

All-time playoff appearances: 24 Returning starters: 2 offense / 9 defense Schedule: 8/26 at Mexia; 9/2 at Fairfield; 9/9 vs. Red Oak; 9/16 vs. Waco Robinson; 9/23 at Mabank*; 9/30 vs. Van*; 10/7 at Kaufman*; 10/14 vs. Terrell*; 10/21 at Crandall*; 11/4 vs. Brownsboro*. * — District 8-4A Division I


Henderson LIONS

HENDERSON LIONS Coach: Phil

2015 record: 7-3 (2-3) Last playoff appearance: 2014

By JOE HALE // Sports Correspondent

J

ust one season after reaching the regional finals against eventual state champion Navasota, Henderson went 7-3 and missed a return trip to the playoffs. That’s life in Class 4A’s District of Doom. Realignment did not provide much respite. Six of the seven schools in District 9-4A Division I were playoff teams a year ago. It’s just another challenge for Lions coach Phil Castles and his staff. “This is Henderson, you reload rather than rebuild,” Castles said. The Lions will do that with 28 lettermen returning including seven starters on offense and six on defense. “It’s a challenge, but one we enjoy,” said Castles, who begins his fourth season at the school. Under center, senior Matthew Childers and junior Trae Hall should be the frontrunners for the position. Childers rushed for 956 yards and 16 touchdowns and

passed for 558 yards (33 of 72) and four scores last season while Hall rushed for 164 yards and two touchdowns and completed 24 of 36 passes for 359 yards and three touchdowns. Other offensive standouts include senior running back La’Kendrick VanZandt, who rushed for 511 yards and six touchdowns, and junior Lynn Freeney (322 yards rushing, 6 TDs), as well as Trestan Ebner, a playmaking receiver who along with VanZandt committed to TCU in June. As a junior, Ebner caught 14 passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns, rushed for 280 yards and four TDs on 20 carries to go with two interceptions, had five kickoff returns for 85 yards and two punt returns for 59 yards. Other returnees are offensive linemen Raini Dorman, Weston Thomas, Trenton Thomas and Carlos Davila and defensive linemen Nathan Boutin and Jason Henson and receiver/defensive back Treylun Blanton.

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All-time playoff appearances: 21 Returning starters: 7 offense / 6 defense Schedule: 8/26 vs. Atlanta; 9/2 at Tatum; 9/9 at Pittsburg; 9/16 vs. Pine Tree; 9/23 vs. Chapel Hill*; 9/30 at Carthage*; 10/14 vs. Kilgore*; 10/21 at Center*; 10/28 vs. Bullard*; 11/4 at Palestine*. * — District 9-4A Division I

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Linebacker Ladarian Hudson

Chapel Hill BULLDOGS CHAPEL HILL BULLDOGS

By JOE HALE // Sports Correspondent

C

hapel Hill looks to improve on a three-win season a year ago. As disappointing as that was, the Bulldogs eked out a 28-27 decision over Henderson to qualify for the fourth playoff berth in District 9-4A Division I, reaching the postseason for the fourth time since winning the Class 3A Division I championship in 2011. Beginning his seventh season at the helm of Chapel Hill football, coach Thomas Sitton welcomes 16 returning lettermen, but only two offensive and four defensive starters. “We’re going to need to work on all phases of the game to improve,” Sitton said, even though he said he’s encouraged by the toughness, work ethic and teamwork his charges displayed during the offseason. The Bulldogs were hurt by injuries to key players early in the season and never completely recovered in 2015. Offensively, finding a quarterback to replace Konnor Hitchcock as well as a running back to step in and fill Ja’Braylon Franklin’s shoes and capable receivers and offensive linemen to join junior Jose Arreguin are priorities.

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East Texas Football Preview | ETFinalScore.com

Senior Adrian Miner (38-247, 1 TD), Ladarian Hudson and Hunter Branin at running back, along with fullback Blake Harris should get good looks, while senior Jaylon Redwine (9-159, 2 TDs) is the top returning receiver. Defensively, free safety Hudson will anchor a 3-4 look. Last season Hudson amassed 77 tackles (8 TFLs) four sacks, a fumble recovery and an interception while outside linebackers Kaleb Golden (50, 3 TFLs, 1 sack) and Cale Caruthers (86, 4 TFLs, 1 FC) and down lineman Decorian Horton (42 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 sacks) also contributed. Jaden Mayfield in the secondary, linebacker Jordan Williams and linemen Marquis Massenburge and Greg Roquemore will be given every opportunity to move into a starting role on defense. The addition of Center and Bullard — both playoff teams from a year ago — to the district with realignment won’t make reaching the playoffs any easier for anybody in what was already one of the most competitive 4A districts in the state.

Coach: Thomas

Sitton

2015 record: 3-8 (2-3) Last playoff appearance: 2015 All-time playoff appearances: 14 Returning starters: 2 offense / 4 defense Schedule: 8/26 vs. Wills Point; 9/2 vs. Whitehouse @ TMF Rose Stadium; 9/9 vs. Tatum; 9/16 at Gladewater; 9/23 at Henderson*; 9/30 vs. Kilgore*; 10/7 at Center*; 10/14 vs. Bullard*; 10/21 at Palestine*; 11/4 vs. Carthage*. * — District 9-4A Division 1


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and quarterback Cleet Bowman on offense. Returning defensively are defensive end Derek Landrum, linebackers Donovan Yeley and Thomas Brooks along with D’Juan Martin, Ty Crayton and Tre Crayton from the secondary. Other prospects to watch will be quarterback Landry Lasseter, offensive linemen Weston Roach, Andrew Brooks, John Campbell and Kelton Meshell, running backs Austin Davis, Cade Duvak and Brody Mullican on offense along with defensive lineman Dakota Walsworth, linebacker Austin David and defensive backs Joey Padrucco and Greyson Priestner on defense. Tennison, at 6-6, 248 pounds, is receiving attention from Alabama, Texas, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, SMU and Texas Tech. The talented tight end finished with 27 catches for 603 yards and eight touchdowns last season as a junior. Cleet Bowman, who took over at midseason a year ago, completed 62 of 114 passes for 1,153 yards and 16 touchdowns with one interception. Senior Tre Crayton and junior Luke Bowman should get the majority of work at running back, at least early in the season. Brooks returns after a season of making 95 tackles. Martin led in interceptions with three. Wilson said he believes the strengths of this year’s club are overall strength and attitude.

BULLARD PANTHERS Coach: Shannon Tight end Major Tennison

Bullard PANTHERS By JOE HALE // Sports Correspondent

B

ullard has put together back-toback seven-win seasons and trips to the playoffs. Under coach Shannon Wilson, beginning his seventh season at the helm, the Panthers would certainly like to take the next step, but doing so from District 9-4A Division I with the likes of Carthage, Henderson, Kilgore and Chapel Hill won’t be easy. “It’s a challenge, but it always is,” Wilson said the morning the latest realignment was revealed.

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The cupboard certainly isn’t bare at Bullard. The 2016 Panthers return 18 lettermen, including six offensive and eight defensive starters from the team that finished as the runner-up to Gilmer in 5-4A Division II. The 2015 season ended a bit prematurely for Bullard fans with the Panthers falling to Atlanta in bi-district. Returning starters for the Panthers include offensive lineman Austin Childs, running back Jake Johnson, linebacker/ running back Luke Bowman, tight end Major Tennison, receiver Colton Bowman

Wilson

2015 record: 7-4 (4-1) Last playoff appearance: 2015 All-time playoff appearances: 7 Returning starters: 6 offense / 8 defense

Schedule: 8/26 at Malakoff; 9/2 vs.

Groesbeck; 9/9 vs. Brownsboro; 9/16 at Commerce; 9/23 at Center*; 10/7 vs. Palestine*; 10/14 at Chapel Hill*; 10/21 vs. Carthage*; 10/28 at Henderson*; 11/4 vs. Kilgore*. * — District 9-4A Division I


Palestine WILDCATS By JOE HALE // Sports Correspondent

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here’s reason for optimism about the coming football season, if you’re a Palestine Wildcat fan. The ’Cats return a bevy of players (21), including 15 starters from last year’s 1-9 team, the first under coach Robby Clark. Clark, beginning his second season at the helm, said he believes the experience and development inside the program of his young roster a year ago should begin to prove beneficial. Palestine returns nine offensive starters and six on defense to kick off the 2016 campaign. “We’re working hard and we’re going to have a number of players back and that should be beneficial,” Clark said. The Wildcats’ football misfortunes of late include back-to-back 1-9 records. “We’ve certainly got areas in which we need to continue to work and improve,” Clark said. “Among those are offense, defense and special teams.” Top returnees are running back Irric Deyon, receiver/defensive back Jhamonte Milton, linebackers Edward Reese and Roderick Deyon, linemen Jake Neal and

Waylon Nickerson, quarterback Claude Rodgers and receiver/defensive back Tyler Gray. Irric Deyon, a senior, returns after rushing for 284 yards on 73 carries. He averaged more than 10 yards per reception with seven catches for 77 yards and three touchdowns while Rodgers, also a senior, rushed for 441 yards and two touchdowns. Milton was an all-district first-team selection at receiver. Defensively, the top returning tacklers are juniors Reese and Roderick Deyon. Reese was credited with 64 stops and eight tackles for losses while Deyon’s totals were 78 tackles, two sacks and seven tackles for losses. The ’Cats play a non-district schedule of road games at Mabank and Jacksonville and a couple of challenges at Wildcat Stadium from Fairfield and Van before kicking off District 9-4A Division I action against Kilgore on Sept. 23.

Kilgore BULLDOGS By JOE HALE // Sports Correspondent

K

ilgore equaled its 2014 win total of four games in the opening week of District 9-4A Division I play last season. The Bulldogs stretched their consecutive win streak to seven while capturing a share of the district championship before winning one of two playoff games. Coach Mike Wood, who is beginning his sixth season and Bulldog fans want to build on the success. With eight returning starters on offense — including junior quarterback Buddy Jackson — and five on defense, there’s cause for optimism. “We’ve got some questions and some holes to fill, especially on defense and our depth on that side of the football,” Wood said. “But we’re going to work hard to see what happens.” Realignment traded one playoff team (Brownsboro) for two (Center and Bullard). It makes rough-and-tumble District 9-4A Division I even tougher. Wood welcomes back Jackson, who

stepped up as a sophomore quarterback running the pistol option for 924 yards and passing for 689 yards and eight touchdowns, as well as receivers Cole Wood (13-138, 1 TD) and Jonathan Shepherd, with Jackson Hatcher, Dylan Scarlett, Austin Adams, Braden Honzell and McKinnon White across the line. Replacing JaQuorius Smith in the backfield is expected to be Melek Hamilton, who rushed for 459 yards and four touchdowns a year ago as a junior. Projected starters in a 4-2-5 defensive scheme include tackle Kevin Tinney, end Marquis Jackson, linebackers Ty Wallace and Isaiah Smith along with Mateo Meraz and Terrell Shelton in the secondary. Wallace recorded 106 tackles (3 for loss), two sacks and two caused fumbles. Smith finished with 81 stops (12 for loss) and a sack. Meraz led the secondary with 80 tackles and five interceptions. Shelton added 45 tackles and Tinney 38, including five tackles for loss and four sacks.

PALESTINE WILDCATS Coach: Robby

Clark

2014 record: 1-9 (0-5) Last playoff appearance: 2013 All-time playoff appearances: 16 Returning starters: 9 offense / 6 defense Schedule: 8/26 at Mabank; 9/2 at Jacksonville; 9/9 vs. Fairfield; 9/16 vs. Van; 9/23 at Kilgore*; 9/30 vs. Center*; 10/7 at Bullard*; 10/21 vs. Chapel Hill*; 10/28 at Carthage*; 11/4 vs. Henderson*. * — District 9-4A Division I

KILGORE BULLDOGS Coach: Mike

Wood

2015 record: 8-4 (4-1) Last playoff appearance: 2015 All-time playoff appearances: 28 Returning starters: 8 offense / 5 defense Schedule: 8/26 at Nacogdoches; 9/2 vs. Gladewater; 9/9 at Pine Tree; 9/16 vs. Texas High; 9/23 vs. Palestine*; 9/30 at Chapel Hill*; 10/7 vs. Carthage*; 10/14 at Henderson*; 10/28 vs. Center*; 11/2 at Bullard*. — * District 9-4A Division I

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Canton EAGLES By JOE HALE // Sports Correspondent

T

he Canton Eagles enter as a strong preseason contender for the district title thanks to the return of several skill players from an area-round playoff team — led by senior quarterback Hunter Moore. Canton went 3-2 in district play a year ago with losses to Gilmer and Bullard, both fellow playoff teams. The Eagles then posted a bi-district win over Gladewater before falling short to Lorena, 35-28. Moore was a first-team all-district quarterback last season after he passed for 2,112 yards and rushed for 812 yards with 33 total touchdowns. Receiver Zach Brown is back after garnering first-team league honors with 700 yards and five touchdowns. On the offensive line, senior Kyle Adams was an all-district second teamer a year ago. He is joined by returning starters Ivan Nelson and Robert Riley. The Eagles boasted one of the more consistent offenses in the area, scoring 21

points or more in 10 of their 12 games. Defense will be the question mark for Canton as the Eagles enter the 2016 season with two returning starters: senior defensive lineman Logan Willeford and Brown, also a defensive back. Willeford was a first-team all-district selection a year ago. The remaining spots will have to be filled with newcomers as Canton looks to emulate last season in which the Eagles surrendered 26 points per game. The good news for Canton fans is its new district does not include Gilmer or Bullard, the lone teams to deny the Eagles district success a year ago. Instead, Canton is matched up with Rains, Ferris, Dallas Lincoln, Dallas Roosevelt and rival Wills Point. If the Eagles can maintain their offensive rhythm while overcoming graduations on defense, Canton could vie for the school’s first district title since 2005 when G.J. Kinne was under center.

Wills Point TIGERS

Coach:

Robert Ivey

2015 record: 6-6 (3-2) Last playoff appearance: 2015 All-time playoff appearances: 11 Returning starters: 6 offense / 2 defense Schedule: 8/26 vs. Brownsboro; 9/2 vs. Grace Community; 9/9 at Mabank; 9/16 vs. Waxahachie Life; 9/23 at North Lamar; 10/7 at Ferris*; 10/14 vs. Wills Point*; 10/21 at Dallas Roosevelt*; 10/28 at Rains*; 11/4 vs. Dallas Lincoln*. * — District 6-4A Division II

WILLS POINT TIGERS

Coach: Greg

Cranfill

2015 record: 3-7 (1-4)

By CHRIS PARRY // cparry@tylerpaper.com

Last playoff appearance: 2014

ills Point enters 2016 off a rare playoff miss. In their past 10 seasons, the Tigers have reached the postseason in seven of them. But Wills Point is still on the lookout for a first playoff win since 2004. Maybe this is the year as Wills Point drops down a division into District 6-4A Division II, which also includes Canton, Rains, Ferris, Dallas Lincoln and Dallas Roosevelt. Head coach Greg Cranfill has plenty to work with in the Tigers’ endeavor of breaking through in the postseason, starting with defensive tackle Tyriq Burnett. As a junior, Burnett earned allstate honors after finishing with 13 sacks, 15 quarterback pressures and two forced fumbles as part of 86 tackles. He is joined by returning linebackers Sloan Rodberg and Chuck Smith, both of whom were second-team all district

All-time playoff appearances: 25

W

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CANTON EAGLES

East Texas Football Preview | ETFinalScore.com

as juniors. Junior cornerback Brandon Smith was also second-team all district a year ago. On offense, Caden Bennett returns after passing for three touchdowns and rushing for six. The Tigers will have to find a replacement for the graduated Marques Crouch, who accounted for most of Wills Point’s offense. First up to step into that lead back role will be senior Charles Smith, who carried 39 times for 328 yards and five touchdowns last season. Wills Point struggled to put the ball in the end zone last year, averaging a little over three touchdowns per game. The Tigers will need to improve upon that and having 6-2 tight end Jacob Moore back should help after Moore missed last season due to injury. Smith also plays receiver and caught 10 passes and a touchdown a year ago.

Returning starters: 8 offense / 8 defense Schedule: 8/26 at Chapel Hill; 9/2 vs. Carrollton Ranchview; 9/9 at Mineola; 9/16 at Tatum; 9/23 vs. Hillsboro; 10/7 vs. Dallas Roosevelt*; 10/14 at Canton*; 10/21 vs. Rains*; 10/28 at Dallas Lincoln*; 11/4 vs. Ferris*. * — District 6-4A Division II


Rains WILDCATS By CHRIS PARRY // cparry@tylerpaper.com

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he Rains Wildcats understand what it takes to reach the playoffs. Now Rains wants to experience a postseason win. Randy Barnes wants that too. Barnes takes over Rains after being an assistant at Robert E. Lee. Prior to that he had head coaching stops in Ferris and Crandall. He is excited about the prospects of his new team. “We have a shot this year of having 22 starters," Barnes said. “My kids won’t have to go both ways, which is a nice bonus when discussing a Class 4A Division II team.” Rains went 6-5 (2-3 in district) and bowed out in the first round of the playoffs, falling to Center 51-14. “Our goal is to win a championship,” Barnes said of Rains, which hasn’t won district since 1994. “We want to put a gold ball in the trophy case.” The Wildcats return six starters on

both sides of the ball, starting with senior linebacker Mason Krantz, who received second-team all-state honors after totaling 154 tackles, 32 for loss, with seven sacks. Krantz along with returning free safety Kash Sisk (6-1, 170, Sr.) will look to take the next step on a defense that surrendered 26.7 points per game. Defensive lineman Peter Klinemier, a transfer from Farmersville, along with defensive backs Cyrus Chong and Cesar Colunga, are also ones to watch. On offense, Barnes employs a “Wing Bone” style, — a combination of wishbone, Wing-T and Houston Veer. Quarterback Dusty Rhodes is a returning starter along with tailback Dylan Mosley and fullback Niem Diego. Up front is tackle Logan Morrow (6-2, 265) and guards Preston Morgan (5-10, 215) and Robert Spence (6-1, 205), all of whom are returning starter.

Gladewater BEARS By JOE HALE // Sports Correspondent

G

ladewater has been a playoff team each of the last three years. Coach John Berry led the Bears on a quarterfinal run in 2013 before going three rounds deep in 2014 and being stopped in the first round last year. There’s good reason the 2016 Bears will be a player in this year’s postseason race. With 23 returning lettermen, Berry welcomes eight offensive starters and eight defensive starters from a 5-6 team a year ago that shared the league crown (4-1) with Atlanta and Center. The top returnees include running back/linebacker Darnell McKnight, corner Austin Hawley, athlete Cameron Callaway and fullback/defensive back Isaiah Davis. McKnight averaged 11.2 yards per carry rushing the football while he also recorded 58 tackles (10 TFL) at linebacker. Hawley had 75 tackles and 15 pass breakups. Callaway averaged 19 yards per catch and

Davis, besides averaging 7 yards per carry on offense, had 46 tackles and 13 passes defended in the Bears’ 4-2-5 defensive scheme. Dadrian Strickland is a junior who may be ready to step in and contribute more this season as a quarterback. As a sophomore he started three games at the position and kicker/receiver Fernando Serrano has scored 95 points the last two years, converting extra points and field goals. Top sophomores who may be called on include running back/linebacker Rashad Johnson, quarterback/free safety Danny Badger, offensive lineman Bailey Montgomery and running back/linebacker Zelsnick Hawley. Defense will be an area the Bears need to improve in as the season progresses. “We’re a little young in that area, but hopefully as the season progresses we will get experience and be stronger,” Berry said.

RAINS WILDCATS

Coach: Randy

Barnes

2015 record: 6-5 (2-3) Last playoff appearance: 2015 All-time playoff appearances: 12 Returning starters: 6 offense / 6 defense Schedule: 8/26 vs. Quinlan Ford; 9/2 at Cooper; 9/9 at Farmersville; 9/16 vs. Spring Hill; 9/23 vs. Redwater; 10/7 at Dallas Lincoln*; 10/14 vs. Ferris*; 10/21 at Wills Point*; 10/28 vs. Canton*; 11/4 at Dallas Roosevelt*. * — District 6-4A Division II

GLADEWATER BEARS PITTSBURG PIRATES Coach: John

Berry

2015 record: 5-6 (4-1) Last playoff appearance: 2015 All-time playoff appearances: 24 Returning starters: 8 offense / 8 defense Schedule: 8/26 vs. Carthage; 9/2 at Kilgore; 9/9 vs. Center; 9/16 vs. Chapel Hill; 9/23 at Lindale; 10/7 at Spring Hill*; 10/14 at Gilmer*; 10/21 vs. Atlanta*; 10/28 at Pittsburg*; 11/4 vs. Pleasant Grove*. * — District 7-4A Division II

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Gilmer BUCKEYES By JOE HALE // Sports Correspondent

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xpectations are high around Gilmer this time of year, the beginning of football season. Second-year Buckeyes head coach Matt Turner’s first Gilmer team came within a victory of returning to the Class 4A Division II championship game, losing to Celina 49-44 in the semifinals. The Buckeyes’ lone loss snapped a 31-game winning streak that included the 2014 state championship. The Buckeyes welcome back 11 returning lettermen: five offensive and six defensive starters. Kelton Collier plays running back and linebacker and Des Jones plays receiver and defensive back along with Dimitri Fort. Dustin Brown sticks to one position and does it well at defensive tackle. Kollin Hurt, a safety who had 114 tackles and 11 interceptions last year, is a Louisiana Tech commit, while LaMarcus Morton had 34 receptions for 589 yards and seven touchdowns and committed

early to Oklahoma State. Collier rushed for 822 yards and 12 touchdowns and Trendon Brooks should add to his 34 carries for 233 yards and two scores a year ago. Jones is returning following last year's season in which he had 15 receptions for 196 yards. Defensively, linebacker Myles Chumley is coming off a junior campaign in which he recorded 106 tackles and three sacks. Another leading tackler from last year is Jeremy Kelly who had 76, including two sacks. Line play and finding a replacement for quarterback Zac Spears, who last year threw for more than 2,500 yards before graduating, are primary issues the Buckeyes must address. Junior Landon Green will anchor the O-line while senior Brett Rice, a backup last year to Spears, and junior Aaron Brown, 10-0 on the Buckeyes’ JV, will compete for the starting job under center.

Spring Hill PANTHERS By JOE HALE // Sports Correspondent

S

pring Hill’s next win will be its second of the Kelly Mercer era. Mercer was hired last year after being the offensive coordinator at Plano West. He was the Panthers’ second coach in three years and fourth in seven seasons. Mercer maintains a positive approach to turning the program around. To reach any level of success with four returnees on each side of the football, Mercer knows his young players will need to rise to the occasion. That’s especially true following the latest realignment putting the Panthers in District 7-4A Division II along with Gilmer, Gladewater, Atlanta, Pittsburg and Pleasant Grove. Four of those five reached the playoffs a year ago. “Our overall strength will be in our offensive and defensive lines,” Mercer said. “Our kids have bought into a new way of thinking and a higher work ethic than

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East Texas Football Preview | ETFinalScore.com

in the past. Having another year in our offensive and defensive systems should help our level of execution improve.” Players to watch include seniors defensive lineman DaQuaylon Armstrong and Justin Evans and corner D’Bravian Black, as well as juniors receiver/defensive back Dayson Adaway, receiver Ryan Willis and linemen Tanner Cornell and Alec Thornton. Several could play both ways. Going into two-a-day workouts, Adaway, used primarily as a receiver last season and as backup quarterback, is expected to be given the opportunity to start under center. Younger players who could contribute include sophomores Daren Beck, Kaden Peppers, Ritchey Matkin and Joe Frank. Defensively is where Spring Hill has the most experience. Armstrong had 38 tackles with 13 assists while Black had 35 tackles and seven assists and Cornell’s numbers were 26 and nine, respectively.

GILMER BUCKEYES Coach: Matt

Turner

2015 record: 14-1 (5-0) Last playoff appearance: 2015 All-time playoff appearances: 35 Returning starters: 5 offense / 6 defense Schedule: 8/25 vs. Texarkana Liberty-Eylau at Tyler’s Christus Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium; 9/2 Center; 9/9 at Argyle Liberty Christian; 9/17 vs. Carthage at Longview’s Lobo Stadium; 9/23 at Nacogdoches; 10/7 at Pleasant Grove*; 10/14 vs. Gladewater*; 10/21 at Spring Hill*; 10/28 at Atlanta*; 11/4 vs. Pittsburg*. * —District 7-4A Division II

SPRING HILL PANTHERS Coach: Kelly

Mercer

2015 record: 1-9 (1-4) Last playoff appearance: 2007 All-time playoff appearances: 13 Returning starters: 4 offense / 4 defense Schedule: 8/26 vs. Troup; 9/2 at Brownsboro; 9/9 vs. White Oak; 9/16 at Emory Rains; 9/23 vs. Huntington; 10/7 vs. Gladewater*; 10/14 at Pittsburg*; 10/21 vs. Gilmer* 10/28 at Pleasant Grove *; 11/4 vs. Atlanta*. — * District 7-4A Division II


Pittsburg PIRATES

By JOE HALE // Sports Correspondent

I

n his first season at the helm, Brad Baca accomplished quite a bit. The former Chapel Hill assistant turned Pittsburg’s football fortunes completely around, winning 10 games — six more than the previous coach in 2014 — finishing as the runner-up to LibertyEylau. The Pirates also added a playoff win to their ledger, beating Crandall 35-24. A fast start keyed the season. Pittsburg won its first six games and went on to average right at 39.5 points per contest. Six offensive starters and four on defense are among 15 returning lettermen. Top returnees include wide receivers Dejour Dowell and Deldric Shields. Shields also returns at safety along with E.J. Hill at defensive end and Bradlee Warrick at defensive tackle. Dowell was first-team all-district after he had 37 receptions for 595 yards and five touchdowns while Shields had five scores to go with 30 catches for 492 yards. Hill garnered 31 solo tackles, five sacks and four quarterback hurries. Shields was

credited with 23 tackles and four tackles for loss as a safety. Warrick, a first-team all-district choice, finished with 44 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, three sacks and seven hurries. Keonte Burns, offensive lineman Gabe Peters and running back Juwon Hawkins will get to contribute. A concern is replacing Brian Baca, who put up big numbers a year ago at quarterback. Junior Brett McGee and sophomore Jalen Jimmerson are expected to step up. Coach Baca, a former running back at Sam Houston State, feels the Pirates need to improve their strength and speed — definitely the program’s staples of recent success. Realignment moved the Pirates from a district with Liberty-Eylau, North Lamar, Paris, Quinlan Ford and Princeton in with Gilmer, Pleasant Grove, Atlanta, Gladewater and Spring Hill. That’s six one way and half a dozen another.

Rusk EAGLES

By CHRIS PARRY // cparry@tylerpaper.com

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he Rusk Eagles went 2-8 in 2015 and completed a ninthconsecutive season in which the team finished .500 or under with one playoff appearance in those nine years. Enter Jowell Hancock, who comes to Rusk from Dayton where he led the Class 5A Broncos to the playoffs in all five years that he was head coach, going three rounds deep in 2010 and 2011. Dayton’s worst season under Hancock was 6-6 in the 2013. Hancock inherits an Eagles team that averaged 26 points per game last season while giving up 43. Rusk finished on a good note, winning its final district game 35-34. Senior quarterback Jake Hugghins returns. He passed for 1,976 yards and 21 touchdowns last season. Junior Sam Thomas is back. He was a District 7-4A Division II tri-Offensive Newcomer of the Year last season, rushing for 883 yards and 10 touchdowns. The defense is experienced and anxious

to improve on last season’s 43.3 points per game allowed. Nine returning starters will be at Hancock’s disposal, led by defensive end Jace Rogers and linebacker Bailey Dosser. Rusk should not have any trouble scoring points with Hugghins and Thomas. The Eagles also will see several new opponents in a five-team District 7-4A Division II as Rusk is the lone holdover from last year. Now on the schedule are Jasper, Tatum, Huntington and Diboll. Jasper and Diboll both won seven games a year ago with Huntington finishing 3-7 and perennial power Tatum — which won state championships in 2005 and ’06 — slipping to a disappointing 0-10, its worst season since 1962. Four playoff spots are up for grabs with only one team leaving disappointed this season. Rusk wants to get back in the postseason and aims for its first postseason win since 2011.

PITTSBURG PIRATES Coach: Brad

Baca

2015 record: 10-2 (4-1) Last playoff appearance: 2015 All-time playoff appearances: 25 Returning starters: 6 offense/ 4 defense Schedule: 8/26 at Crandall; 9/2 vs. Pine Tree; 9/9 vs. Henderson; 9/16 at Paris; 9/23 at Tatum; 10/7 vs. Atlanta*; 10/14 vs. Spring Hill*; 10/21 at Pleasant Grove*; 10/28 vs. Gladewater*; 11/4 at Gilmer*. * — District 7-4A Division II

RUSK EAGLES PITTSBURG PIRATES Coach: Jowell

Hancock

2015 Record: 2-8 (1-4) Last playoff appearance: 2011 All-time playoff appearances: 18 Returning starters: 6 offense / 9 defense Schedule: 8/26 at Center; 9/2 vs. Malakoff; 9/9 at Crockett; 9/16 vs. Fairfield; 9/23 vs. Alto; 9/30 at Madisonville; 10/7 vs. Jasper*; 10/14 at Tatum*; 10/21 vs. Huntington*; 10/28 at Diboll*. * — District 7-4A Division II

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Quarterback Jeremiah Crawford and running back Chantz Perkins 46

East Texas Football Preview | ETFinalScore.com


Mineola YELLOWJACKETS

By CHRIS PARRY // cparry@tylerpaper.com

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ineola senior Jeremiah Crawford acknowledges that teams are coming after the No. 1-ranked Yellowjackets. His message to all of them: Bring it on. Mineola’s season-opening opponent, Van, has a sign posted that is counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds with “Beat Mineola” underneath it. “They can talk, but we are going to go out there and do what we have to do,” Crawford said. “We are going to come out and play hard.” It is a program mantra that helped head coach Joe Drennon turn Mineola into front-page news. Mineola fans went from wondering if their team would ever snap its drought of not winning a playoff game since 1966 to playing for a state championship in 2014 and reaching the state semifinals, a year ago. Crawford and fellow senior superstar Chantz Perkins played a major role in the turnaround. Both four-year varsity starters, Crawford and Perkins combined for nearly 4,200 yards rushing and 46 touchdowns last season as juniors. Crawford went on to be named All-East Texas Most Valuable Player, with Perkins also picked for the AllEast Texas team. “Ever since they got here we’ve made the playoffs and not just in the playoffs, but going really deep,” Drennon said. “They’ve been special for our program and hopefully they will be special for one more year.” Crawford and Perkins go about their dominance differently. Crawford would just as soon run a tackler over to create space for himself and then use his speed the rest of the way in the open field to the end zone. Perkins’ 4.47 speed gives him the luxury of simply being too fast to draw contact. “My speed helps me because I can juke you, run past you and I promise if you get in my way I am going to lower my shoulder into you,” Perkins said. Added Crawford: “I like the feeling of breaking a tackle. I like the feeling of knowing whoever just tried to tackle me can’t stop me. I like to run away from some people, but I am not as fast as (Perkins).” The Yellowjackets went 14-1 last season with their lone loss coming against Brock in the state semifinals. Not a day goes by in which Perkins does not envision another chance to play Brock and accomplish the goal of bringing Mineola a state championship.

“I definitely want to get back out there and have a chance to play Brock again,” said Perkins, who in the last two years has rushed for a combined 4,213 yards and scored 51 touchdowns. “I am ready to get out there and work harder and play harder.” Mineola returns 19 starters, including every member of a defense that surrendered 14.5 points per game. Junior linebacker Michael Drennon and seniors Noah Sneed and Kourtland Sinches all made the All-ET team a year ago. Michael Drennon was a first teamer thanks to 135 tackles (12 TFL) with three sacks, three forced fumbles and nine quarterback pressures. Sinches, a defensive end, finished with 109 tackles, 23 of those for loss with 16 quarterback pressures. Sneed had five interceptions, 16 pass breakups and 85 tackles. “We are noticed for our offense, but we’ve been really good defensively for the last 4 or 5 years and we have all those kids back,” coach Drennon said. The Yellowjackets are the unquestioned favorites not only for district but also to play for a gold ball in December. “Our kids understand and know what they have to do to get to that level,” Drennon said. “They’ve been there a couple times now. We need to go out and play lights out like we have been and if we get that opportunity again (take advantage of it).”

MINEOLA YELLOWJACKETS Coach: Joe

Drennon

2015 Record: 14-1 (5-0) Last playoff appearance: 2015 All-time playoff appearances: 21 Returning starters: 8 offense / 11 defense Schedule: 8/26 vs. Van; 9/2 at Kaufman; 9/9 vs. Wills Point; 9/16 at Brownsboro; 9/30 vs. Quitman*; 10/7 at Farmersville*; 10/14 vs. Mount Vernon*; 10/21 at Grand Saline*; 10/28 vs. Commerce; 11/4 at Winnsboro*. * — District 7-3A Division I

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Grand Saline INDIANS By CHRIS PARRY // cparry@tylerpaper.com

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rand Saline snapped a near decade-long playoff drought last season thanks to a strong surge in district play. The Indians entered District 6-3A Division II play with a 1-4 record, but turned it around when it mattered most, going 4-1 to reach the playoffs for first time since 2007. The Indians season ended with a thud, blanked by Gunter 66-0 in a bi-district loss. Whether Grand Saline can build on last year’s postseason appearance depends on how the Indians adjust to being in an entirely new district. Thanks to realignment, Grand Saline was moved up a division with District 7-3A Division I along with Mount Vernon, Commerce, Winnsboro, Mineola, Quitman and Farmersville. Grand Saline did not face any of those squads a year ago, even in non-district. The Tigers return 20 lettermen from last year’s playoff squad with 12 of those starters.

On offense, the Indians are pretty stocked, beginning with returning senior quarterback Trent Easley, who earned firstteam all-district honors a year ago after passing for 1,250 yards and rushing for 920 yards. In front of Easley, Grand Saline returns starting all-district offensive linemen Luis Melisio and Cash Nations with receivers Carlos Aguilar (Newcomer of the Year as a sophomore last year) and Sammy Palma expected to be involved early and often. On defense, Palma is back on the defensive line and joined by senior Luis Guajardo and junior linebacker Wesley Harrison. Grand Saline, enrollment-wise, is the smallest 3A Division I school, but the Indians showed last year that they know when to turn it on and will be looking to make back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time since 2002-03.

Sabine CARDINALS By CHRIS PARRY // cparry@tylerpaper.com

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abine fans had to wait 29 years between playoff appearances before breaking through in 2014. Last year brought another postseason trip, the first time Sabine had produced back-toback playoff seasons since 1952-53. If Sabine is to navigate out of District 8-3A Division I and qualify for more football again it will be the first three-year playoff streak in school history. And while they’re at it, the Cardinals can take care of the other thing missing from the school’s résumé — a playoff win. Sabine got close last year. Despite spotting Daingerfield a 27-0 halftime lead, the Cardinals nearly came back in a 41-35 loss. Coach Mark Comfort returns 10 starters and has the benefit of no longer having Mineola, Class 3A’s top-ranked team in the district. Mineola, along with Quitman, moved. They were replaced by Hughes Springs and Redwater. That is the good news. The bad is that a

good portion of Sabine’s offense graduated. The Cardinals rushed for 2,743 yards and 1,860 of that was from graduated seniors. Junior quarterback River Bennett was not asked to put the ball in the air much last year. Sabine attempted 23 passes, thanks to the Cardinals rushing for 300 yards per game. He may be called on more in 2016. As for his running abilities, Bennett totaled 361 yards and three scores on the ground last season. Junior Glenn George will be tasked to fill the void at running back after he rushed for 483 yards and four TDs last year as a sophomore. He will be running behind sophomore guard Taylor Williams, Offensive Newcomer of the Year last season. He is joined by seniors Collin Keifer and Stacy Polk, who both were second-team all district last year. Defensively, Sabine will turn to senior Slate Wiseman, Polk and newcomers who will not be asked to do much as long as its ground-and-pound running game is doing what it wants.

GRAND SALINE INDIANS Coach: Michael

Ridge

2015 Record: 5-6 (4-1) Last playoff appearance: 2015 All-time playoff appearances: 12 Returning starters: 6 offense / 6 defense Schedule: 8/26 vs. Como-Pickton; 9/2 at New Diana; 9/9 at Winona; 9/16 vs. Edgewood; 9/23 at Mount Vernon*; 10/7 vs. Commerce*; 10/14 at Winnsboro*; 10/21 vs. Mineola*; 10/28 at Quitman*; 11/4 vs. Farmersville*. * — District 7-3A Division I

SABINE CARDINALS Coach: Mark

Comfort

2015 record: 4-7 (3-2) Last playoff appearance: 2015 All-time playoff appearances: 6 Returning starters: 6 offense / 4 defense Schedule: 8/26 vs. Omaha Paul Pewitt; 9/2 at Frankston; 9/9 at West Rusk; 9/16 vs. Winnsboro; 9/23 vs. Winona; 10/7 at Redwater*; 10/14 at White Oak*; 10/21 vs. Jefferson*; 10/28 at New Boston*; 11/4 vs. Hughes Springs*. * — District 8-3A Division I

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Winnsboro RED RAIDERS

Coach: Steve

Pinnell

2015 Record: 7-4

By CHRIS PARRY // cparry@tylerpaper.com

Last playoff appearance: 2015

n an era of spread-offense football and high scores with little attention paid to defense except to simply score more points than the other team, Winnsboro is a throwback. The Red Raiders employ a tried and true successful formula: be physical up front and frustrate opponents with ballcontrolling, time-consuming drives that keep it on the ground and out of the hands of the opposing offense. The Red Raiders limit possessions and grind out victories. Winnsboro scored 27.0 points per game but surrendered just 23.3 points per game. That converted to a 7-4 season with two of Winnsboro’s losses coming against state semifinalist Mineola in the regular season and eventual regional quarterfinalist White Oak in the first round of the playoffs. Prior to coach Steve Pinnell’s arrival in 1999, Winnsboro hadn’t made the playoffs since 1982. Pinnell and the Red Raiders finished off 2015 with their 12th trip to the postseason in his 17 years. The main engine that drove the Red

All-time playoff appearances: 19

I

Raiders’ rushing machine is back. Senior Marcus Tucker was chosen Offensive MVP of District 7-3A Division I a year ago. Tucker averaged 8.9 yards per carry, rushing 118 times for 1,048 yards and scoring 14 touchdowns. The rest of a Winnsboro running game that churned out 3,265 yards last season graduated save for junior Kolby Brown (72-330) and senior Johnathan Spurlin (41205). Defensively, the Red Raiders bring back six starters led by Tucker, who had 95 tackles last year as a junior. Winnsboro moves into an entirely new district that includes preseason No. 1 Mineola. Also new on the Red Raiders’ docket for 2016 are Commerce, Farmersville, Mount Vernon, Grand Saline and Quitman. The Red Raiders are picked to finish second in the new district by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. Winnsboro’s regular-season finale is against Mineola and this game could determine the overall league champion.

Quitman BULLDOGS By CHRIS PARRY // cparry@tylerpaper.com

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he Quitman Bulldogs advanced to the playoffs in 2010, finishing with a 7-4 record. In the last five seasons combined, Quitman has won five games. Quitman completed a secondconsecutive winless campaign last year under head coach John Woodard, who will be looking to secure his first win in his third season with the Bulldogs. The Bulldogs will return an experienced roster led by senior offensive lineman Isaac Simmons and junior receiver Garrett Taylor, who earned all-district honors last season. Quitman will look to be more explosive on offense in 2016 following a year in which the Bulldogs averaged 8.0 points per game. On defense, Quitman returns an experienced group that will want to quickly put last year in the rearview mirror and forge on. The Bulldogs surrendered 39

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WINNSBORO RED RAIDERS

East Texas Football Preview | ETFinalScore.com

points per game last season and were outscored in district by a combined 201-35. Incoming freshman Andrew Dunn will not have to wait long for his first taste of varsity football with Quitman penciling him in at running back and linebacker. It will be a flex-bone rushing attack for Quitman with Dunn joining Brad Davenport, Kaden White and Wacey Warren. The schedule makers did not do Quitman any favors as the Bulldogs open District 7-3A Division I at home against Winnsboro before going on the road to face preseason No. 1 Mineola. If Quitman can survive that two-game gauntlet, the rest of the schedule features games against Farmersville, Mount Vernon, Grand Saline and Commerce — none of which finished over .500 last year. The Bulldogs look to not only end a 23game losing streak, but challenge for a spot in the postseason.

Returning starters: 5 offense / 6 defense Schedule: 8/26 at West Rusk; 9/2 vs. Quinlan Ford; 9/9 vs. Pairiland; 9/16 at Sabine; 9/23 at Quitman*; 9/30 vs. Farmersville*; 10/7 at Mount Vernon*; 10/14 vs. Grand Saline*; 10/21 at Commerce*; 11/4 vs. Mineola*. * — District 7-3A Division I

QUITMAN BULLDOGS Coach: John

Woodard

2015 Record: 0-10 (0-5) Last playoff appearance: 2010 All-time playoff appearances: 12 Returning starters: 6 offense / 9 defense Schedule: 8/26 at Big Sandy; 9/2 at Eustace; 9/9 vs. Beckville; 9/16 vs. Harmony; 9/23 vs. Winnsboro*; 9/30 at Mineola*; 10/14 vs. Farmersville*; 10/21 at Mount Vernon*; 10/28 vs. Grand Saline*; 11/4 at Commerce*. * — District 7-3A Division I


White Oak ROUGHNECKS

By CHRIS PARRY // cparry@tylerpaper.com

T

he White Oak Roughnecks lost three times last year. One of those setbacks came against eventual state semifinalist Mineola, which cost White Oak a chance for a district title. Another was in the regional quarterfinals on Nov. 27 against Sunnyvale, which was later beaten by Mineola. The good news for White Oak this season is Mineola is no longer in its way to hinder the Roughnecks from attempting to capture their first district title since 2009. The Yellowjackets were moved into a new district with realignment, which makes White Oak the unquestioned team to beat in the new District 8-3A Division I, which is comprised of Sabine, Hughes Springs, Redwater, Jefferson and New Boston. Only Jefferson and Sabine were district opponents last year with White Oak defeating both handily in shutout fashion. Of the newcomers, only Hughes Springs finished over .500 last season.

The Roughnecks must find a replacement at quarterback after Cade Palmer graduated. Whoever assumes that role will have good weapons to throw to in junior Colby Siegley and senior Antonio Castiglione, who both received all-district honors a year ago. The leader in the clubhouse for quarterback could be senior Heath Hood. Last year as a utility player, Hood passed for 467 yards, rushed for 134 yards and had 231 yards receiving. Hood accounted for nine touchdowns total. In the backfield is senior Connor Hearron after he earned second-team alldistrict honors last season thanks to his 1,069 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns. Brandon Cook was the district’s Defensive Newcomer of the Year as a junior last season, thanks to his 130 tackles. He is joined by senior all-district returnees Chase Reeves, Caleb Hampton and Castiglione. Reeves finished with 122 tackles and Castiglione had 96 tackles.

Westwood PANTHERS

WHITE OAK ROUGHNECKS Coach: Kris

Iske

2015 record: 10-3 (4-1) Last playoff appearance: 2015 All-time playoff appearances: 35 Returning starters: 6 offense / 6 defense Schedule: 8/26 vs. New Diana; 9/2 vs. Bishop Gorman; 9/9 at Spring Hill; 9/16 vs. Daingerfield; 9/23 at Harmony; 10/7 at Hughes Springs*; 10/14 vs. Sabine*; 10/21 at Redwater*; 10/28 at Jefferson*; 11/4 vs. New Boston*. * — District 8-3A Division I

WESTWOOD EAGLES Coach: Kevin

Hayes

2015 record: 8-3 (3-2) Last playoff appearance: 2015

By CHRIS PARRY // cparry@tylerpaper.com

All-time playoff appearances: 6

alestine Westwood has an opportunity to accomplish something never done before in school history. The Panthers reached the playoffs last year for a second-consecutive year following a six-year absence. If Westwood finds the right formula and puts together enough wins to go to the playoffs, it will be the school’s first three-year playoff streak. Westwood returns 10 starters from last year’s postseason representative that was edged out in the first round by East Chambers, 15-14. The Panthers graduated their top offensive weapons (D.J. Hicks, Kaigan Baker), so there are job openings under center and in the backfield. Returning all-district senior Red Horse Warren hopes to fill the one at running

Returning starters: 5 offense / 5 defense

P

back after he totaled 615 yards last season. Up front, the Panthers graduated their top two offensive linemen but return second teamer Danny Burns, a senior who will have to fill the leadership role. The defense looks to be in better shape with the return of all-district defensive end Danny Burns and fellow first-teamer Malik Benson. Both are seniors and join inside linebackers Dalton Fisher and Noland Limberarez, also seniors, to put forth an experienced stop unit. Last year Westwood won its first six games before losing to Malakoff and Teague in district play. The Panthers rebounded to win out and qualify for the playoffs. The district road gets a little tougher this year with the likes of West (3A Division regional semifinalist in 2015) and Whitney (5-5 last year) joining the fray.

Schedule: 8/26 vs. Frankston; 9/9 at Kirbyville; 9/16 at Troup; 9/23 vs. Elkhart*; 9/30 at Whitney*; 10/7 Groesbeck*; 10/14 at Malakoff*; 10/21 vs. Eustace*; 10/28 vs. West*; 11/4 at Teague*. * — District 9-3A Division I

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Elkhart ELKS

ELKHART ELKS

Coach: Sam

2015 record: 5-5 (1-4)

By CHRIS PARRY // cparry@tylerpaper.com

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lkhart got off to a flying start last season, winning five of its first six games. Then the Elks lost their remaining four games — three of those by a touchdown or less — as a promising season ended up in a frustrating 1-4 district finish. The Elks face a tougher test this season to try to notch their first playoff win since 1991. That victory was part of a magical run in which Elkhart reached the state quarterfinals. Elkhart has returned to the postseason three times since (2004, 2013, 2014) but has yet to recapture the success of 1991. Newcomers to the eight-team District 9-3A Division I like Groesbeck and West, along with last year’s district powers Malakoff and Teague, should make it a challenge for Elkhart to grab one of those four coveted playoff spots. Elkhart returns 12 starters from last year’s team but will need to find a

replacement for the production lost with the graduation of quarterback Zack Gray. Gray accounted for 16 of Elkhart’s 21 rushing touchdowns. One spot that is an immediate strength is linebacker thanks to D.J. Williams, who received all-state honors last year as a junior. Williams, listed at 5-9 and 185 pounds, totaled 170 tackles to go along with five sacks. He will be joined by returning alldistrict first-team defensive back Justin Wolford (70 tackles, three interceptions) while junior Johnathan Simmons is back in the secondary after he made 50 tackles and had four interceptions. Senior Alex Thlang (5-9, 185) totaled 111 tackles a year ago at outside linebacker. Simmons could also step into the quarterback role after completing 15 of 27 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns in limited action last year. Simmons (6-1, 175) also rushed for 297 yards and a score.

Malakoff TIGERS

By CHRIS PARRY // cparry@tylerpaper.com

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here is no shame in losing to a three-time state champion, but the Tigers are probably still smarting a little from last year’s area-round 45-44 defeat to Cameron Yoe. Malakoff led Yoe by 25 points with 3:35 to play in the first half. Things turned around in the second half and Yoe advanced while Malakoff was left wondering what might have been. The good thing for Tigers fans is Malakoff returns a loaded offense and a more-than-capable defense as it sets out to capture its first outright district title since 2009. It begins with returning all-state senior QT Barker. As a kick/punt returner and receiver Barker racked up 1,024 all-purpose yards and scored 24 touchdowns. He was also a second-team defensive back. Malakoff ’s main weapon under center is back too as junior Judd Miller looks to pick up where he left off after he passed for 2,411 yards and 38 touchdowns and rushed

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Wells

for 718 yards. All told, Miller played a part in 46 touchdowns. On defense, Malakoff returns five seniors who were first-team all district. At cornerback is A.J. Cook with defensive ends Larry Coker and Danyal Littleton joining with defensive tackle C.J. Overton and inside linebacker D.J. Williams. Barker is also in the defensive backfield with all of these playmakers ready to continue what Malakoff began a year ago. Malakoff is the smallest school in the new District 9-3A Division I and will have to match up against larger Groesbeck (462) or Eustace (444). Teague is the only team to hand the Tigers a regular-season loss and district loss, holding a Malakoff offense that averaged 45.4 points per game to a meager seven in a 28-7 loss. This year’s rematch should be just as enticing with the foes meeting in the nextto-last week of district. That game could decide the 9-3A Division I champion.

Last playoff appearance: 2014 All-time playoff appearances: 15 Returning starters: 5 offense / 7 defense Schedule: 8/26 vs. Shelbyville; 9/2 at Jewett Leon; 9/9 vs. Troup; 9/23 at Westwood*; 9/30 vs. West*; 10/7 at Teague*; 10/14 at Eustace*; 10/21 vs. Whitney*; 10/28 at Groesbeck*; 11/4 vs. Malakoff*. * — District 9-3A Division I

MALAKOFF TIGERS Coach: Jamie

Driskell

2015 record: 10-2 (4-1) Last playoff appearance: 2015 All-time playoff appearances: 16 Returning starters: 8 offense / 5 defense Schedule: 8/26 vs. Bullard; 9/2 at Rusk; 9/16 vs. Grace Community; 9/23 vs. Whitney; 9/30 at Groesbeck*; 10/7 vs. Eustace*; 10/14 vs. Westwood*; 10/21 at West*; 10/28 vs. Teague*; 11/4 at Elkhart*. * — District 9-3A Division I


Running back Dee Wheeler

Winona WILDCATS By CHRIS PARRY // cparry@tylerpaper.com

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n his second season, Winona Wildcats head coach Keylon Kincade produced one of the top turnarounds in the state, reversing a 1-9 season in 2014 to a 7-4 record and bi-district playoff appearance in 2015. The seven wins were also the most the program has achieved since 1993. Considering Winona did all of this in a district that featured an eventual state champion (Waskom), regional semifinalist (West Rusk) and regional quarterfinalist (Arp) — Winona’s season becomes even more impressive. Winona bowed out in the bi-district round to Omaha Paul Pewitt, 34-25. “I felt like it was a mediocre season and we could have done so much better,” returning all-district running back Dee Wheeler said. “It’s going to be way different this year.” In 2016, the Wildcats have the challenge of expectations. Winona is not just looking for district success, but wants to achieve the program’s first playoff win since 1987. “We are going to come back harder, stronger and faster,” Wheeler said. Wheeler said the preseason picks by The

Old Coach Friday Night Football magazine did not go unnoticed. Winona is in a new district, leaving all of last year’s foes behind to join up with Alba-Golden, Edgewood, Harmony, Lone Oak and Como-Pickton. Despite only one of those teams outperforming Winona a year ago as far as wins, the Wildcats were picked to finish fifth. “We are really being underestimated again, so we’ve got a chip on our shoulder,” Wheeler said. “We just need to make sure we stay motivated and hungry.” Wheeler rushed for nearly 1,400 yards and scored more than 15 touchdowns a year ago to be named first-team all district. On defense, senior Tee Simmons was the Defensive Lineman of the Year last season and led a unit that surrendered 24.5 points per game. Also back on the Wildcats stop unit is senior inside linebacker Chase Boyd and junior outside linebacker Zach Francis, both of whom were named second-team all district last year. Braxton Kincade was an all-district free safety last season while also playing quarterback for Winona.

WINONA WILDCATS Coach: Keylon

Kincade

2015 record: 7-4 (5-2) Last playoff appearance: 2015 All-time playoff appearances: 11 Returning starters: 9 offense / 8 defense Schedule: 8/26 vs. Alto; 9/3 at Elysian Fields; 9/9 vs. Grand Saline; 9/16 vs. Redwater; 9/23 at Sabine; 10/7 at Como-Pickton*; 10/14 vs. Alba-Golden*; 10/21 at Lone Oak*; 10/28 at Harmony*; 11/4 vs. Edgewood*. * — District 8-3A Division II

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Alba-Golden PANTHERS By TRAVIS YOESTING // tyoesting@tylerpaper.com

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on Callahan’s first season in charge of Alba-Golden was an unprecedented success. The Panthers won a schoolrecord eight games and made their sixth all-time playoff appearance. Now comes a more difficult second act, with three starters returning on either side of the ball, including the graduation of 10 all-district first- and second-team selections. Chief among those missing are running back Dalton Wright, quarterback Dylan Harle and linebacker Logan Culp. Receiver Freddy Reeves is the lone firstteam all-district player coming back after leading the team with 405 yards on 19 receptions, six of which went to the house. Seniors Brady Rolen and Cody Frazier will compete for the quarterback job. Both saw limited action last fall and both threw for 38 yards. Sophomore Thomas Mitchell

could also be in the mix. The top returning rusher is sophomore David Pennington, who put up 154 yards and two scores averaging 5.7 yards per carry as a freshman. He’ll try to fill the shoes of Wright, who was one of the area’s top running backs, averaging 119.5 yards per game. On the other side of the ball, Reeves is also the team’s top returning tackler, having made 87 stops a year ago. Defensive back Cody Frazier and lineman Evan Galyean earned secondteam all-district honors after recording 68 and 64 tackles, respectively. Of Alba-Golden’s six playoff appearances, four have come since 2011, including three straight. If Callahan can put the right pieces in place to replace 16 graduated starters, the Panthers could be on their way to a seventh playoff berth.

Harmony EAGLES

Coach: Ron

Callahan

2015 record: 8-3 (4-1) Last playoff appearance: 2015 All-time playoff appearances: 6 Returning starters: 3 offense / 3 defense Schedule: 8/26 vs. Hawkins; 9/2 at Mount Enterprise; 9/9 vs. All Saints; 9/16 vs. Carlisle; 9/23 at Bogata Rivercrest; 10/7 at Lone Oak*; 10/14 at Winona*; 10/21 vs. Harmony*; 10/28 at Edgewood*; 11/4 vs. Como-Pickton*. * — District 8-3A Division II

HARMONY EAGLES Coach: Tim

Russell

2015 record: 7-5 (2-3)

By TRAVIS YOESTING // tyoesting@tylerpaper.com

Last playoff appearance: 2015

armony will play the 2016 season with a heavy heart. Coach Tim Russell suffered the unimaginable tragedy of losing his daughter, recently graduated Bailee Russell, in a car crash over the summer. Haley Johnson, a 2015 Harmony graduate, also died in the wreck. The Eagles will hope to honor the two former Eagles with a memorable campaign on the gridiron and with 16 starters back, the pieces are in place for a special season. Of those 16, 10 return on the offensive side of the ball, including six all-district performers. Quarterback Spencer Seahorn threw for 1,167 yards and eight touchdowns as a sophomore and is back to lead the way under center. He’ll line up behind three all-district linemen in Jeremy Dawson, Connor Henson and Waymon Lay. Senior running back Mike Edmonson is a threat both carrying and catching the ball, having run for 532 yards and 10 touchdowns while also going for 220 yards receiving.

All-time playoff appearances: 11

H

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ALBA-GOLDEN PANTHERS

East Texas Football Preview | ETFinalScore.com

Fellow senior Caleb Hart was Harmony’s top receiver last year after hauling in 32 passes for 522 yards and seven touchdowns and will line up with Konrad Eichelman and Jacob Kimmen. Harmony qualified for its first state 7-on-7 tournament in the summer and reached the second round of the Division II championship bracket. Eichelman is one of two all-district defenders coming back alongside senior Dylon McGinnis, a first-team selection at lineman. Eichelman made 111 tackles to go with three interceptions and two fumble recoveries as a sophomore. Joining McGinnis on the defensive line will be Easton Blackstone and Ty Pilcher, the latter of whom tallied six sacks as a freshman. Harmony won a playoff game for the first time since 2011 last year, the third time the program went past the first round of the playoffs in 11 appearances. The Eagles dropped from Class 3A Division I to Division II and will hope that parlays itself to even greater things.

Returning starters: 10 offense / 6 defense Schedule: 8/25 vs. All Saints at Bishop Gorman; 9/3 vs. Waskom at Longview’s Lobo Stadium; 9/9 vs. Scurry-Rosser; 9/16 at Quitman; 9/23 vs. White Oak; 10/7 at Edgewood*; 10/14 vs. ComoPickton*; 10/21 at Alba-Golden*; 10/28 vs. Winona*; 11/4 at Lone Oak*. * — District 8-3A Division II


Edgewood BULLDOGS

EDGEWOOD BULLDOGS Coach: Ryan

2015 record: 4-7 (2-3) Last playoff appearance: 2015

By TRAVIS YOESTING // tyoesting@tylerpaper.com

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oach Ryan Simmons has guided Edgewood to the playoffs for the last four seasons. The last two came despite a losing record. With 15 starters back including key skill positions, the Bulldogs will be looking to do more than just get to the postseason. A 2-3 district mark was enough to get Edgewood to the 2015 playoffs before the season ended with a 4-7 record, one win more than last year’s 3-8 showing. However a number of young players received valuable experience, none more so than quarterback Trey Erwin. As a sophomore last fall, Erwin threw for 1,740 yards and 14 touchdowns to earn first-team all-district honors. He’ll be expected to improve those numbers as a junior. Fortunately for Erwin he still has some of his most dangerous weapons around him in running back Tye Elie and receivers Trey King and Tristin Harris. King (335 yards, three TDs) and Harris were both second-team all-district

Simmons

receivers a year ago but will have to make up for the loss of Devin Davison, the team’s leading receiver in 2015. Elie ran for 444 yards and five touchdowns last year and earned secondteam all-district honors as a running back. He’ll be joined in the backfield by junior Turner Bannister, who showed plenty of promise as a running back last year as a sophomore. Elie also was first-team all district as a linebacker. Helping Elie out on the defensive side of the ball will be linemen James Wilhite, Isaiah Elie and Clayton Westberry along with linebackers Nic Yancey and Keetun Stanberry. Wilhite was second-team all-district as a junior while Erwin was a second-team defensive back. Edgewood’s district underwent a large overhaul with realignment, retaining only two foes from last season. How the Bulldogs deal with the change in competition will determine whether they merely continue their playoff streak or do something greater.

All-time playoff appearances: 19 Returning starters: 8 offense / 7 defense Schedule: 8/26 vs. Clarksville; 9/2 vs. Caddo Mills; 9/9 at Commerce; 9/16 at Grand Saline; 9/23 at Quinlan Boles; 10/7 vs. Harmony*; 10/14 vs. Lone Oak*; 10/21 at Como-Pickton*; 10/28 vs. Alba-Golden*; 11/4 at Winona*. * — District 8-3A Division II

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Running back Kayce Medlock

ArpTIGERS By TRAVIS YOESTING // tyoesting@tylerpaper.com

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rp is primed for a run. The eyes of these Tigers are set on the biggest prize of all. Nearly the entire team from last year’s 7-6 squad returns, including All-East Texas Newcomer of the Year Demarvion Overshown and do-everything back Kayce Medlock. “I just want to be there to make sure that we be the first team ever in Arp to go to state,” said Medlock, a senior. “That’s my goal, to push my team to state.” Medlock racked up 1,284 yards and 17 touchdowns rushing while also throwing for 366 yards and catching seven passes for 94 yards. The two-way all-district first teamer (running back, linebacker) also had five interceptions and has received a dozen Division I college offers. Senior Tyler Stewart will be the primary quarterback for the Tigers with weapons like Tray Baker and Jacob Birdsong to throw to. But he’ll mostly want to hand the ball off to a stable of backs including Medlock, Q’on Nelson, Jordan Brantley and Skyler Hotaling.

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But defense is where Arp will truly shine. Mack Stroupe, like Medlock a first-team all-district selection on offense and defense, anchors the line alongside Overshown, who amassed 118 tackles and seven sacks as a sophomore. Terry Nance and Cody Blair are also returning all-district players on a loaded defense. “They’re some killers,” Medlock said. “They want to hit. That’s all they want to do is hit.” Last year the Tigers won their opener, lost five straight then won six straight before falling to eventual state champion (and district rival) Waskom in the regional playoffs. Arp has regularly advanced deep in the playoffs during coach Dale Irwin’s reign, but hasn’t had a 10-win season since 2011. With eight starters back on both sides of the ball, 2016 could be a big year for Arp. “We’ve all just got to stay disciplined, stay healthy and just be there for each other,” Medlock said.

ARP TIGERS Coach:

Dale Irwin

2015 record: 7-6 (4-3) Last playoff appearance: 2015 All-time playoff appearances: 20 Returning starters: 8 offense / 8 defense Schedule: 8/26 at Tatum; 9/2 vs. Hughes Springs; 9/9 at Alto; 9/16 vs. Shelbyville; 9/23 vs. Waskom*; 9/30 at Elysian Fields*; 10/7 vs. Beckville*; 10/14 at West Rusk*; 10/21 vs. Troup*; 10/28 at Harleton*. * — District 9-3A Division II


West Rusk RAIDERS

By TRAVIS YOESTING // tyoesting@tylerpaper.com

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est Rusk had one of the program’s best seasons last year, reaching the state quarterfinals. The Raiders lost to only one team all year. State champion Waskom defeated West Rusk twice, including in the state semifinals. Coach John Frazier and the Raiders look to rebuild after losing Dee Starling, Nick Ballard, D.J. Hicks and Breyon Thurman to graduation, who accounted for almost all of the offense last year. One high scorer back is Jose Cerda, a kicker who hit 51 PATs and eight field goals. Senior DeVonta Medford is the team’s leading returning rusher having run for 386 yards at a 7.0-per rush clip. However that’s a far cry from the 2,280 yards gained by Ballard. Stepping in for Starling under center will be Lajavius Harper, who completed 2 of 3 passes for 37 yards in limited action as a freshman last year.

Troup TIGERS

Kevin Jones, the team’s third-leading receiver, will help Harper out after hauling in a team-high 35 receptions for 467 yards and nine touchdowns. On defense, Jones nabbed 10 interceptions, returning them an average of 24.3 yards, including one for a touchdown. He amassed 122 tackles, six for loss. The leading returning tackler is Jacob Walker, a linebacker who tallied 154 tackles, nine for loss. Harper was fifth in tackles with 105 to go with two interceptions as a defensive back. Junior Matthew Davidson bolsters the defensive line. He made 13 tackles for loss as a sophomore. It was Frazier’s second 12-win season during his nine-year tenure in New London. However he followed up a 12-1 campaign in 2010 with a 4-7 mark the following year. Frazier will hope to do better than four wins. With 16 lettermen back in uniform, West Rusk should at least compete for another playoff berth.

By TRAVIS YOESTING // tyoesting@tylerpaper.com

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roup suffered a difficult 2015, ending the year with a 1-9 record and legendary coach Dennis Alexander’s firing after a suspension for allegedly making contact with a player. John Eastman returns as Troup coach, having served primarily as golf coach and defensive coordinator in recent years. Eastman was head coach from 2005 to 2009. Eastman was defensive coordinator when the Tigers went to the state title game in 2004 and has 10 starters back on that side of the ball, though that unit allowed 36.8 points per game. On offense, nine starters return, giving Eastman an experienced squad in his first year back at the helm. Senior lineman Reese Clark is a twoway stud at 5-10, 245 pounds for the Tigers and a second-team all-district guard. Sophomore Weslee Ross will take over quarterback duties for the graduated Callen Eastman but his burden will be

lessened by the return of running backs Ramiro Martinez and Trent Allen. The two combined for 1,457 yards in 2015. Shane Thomas was Troup’s only alldistrict first-team selection last year, earning the honor as a tight end as a sophomore. Defensively Zeke Adams and Tristen Clark will man the linebacker position after combining for 88 stops a year ago. Reese Clark and Thomas will be the first line of defense having compiled 71 tackles together last season on the defensive line. Eastman has a tough task in following Alexander, one of the winningest coaches in Texas high school football history. However if anyone knows how to do it, it’s Eastman, who took over in 2005 after the retirement of 41-year head coaching veteran Andy Griffin. Eastman’s first two years of his last term resulted in two 10-win seasons. Anything close to that this year would be an unqualified success.

WEST RUSK RAIDERS Coach: John

Frazier

2015 record: 12-2 (6-1) Last playoff appearance: 2015 All-time playoff appearances: 12 Returning starters: 6 offense / 7 defense Schedule: 8/26 vs. Winnsboro; 9/2 at All Saints; 9/9 vs. Sabine; 9/16 vs. New Diana; 9/30 vs. Troup*; 10/7 at Harleton*; 10/14 vs. Arp*; 10/21 at Waskom*; 10/28 vs. Elysian Fields*; 11/4 at Beckville*. * — District 9-3A Division II

TROUP TIGERS Coach: John

Eastman

2015 record: 1-9 (1-6) Last playoff appearance: 2013 All-time playoff appearances: 19 Returning starters: 9 offense / 10 defense Schedule: 9/26 at Spring Hill; 9/2 vs. Ore City; 9/9 at Elkhart; 9/16 vs. Palestine Westwood; 9/23 vs. Beckville; 9/30 at West Rusk*; 10/14 vs. Harleton*; 10/21 at Arp*; 10/28 vs. Waskom*; 11/4 at Elysian Fields*. * — District 9-3A Division II

ETFinalScore.com | East Texas Football Preview

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Frankston INDIANS

By TRAVIS YOESTING // tyoesting@tylerpaper.com

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he Mike Owens experiment is over at Frankston. The former Robert E. Lee coach lasted one season with the Indians, going 6-4 in 2015 to mirror his .616 win percentage that left him as the Red Raiders’ all-time wins leader. Owens, who won a state championship in 2004, couldn’t guide Frankston to the playoffs. In steps Jonny Louvier to become the Indians’ third coach in as many years. Louvier is a former Arp offensive coordinator who most recently was coaching at Gladewater, his alma mater where he was an honorable mention allstate quarterback before playing at Texas A&M-Commerce. The new coach will have 15 starters back but will no doubt miss the presence of Kendrick Rogers and Justice Bean, who together combined for 2,226 of Frankston’s 3,125 yards of offense last year. Both will be playing for Texas A&M this fall, Rogers on scholarship and Bean as a preferred walk

on. Quarterbacks T.J. Brumley, a senior, and Garrett Bean, a sophomore, split five starts last year, with Brumley throwing for 1,195 yards and Bean for 488. Both are back but only 22 of 102 receptions will return. La Bradford, a second-team receiver, had 260 yards in five games last year and will be the go-to receiver as a senior. The defense will miss 111-tackle players Dylan Hokit and Brice Harrington, but Drew Lewis had 93 as a sophomore and will be vital in the middle of the field. D.D. and Madison Fields, 67 and 35 tackles, respectively, will provide the push up front for the Indians’ stop unit. Sydney Krajca is a star in the making after recording three interceptions and four pass breakups as a freshman. Frankston is in a new district, leaving behind familiar foes like Arp, Troup and West Rusk. Though the trek to Waskom won’t be missed, the season finale at Newton will be nearly a three-hour bus ride.

Big Sandy WILDCATS By CHRIS PARRY // cparry@tylerpaper.com

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he Big Sandy Wildcats snapped a four-year playoff drought last season by sweeping their final three district games after starting league play 0-2. Big Sandy enters this year with the distinction of being the lone team in new District 10-2A Division I that finished with a winning record. Big Sandy was unceremoniously dumped out of the playoffs by Shelbyville last year, 46-19. It was the first time Big Sandy lost an opening-round playoff game since 2006. Things are place for Big Sandy to challenge for district championship and strong playoff run. The Wildcats are favored to win district by multiple statewide magazines. Big Sandy enters with all of this optimism despite returning nine starters. Junior running back Seth Burke received first-team all-district honors last

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season after he racked up 850 yards on 60 carries (14.1 average) with 10 touchdowns. He may move to quarterback with Big Sandy looking at sophomore Khameron Pippins under center after he garnered second-team all-district honors at outside linebacker. The Wildcats are buoyed by speedy returners Grayson White, Jacob Shipman and Josiah Johnson, who could stand out on defense and offense. Johnson will be a go-to guy at receiver while following up on his all-district season at defensive back. Shipman is listed at 6-0 with White at 6-1. Senior defensive linemen Austin Restine and Zach Stevenson are first-team all-district players and will be key to a stop unit that surrendered 19.5 points per game. Restine totaled 74 tackles with free safety Nik Kilburn returning after making 104 stops a year ago.

FRANKSTON INDIANS Coach: Jonny

Louvier

2015 record: 6-4 (3-4) Last playoff appearance: 2013 All-time playoff appearances: 9 Returning starters: 7 offense / 8 defense Schedule: 8/26 at Palestine Westwood; 9/2 vs. Sabine; 9/9 at Cayuga; 9/16 vs. Jefferson; 9/23 vs. Dallas First Baptist; 9/30 at Cushing; 10/7 at Garrison*; 10/14 vs. Hemphill*; 10/21 at Crockett*; 10/28 vs. Corrigan-Camden*; 11/4 at Newton*. * — District 10-3A Division II

BIG SANDY WILDCATS Coach: Larry

Minter

2015 record: 7-4 (3-2) Last playoff appearance: 2015 All-time playoff appearances: 21 Returning starters: 4 offense / 5 defense Schedule: 8/26 vs. Quitman; 9/2 at Alto; 9/9 at Clarksville; 9/16 vs. Harleton; 9/23 vs. Mt. Enterprise; 10/7 vs. Cross Roads*; 10/14 vs. Kerens*; 10/20 at Union Grove*; 10/28 vs. Hawkins*; 11/4 at Cayuga*. * — District 10-2A Division I


Cayuga WILDCATS By CHRIS PARRY // cparry@tylerpaper.com

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ayuga proved it isn’t how many games you win a season that matters, but when you win. The Wildcats accomplished that just twice in 2015, but both came during district play and were enough to send the Wildcats into the postseason after a one-year absence. The playoff run did not last long, with Cayuga taken out in bi-district by Lovelady, 56-14. The Wildcats now have a new lease on life in a new district — no more Alto and Carlisle, which combined to outscore Cayuga 97-14 last season. To make things even more appealing for Cayuga fans, the two district teams the Wildcats beat last year (Kerens and Cross Roads) followed Cayuga into the new District 10-2A Division I. Cayuga’s Wing-T attack returns running back Tristan Davis, who rushed for nearly 1,000 yards last season. Cayuga will have to replace its quarterback and several linemen

with junior Kolby Cooper (6-3, 310) expected to pick up that leadership mantle after earning first-team all-district honors last season. Senior Josh Ingram is listed at 6-6 and 300 pounds and will be an integral blocker on the line this season after playing tight end a year ago. More young players will be called upon on defense to try to put right a stop unit that allowed teams to score 35 points or more seven times. Sophomore Ryder Sparkman was an all-district first teamer last season after the linebacker delivered 110 tackles. He is joined by senior defensive lineman Albert Calhoun and senior linebacker Victor Hernandez. Both received second-team alldistrict honors a year ago. Cayuga did not taste its first success in coach Cody Mohan’s first year until Week 7 a year ago, but was able to follow it up with another win and that was enough to move the Wildcats into the playoffs.

Union Grove LIONS By CHRIS PARRY // cparry@tylerpaper.com

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nion Grove football is experiencing a new phenomenon: expectations. After going 45 years without a playoff appearance, Union Grove has now reached the postseason in three straight seasons — but has just one playoff win to show for it. Last year, Union Grove was steamrolled by Beckville 56-6 in bi-district. The Lions and coach Roger Adams enter the 2016 campaign with an experienced roster and, thanks to realignment, without the two teams that finished ahead of Union Grove a year ago. If Union Grove is to challenge for a district title in the new District 10-2A Division I, the Lions must improve on an offense that averaged 15.9 points per game. Incoming senior quarterback Austin Owens earned second-team all-district honors last year due in large part to his legs, rushing for 1,012 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Through the air is where Union Grove and Owens must improve as the then-junior completed 79 passes for 742 yards and six touchdowns with 10 interceptions. Union Grove is a predominantly rushing football team, which opens up long-range passing for Owens. His pass completions in 2015 averaged 9 yards with a long of 57. Owens will look to junior Parker Thornton to pick up where he left off after he earned first-team all-district honors for 35 receptions, averaging 8.5 yards per catch. Tanner Stanley returns after leading the team with four touchdowns on 10 receptions. The Lions need to replace two graduated linemen with senior Brennon Daughtry back after receiving first-team honors. Defensively, Union Grove will be led by juniors J.D. Kessler, Luke Dougherty and Alec Mayhan. All three received either superlative or first-team honors a year ago.

CAYUGA WILDCATS Coach: Cody

Mohan

2015 record: 2-9 (2-3) Last playoff appearance: 2015 All-time playoff appearances: 9 Returning starters: 5 offense / 4 defense Schedule: 8/26 vs. Palmer; 9/2 at Wortham; 9/9 vs. Frankston; 9/16 vs. Rice; 9/23 at Carlisle; 10/7 vs. Union Grove*; 10/14 vs. Hawkins*; 10/21 at Kerens*; 10/28 at Cross Roads*; 11/4 vs. Big Sandy* .* — District 10-2A Division I

UNION GROVE LIONS Coach: Roger

Adams

2015 record: 4-7 (3-2) Last playoff appearance: 2015 All-time playoff appearances: 11 Returning starters: 7 offense / 7 defense Schedule: 8/26 at Overton; 9/2 vs. Harleton; 9/9 at New Diana; 9/16 vs. Mt. Enterprise; 9/23 vs. Cushing; 10/7 at Cayuga*; 10/13 at Cross Roads*; 10/20 vs. Big Sandy*; 10/28 vs. Kerens*; 11/4 at Hawkins*. * — District 10-2A Division I

ETFinalScore.com | East Texas Football Preview

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Alto

ALTO YELLOWJACKETS

YELLOWJACKETS

By TRAVIS YOESTING // tyoesting@tylerpaper.com

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espite returning two starters on either side of the ball in 2015, Alto went 11-1 because one of those returners was Keenen

Johnson. Now the Yellowjackets must cope with the loss of their all-state quarterback, who rushed for more than 200 yards per game to lead East Texas in the category before moving on to play at Tulsa this fall. Fortunately for fourth-year coach Paul Gould, Alto returns a few more players than last year, with five starters back on offense and six on defense. Leading the returners is senior Mikkah Hackett, a defensive back who recorded 15 sacks, four interceptions and 99 tackles to earn honorable mention all-state honors alongside Johnson. A trio of juniors will also lead the defense: linebacker Jaqualon Finley (114 tackles, 33 tackles for loss) and lineman Ra’Dedrick Woodson (51 tackles, 33 tackles for loss, six sacks) and defensive back Jayren Whitaker. All three were named district MVP at their

respective defensive positions. Fred Thacker has the unenviable task of filling Johnson’s shoes, but he ran for 875 yards and 11 scores last year as a freshman, so the talent is there. The sophomore is listed at 6-2, 230 pounds. Hackett will help on offense having hauled in 18 catches for 380 yards and five scores as a tight end last year while Nick Pope is back after running for 566 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior. The Yellowjackets will also be aided by three all-district linemen returning in Brian Diaz, Steven Soto and Charlie Morgan. The upcoming season will be a meaningful one for the class of 2016, of which Cam’ron Matthews was a member. Matthews’ on-field death last year was a rallying point for the squad, which won its first 11 games before bowing out to Beckville in the area playoffs. Expect the seniors to carry on Matthews’ legacy and the Yellowjackets to carry on an Alto legacy for a school that has averaged 10.4 wins per season over the last decade.

Hawkins HAWKS

By CHRIS PARRY // cparry@tylerpaper.com

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awkins would just as soon put last year in the rearview mirror — way in the rearview mirror. The Hawks entered with positive vibes but ended up languishing through a 1-9 season, going 1-4 in district. But a little closer look at Hawkins’ plight shows the Hawks were nearly a playoff team. Hawkins dropped two of its district games by a touchdown or less. Turn that around and the Hawks finish league play 3-2 and are back in the postseason for the first time since 2009. This is the hope the team takes into this season as realignment constructed a whole new set of challenges for the Hawks, replacing last year’s district champion Harleton, runner-up Ore City and lastplace Simms Bowie with Cayuga, Kerens and Cross Roads. Sophomore Tristan Garrett will look to build on last year’s efforts when he rushed for 632 yards to receive Offensive Newcomer of the Year honors.

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Fellow sophomore Akim Richmond is penciled in at quarterback after he earned second-team all-district honors as a freshman defensive back thanks to his four interceptions. Hawkins’ defense will need to carry the load if the Hawks are to challenge for a postseason place. The unit returns eight starters, including senior defensive tackle Byron Torres, who garnered honorable mention honors a year ago. He is joined by fellow senior Dustyn Threlkeld, Kyle Durnal, Daniel Robinson and Casey Jasper. Hawkins allowed an average of 27 points per game while scoring 13 per contest. In its lone victory, over Simms Bowie, Hawkins erupted for 49 points. Coach Marty Moore will be looking for more of that production in 2016. Hawkins will have a chance to make an early statement with its first two district games on the road at Kerens and Cayuga, two newcomers to the district, who combined for six wins a year ago.

Coach: Paul

Gould

2015 record: 11-1 (5-0) Last playoff appearance: 2015 All-time playoff appearances: 35 Returning starters: 5 offense / 6 defense Schedule: 8/26 at Winona; 9/2 vs. Big Sandy; 9/9 vs. Arp; 9/16 vs. Garrison; 9/23 at Rusk; 10/7 at Joaquin*; 10/14 vs. Carlisle*; 10/21 at San Augustine*; 10/28 vs. Cushing*; 11/4 at Shelbyville*. * — District 11-2A Division I

HAWKINS HAWKS Coach: Marty

Moore

2015 record: 1-9 (1-4) Last playoff appearance: 2009 All-time playoff appearances: 28 Returning starters: 7 offense / 8 defense Schedule: 8/26 at Alba-Golden; 9/2 at Cushing; 9/9 vs. Como-Pickton; 9/16 at Timpson; 9/23 vs. Joaquin; 10/7 at Kerens*; 10/14 at Cayuga*; 10/21 vs. Cross Roads*; 10/28 at Big Sandy*; 11/4 vs. Union Grove*. * — District 10-2A Division I


Cushing BEARKATS By TRAVIS YOESTING // tyoesting@tylerpaper.com

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or two straight years Cushing went 4-1 in non-district only to be shut out in league play. Promising starts dashed by difficult districts. The story could be the same this year, as the Bearkats were drawn into another tough district with the new realignment, one in which Cushing, at 4-6, was the only team to finish with a losing record. Coach Thomas Emerson loses seven starters on both sides of the ball, including quarterback Brandon Matlock and running back Darius Buckley, the latter of whom ran for 1,105 yards and 14 touchdowns to make up the beef of the team’s offense. Junior Austin Davis will step in under center as a 6-2, 180-pound signal caller after serving as backup last year. Davis was a second-team all-district safety as a sophomore. Mason Reeves will look to fill the void of Buckley. The senior averaged 4.1 yards per carry last year and is the team’s

leading returning yardage gainer with 201 total yards of offense. The Bearkats averaged 27.6 points per game in non-district before they were held to 11.8 points per game in league play, a statistic that will have to change if they’re to make the playoffs for the first time since 1997. Panch Watt isn’t quite J.J. Watt, but the defensive end is the team’s leading returning tackler after recording 47 tackles, two sacks, three tackles for loss and nine QB pressures as a junior. Others expected to prop up a defense that allowed 43.6 points per game in five district losses are linebacker Brayden Arnold, linebacker Michael Rohlf and linebacker Josh Provost. If the defense can stay healthy late in the year and the offense improve as the season wears on, Cushing will try to be one of the four teams from the six-school District 11-2A Division I to make the playoffs, which would end a nearly 20year playoff drought.

Carlisle INDIANS

By TRAVIS YOESTING // tyoesting@tylerpaper.com

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oach Rocky Baker has had an impressive run at Carlisle, racking up winning seasons in each of his 11 years at the helm. Keeping that streak alive in 2016 may be one of his toughest challenges yet. The Indians went 10-2 last fall but only two starters return from that senior-laden team that went two rounds deep in the playoffs. On offense, lineman Tanner Martin and receiver Dustin Perry are back, but not much else in terms of first-team players. Gone is quarterback Collin Gray as well as running backs Rico Pereles and Dalton Sanders, who combined to rush for 130 yards per game. The run game will look instead to Mason Pendleton and Luis Adame. Carlisle will look for speedy Zane Navarro and slot receiver Bryan Mendoza to join Perry in the receiving corps, though Baker needs a quarterback to emerge.

Jose Servin, a first-team all-district cornerback last year, could get a look at quarterback. One plus for the offense is the return of kicker and punter Luis Hernandez. A firstteam all-district player, Hernandez was nearly flawless with a 95 percent conversion rate on PATs while also drilling 8 of 9 field goals. Perry and Servin are returning defensive backs, where they’ll be joined in the secondary by Navarro. Bryan Mendoza Pendleton and Adame provide the strength at linebacker. Pendleton, a junior, is one of nine returning varsity players, with most of the remaining squad to be comprised of players called up from a 7-1 junior varsity squad. The Indians have won 10 games each of the last two seasons and 10 more would put Baker at 100 victories with the school. If he can pull it off this year, it would be a stellar centennial to celebrate.

CUSHING BEARKATS Coach: Thomas

Emerson

2015 record: 4-6 (0-5) Last playoff appearance: 1997 All-time playoff appearances: 2 Returning starters: 4 offense / 4 defense Schedule: 9/2 vs. Hawkins; 9/9 vs. Burkeville; 9/23 at Union Grove; 9/30 vs. Frankston; 10/7 at Carlisle*; 10/14 vs. San Augustine*; 10/21 at Shelbyville*; 10/28 at Alto*; 11/4 vs. Joaquin*. * — District 11-2A Division I

CARLISLE INDIANS Coach: Rocky

Baker

2015 record: 10-2 (4-1) Last playoff appearance: 2015 All-time playoff appearances: 16 Returning starters: 2 offense / 1 defense Schedule: 8/26 at Mount Enterprise; 9/2 at Colmesneil; 9/9 vs. Overton; 9/16 at Alba-Golden; 9/23 vs. Cayuga; 10/7 vs. Cushing*; 10/14 at Alto*; 10/21 vs. Joaquin*; 10/28 vs. Shelbyville*; 11/4 at San Augustine*. * — District 11-2A Division I

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Mount Enterprise WILDCATS

By TRAVIS YOESTING // tyoesting@tylerpaper.com

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ount Enterprise entered district play with a winning record and on the back of three straight victories in 2015, looking to end a one-year hiatus from the postseason. It didn’t quite turn out that way. The Wildcats lost all four of their district games to finish the season with six losses for the second straight year, once again missing the playoffs. Mount Enterprise was the lone squad out of the five-team district to be left out of the postseason party. Coach Scott Holzhauer and the Wildcats will hope to turn things around with a similar-but-new District 11-2A Division II, which lost Maud but added Grapeland and Wortham. Holzhauer can build around junior quarterback Jase Jones, who brings added meaning to the phrase dual threat, being a running and passing quarterback while also starring as one of the team’s best defensive players.

Jones, at 5-11, 165 pounds, threw for 973 yards and 11 touchdowns while running for 412 yards and six more scores. He also amassed 72 tackles and three sacks as a defensive back. In addition to Jones on defense, linebacker Jacob Oswald, defensive back William Sanders, linebacker Grant Shannon and lineman Ricky Price will hope to shore up a defense that allowed 36.8 points per game last year. Oswald also starts on the offensive line alongside Hugo Mejia. They’ll try to help an offense dealing with the loss of firstteam all-district players: fullback Kavonski Thompson, lineman Mikey Grubbs and receiver Christian Hammett. With four starters returning on offense and five on defense, Mount Enterprise may start a few freshmen. Together the group will look for the program’s first winning season since 2012, which marked the end of a six-year run with an average of nine wins.

Overton MUSTANGS By TRAVIS YOESTING // tyoesting@tylerpaper.com

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verton has made a living off winning at the right time. The Mustangs have made the playoffs in four straight seasons, but have only produced a winning record in one of those years. While the playoff streak is something Overton would like to continue, a first winning record since 2012 would be just as welcome for new head coach Richard Strickland, who takes over for Josh Barton. Last year the Mustangs went 2-2 in district, with those two wins coming by a combined five points, but it was enough to reach the second season. Overton returns seven starters on offense but graduates Kamron Hawkins, Jonathan Hughes and Brenton Craig from the skill positions. However, quarterback Jake Marshall, fullback Tanner Lee and tight end Ridge Reddick are back.

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Lee averaged 91.0 yards and 1.6 touchdowns per game as a junior and will run behind returning all-district lineman Erik Rodriguez. Marshall passed for 719 yards with six touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Half of his touchdown tosses came in a 44-30 loss to All Saints in the second game of the year and all went to Joe Clark, an incoming junior. Lee and Reddick were also both alldistrict inside linebackers and will be back to man the interior of the defense. The stop unit graduated seven starters but Strickland will look to players like defensive end Michael Steelman, free safety Nathan Palmer and defensive lineman Brandon Allison to fill the voids. If Overton can pick up at least two wins in district play, the Mustangs could make the playoffs yet again, regardless of what they do in non-district.

MOUNT ENTERPRISE WILDCATS Coach: Scott

Holzhauer

2015 record: 3-6 (0-4) Last playoff appearance: 2013 All-time playoff appearances: 11 Returning starters: 4 offense / 5 defense Schedule: 8/26 vs. Carlisle; 9/2 vs. Alba-Golden; 9/9 at Colmesneil; 9/16 at Union Grove; 9/23 at Big Sandy; 10/7 vs. Tenaha*; 10/14 at Overton*; 10/22 vs. Wortham*; 10/28 at Timpson*; 11/4 vs. Grapeland. * — District 11-2A Division II

OVERTON MUSTANGS Coach: Richard

Strickland

2015 record: 3-8 (2-2) Last playoff appearance: 2015 All-time playoff appearances: 22 Returning starters: 7 offense / 5 defense Schedule: 8/26 vs. Union Grove; 9/2 at Simms Bowie; 9/9 at Carlisle; 9/16 vs. Como-Pickton; 9/23 at Colmesneil; 10/7 vs. Grapeland*; 10/14 vs. Mount Enterprise*; 10/21 at Timpson*; 10/28 vs. Tenaha*; 11/4 at Wortham*. * — District 11-2A Division II


Leverett's Chapel LIONS By CHRIS PARRY // cparry@tylerpaper.com

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everett’s Chapel would just as soon consider 2015 as a blip on the radar screen and move on. A year after the Lions won nine games in a row, LC limped to a 1-8 record, which included a forfeit loss in district to Chester. That six-man district was comprised of three teams. A year later, Leverett’s Chapel is now grouped into the new District 16-1A Division I, along with Union Hill, Chester, High Island and Apple Springs. Union Hill went 7-3 last season with High Island moving up from Division II after going 5-6. Chester is the defending district champion and Apple Springs is also back after its lone league loss was to

Chester. If the Lions are to erase last year’s disappointing season and get back to their winning ways, Leverett’s Chapel will have to improve on an offense that scored 35 points per game while allowing 54.6. Not a recipe for success. Back for the Lions are Blake Brown, Colton Glasco, Chase Brewer and Matthew Overman. Following the disappointment of forfeiting its district opener, Leverett’s Chapel gave Apple Springs all it could ask for in its season finale last year, falling 4840. LC wants more of the same with a few more marks in the win column in 2016.

Fruitvale BOBCATS

LEVERETT'S CHAPEL LIONS Coach: Wes

McWhorter

2015 Record: 1-8 (0-2) Last playoff appearance: 2014 All-time playoff appearances: 15 Returning starters: 3 offense / 5 defense Schedule: 8/26 vs. Exel Homeschool; 9/2 vs. Fruitvale; 9/9 at Marshall Christian; 9/16 at Longview Trinity; 9/23 at Fannindel; 9/30 vs. Tyler HEAT; 10/7 vs. Union Hill*; 10/14 at Chester*; 10/29 vs. High Island*; 11/4 at Apple Springs*. * — District 16-1A Division I

FRUITVALE BOBCATS Coach: Casey

Chase

2015 Record: 2-8

By CHRIS PARRY // cparry@tylerpaper.com

Last playoff appearance: 2000

elcome back, welcome back, welcome back. Fruitvale is a six-man football team again. No one is happier than the Bobcats, who suffered for two years as an 11-man squad, going 0-10 in 2014 and 2-8 last season while being outscored 208-387. Fruitvale was 5-5 in its last year in six man in 2013 and the Bobcats want more of the same kind of success in District 15-1A Division I.

All-time playoff appearances: 3

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Also in the new district is Savoy, which reached the regional semifinals in Class 1A Division I a year ago and Tioga, which began its season 8-0, but lost two district games to miss the playoffs. Irving Universal was winless last season and Fannindel finished 6-3. Fruitvale is more than equipped to do damage at this level with Breylan Tarrant, Davin Brightman, Kayle Lewis, Cody Hunto and Landon Williams all back after seeing significant playing time last season.

Returning starters: 4 offense / 5 defense Schedule: 8/26 vs. Longview Trinity; 9/2 at Leverett’s Chapel; 9/16 vs. Canton Exel HomeSchool; 9/23 vs. Trinidad; 9/30 at Milford; 10/7 vs. Tioga*; 10/14 at Savoy*; 10/21 at Campbell; 10/28 vs. Fannindel*; 11/4 at Universal Academy*. * — District 15-1A Division I

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Union Hill BULLDOGS By TRAVIS YOESTING // tyoesting@tylerpaper.com

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ow they’re starting to get the hang of it. Union Hill’s first season in six-man football in 2014 resulted in a 2-7 season, though that was two wins more than the Bulldogs had in the two seasons prior at the 11-man level. In 2015, Union Hill turned things around, going 7-3 and reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2007. The Bulldogs went 5-1 in non-district play before winning their first two District 15-1A Division I games against Irving Universal Academy and Campbell to clinch the postseason berth. Union Hill ended the season with backto-back losses but the program hopes to rediscover the form it showed during its seven-game winning streak as it heads into a new era under coach Shane Mallory. The Bulldogs return half of their starters from last year’s squad, including the onetwo punch of juniors Colton Wade and

Kasen Yandle on offense. Yandle threw for more than 1,100 yards and 19 touchdowns last year. Wade was Yandle’s go-to receiver, racking up 900 yards and 10 touchdowns. He did that on 30 receptions, giving him a remarkable 30 yards per catch and one touchdown every three catches. Colby Wade, also a senior, will be another receiver for Yandle while sophomore Omar Aguillon will be a running back to watch. On defense, Colton Wade will also star at linebacker alongside Parke Scudday and Keelon Caffey. Carl Fletcher gives the team speed in the secondary. Union Hill graduated six seniors from last year’s squad, including some of its largest players. But now that the Bulldogs have been in six-man for a couple years, they’ll hope to keep things moving forward after ending a streak of eight straight losing seasons.

King's Academy KNIGHTS

Coach: Shane

Mallory

2015 record: 7-3 (2-1) Last playoff appearance: 2015 All-time playoff appearances: 15 Returning starters: 3 offense / 3 defense Schedule: 8/26 vs Longview Christian Heritage; 9/2 vs Henderson Full Armor Christian; 9/9 at Crowley Nazarene Christian; 9/16 vs Strawn at Milford; 9/23 bs Canton Exel HomeSchool; 9/30 vs Denton Calvary; 10/7 at Leverett's Chapel*; 10/14 at High Island*; 10/21 at Apple Springs*; 11/4 vs Chester*.* — District 16-1A Division I

KING'S ACADEMY KNIGHTS Coach: Alex

Miller

2015 record: 0-7 (0-1) Last playoff appearance: 2014

By TRAVIS YOESTING // tyoesting@tylerpaper.com

Last state championship: 2007

ing’s Academy has suffered through a few fallow years since it reached the top. The Knights won a state title in 2007 but since then have a combined record of 29-38. The last time King’s Academy had a winning season was 2011, the year coach Alex Miller graduated from the school. In his second year in charge, Miller will be eyeing improvement. Miller has four starters back on both sides of the ball led by senior quarterback/ cornerback Koleson Sutsch. Sutsch and his brother, Karson, a junior, combined for 1,060 passing yards, 137 rushing yards and 285 receiving yards last year. Also back is Andrew McCuistion, a 6-1, 190-pound senior. McCuistion had a teamhigh 21 receptions to go with 356 yards and four touchdowns as a tight end but could also see playing time at center this year.

Returning starters: 4 offense / 4 defense

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Another receiving option is Gregory Thompson, who caught seven passes with a team-best 24.6 yards per catch a year ago. Karson Sutsch is the top returning yard gainer after averaging 148.6 total yards per game. Karson Sutsch (6-1, 150 pounds) is also the top returning tackler, recording 5.7 tackles per game. Both Karson and Koleson snagged one interception apiece. McCuistion was King’s Academy’s sack leader last year and will again lead the pass rush at defensive end. Lining up with McCuistion will be Antoine Neal, who is the team’s second leading returning tackler and had an interception and two fumble recoveries a year ago. Miller knows the Knights need to do better than the winless campaign of 2015. With half the team made up of seniors, King’s Academy should be in good shape to start a return to winning ways.

Schedule: 8/26 vs. Apple Springs; 9/3 vs. Longview Trinity School of Texas; 9/9 vs. Longview Christian Heritage; 9/16 vs. Tyler HEAT; 9/23 at Marshall Christian*; 9/30 at Bowie Gold-burg; 10/8 vs. Henderson Full Armor; 10/14 at Dallas Lakehill Prep; 10/21 vs. Dallas CHANT HomeSchool; 10/28 at Azle Christian. * — TCAL Division II


Tyler HEAT

TYLER HEAT Coach: Bill

Beggs

2015 record: 5-5 (2-2) Last playoff appearance: 2015

By TRAVIS YOESTING // tyoesting@tylerpaper.com

All-time playoff appearances: 4

year after winning it all, Tyler HEAT went 5-5 and was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. This year, with three quarters of the team set to return, the HEAT are hoping for another strong season in TAIAO Division I. Tyler graduated four seniors but three were captains who played large roles on both sides of the ball: coach’s son Daniel Beggs, Caleb Morrison and Jacob Hamrick. Beggs had a team-best 499 yards passing, 1,046 yards rushing and 24 total touchdowns. Morrison led the team with 126 tackles and 27 sacks while tallying 1,053 total yards, including a team-leading 271 yards receiving. Hamrick had a teamhigh 36 tackles for loss to go with 10 sacks. But the HEAT have options moving up through the ranks. Nathan Tharp was third on the team in total yards with 701 while accounting for

Returning starters: 3 offense / 3 defense

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16 touchdowns. Isaac Taylor finished second on the team with 190 yards through the air. Taylor’s eight receiving touchdowns were almost half of the team’s 20 total scoring receptions. Tharp and Taylor were also standouts on defense. Tharp racked up 72 tackles, second best on the team. Taylor had a team-high three interceptions. Others who could play larger roles this year include Caleb Cannon, Isaac Lewis, Isaac Taylor, Jared Harvey and Justin Jones. In five seasons as a program, Tyler HEAT has won a state title and only once had a losing season, a 3-5 mark in the inaugural 2011 campaign. Despite major losses on both sides of the ball, the HEAT will expect to stay in contention for a fifth straight playoff appearance.

Schedule: 8/27 at Henderson Full Armor; 9/3 at Longview Christian Heritage; 9/9 at Longview Trinity School of Texas; 9/16 at King’s Academy; 9/24 vs. Dallas CHANT HomeSchool; 9/30 at Leverett’s Chapel; 10/8 vs. Joshua Johnson County Sports Association; 10/15 at Canton Exel HomeSchool*; 10/28 vs. Fort Worth THESA*. * — TAIAO Division I

MA AN MADE IT, MAN CAN FIX IT.

Milan’s Auto Tech

EUROPEAN, ASIAN & DOMESTIC AUTOMOTIVE SERVICE V O T E D VA N Z A N D T C O U N T Y ’ S B E S T AU TO M OT I V E S H O P I N 2015!

O F F I C E: 9035677800 • C E L L: 9032830467 E M A I L: E U R O MX12 E TC A B L E.N E T 2 9 8 4 7 S TAT E H W Y 6 4 C A N T O N , T X 7 5 1 0 3 • AU T O M OT I V E T E C H N I C I A N WA N T E D •

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VIEW FROM THE PRESSBOX WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE STADIUM FOR COVERING GAMES? My favorite stadium has changed names over the years and its current name is Christus Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium. The views are great and when it’s packed the atmosphere is awesome. Having a restroom in the press box is a plus! — Phil Hicks, Tyler Morning Telegraph R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium in Kilgore. Started my career in 1987 covering the Kilgore High School Bulldogs and Kilgore College Rangers as sports editor for the Kilgore News Herald. I now live about 100 yards from the stadium. — Jack Stallard, Longview News-Journal Lumpkins Stadium, Waxahachie. You walk indoors to the press box elevator past a concierge of sorts and by the team’s gift shop! The food and service were fantastic too. — Chris Parry, Tyler Morning Telegraph Texas Stadium, Irving. One of John Tyler’s favorite places to play under Allen Wilson and a real treat for this former sportswriter. — Joe Buie, Tyler Morning Telegraph The Puncherdome, Mason. The stadium’s actual name is R. Clinton Schulze Stadium, home of the Mason Punchers. The stadium features an overhang covering the home stands because it was an old horse racing track on the Mason County fairgrounds and was later transformed into the high school football stadium. — Nathan Wright, Tyler Morning Telegraph Whitehouse’s Wildcat Stadium. Rowdiest fans in East Texas. — Eric Sullivan, CBS19 Tomato Bowl, Jacksonville. There may 66

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be nicer stadiums around East Texas and the state, but the history of the Tomato Bowl gives a unique feel. And the burning ‘J’ before the game adds to the atmosphere. — Brandon Ogden, The Lufkin News AT&T Stadium, Arlington. If nothing else, you know it’s going to be a big game if it’s at Jerry World. — Travis Yoesting, Tyler Morning Telegraph

WHAT’S THE BEST GAME YOU’VE COVERED? The 1994 John Tyler vs. Plano East on Thanksgiving weekend. It is known as the “Good Gosh O’Mighty Game” or by many as the greatest high school game ever. JT won 48-44. There were five TDs scored in the final two-plus minutes. The Lions led 41-17 at one point before the Panthers took the lead only to see Roderick Dunn take the kickoff back 97 yards for a TD with 11 seconds remaining to thwart the comeback. — Hicks Kilgore 33, Dallas Lincoln 27 in 2 OT for the 2004 Class 4A Division II state championship at Floyd Casey Stadium in Waco. — Stallard (Tie) Jacksonville at Nacogdoches in 2010. Jacksonville won 84-81 in 12 overtimes. AND Lufkin at Robert E. Lee in 2015. Lee led 42-3 late in the first half and 42-10 at halftime. Lufkin rallied for a 52-49 win in overtime. — Ogden The 2012 Class 5A semifinal between Denton Guyer and John Tyler. It featured two highlight-reel quarterbacks, Greg Ward of JT and Jerrod Heard of Guyer. It featured a combined 1,300 yards of offense. JT fell behind 43-24 with 6:51 remaining before recovering multiple onside kicks to

outscore Guyer 29-7 in a little over three minutes to take a 53-50 lead. But Guyer had one final reply to win what was an exhilarating, unforgettable game. — Parry Back in 2010, Paint Rock and Novice battled for a six-man district title on the final night of the regular season. Paint Rock won the game 112-109, scoring the last touchdown of the game in the final minutes. The 221 points combined points were a state record at the time. — Wright John Tyler’s 28-21 overtime win against Waco in the 2000 Class 5A Division II quarterfinals at Plano’s Clark Field. Cujo overcame a three-touchdown deficit with 28 straight points after halftime. Aaron Ross had an iconic interception during the rally. — Buie

WHO’S THE BEST PLAYER YOU’VE COVERED? John Tyler’s David Warren, Gary Baxter and Mickey Jones. Robert E. Lee’s Fred Coleman. — Buie Patrick Mahomes, Whitehouse. — Yoesting John Tyler’s David Warren. — Stallard Chris Warren, RB, Rockwall. The most dominant football player I have ever seen. He racked up 471 yards and six touchdowns on 34 carries in one game against Robert E. Lee. — Parry After some 35 years of covering football, it is tough to narrow down the players, but Robert E. Lee High School running back Stephan Howland was one of the best. JT defensive lineman David Warren, JT defensive back Joey Ellis and Whitehouse’s Patrick Mahomes are up there as well. — Hicks


GETTING READY FOR THE 2016 SEASON, WE ASKED EAST TEXAS REPORTERS ABOUT THEIR FAVORITE MEMORIES FROM COVERING HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL. Trey Metoyer, Whitehouse. — Sullivan Shaud Williams, Andrews. Williams was unstoppable for four years at Andrews and was named all-state multiple times. — Wright Trey Metoyer, Whitehouse. Just based on high school, I believe he was the best player I covered. He was unreal on the high school level. — Ogden

2004 Robert E. Lee Red Raiders. Superstars like offensive tackle Ciron Black and running back Tyrone Ross while also steadying influences like quarterback Josh Hill, cornerback Cole Scates and receiver Tony Bush would not let REL be denied the program’s lone state championship. — Parry The 1994 John Tyler Lions who were 16-0 and won the Class 5A Division II state championship. — Hicks 2010 Chapel Hill. — Sullivan 1990 Groveton Indians. Went 16-0 and won the Class 2A state title with a 25-19 win over DeLeon at Floyd Casey Stadium in Waco. — Stallard 2014 Gilmer. The Buckeyes went down as one of the highest-scoring teams in Texas football history with McLane Carter, Blake Lynch and Kris Boyd leading the way. — Ogden

John Tyler ending West Monroe’s (Louisiana) 40-game winning streak, 4214, at Rose Stadium in 1999. The Lions avenged a 47-0 loss from the previous year (at West Monroe). — Buie In 2005 Lufkin and Nacogdoches were tied at 7 late in the third quarter. Lufkin had third-and-10 from its own 2. Jeremy Claybon completed a pass to Dez Bryant near the 50. Bryant threw his defender out of bounds and reversed field for a 98yard touchdown to give Lufkin the lead. — Ogden Kilgore’s Nick Sanders blocking, recovering and then returning a field goal attempt 67 yards for the game-winning touchdown in Kilgore’s Class 4A Division II state title win over Dallas Lincoln. — Stallard The pick-six by Jason Stripling for Lee in the 2004 Class 5A Division I state championship game. Spring Westfield was driving in the first half and threatening to break a 0-0 deadlock until in one instant Lee took control of the game and never looked back. — Parry In 1989, both John Tyler and Texas High were struggling and it appeared the Tigers would break a long losing streak with an extra point with just seconds left in the game. However, JT blocked the kick and Joey Ellis, who went on to play at Texas, returned the kick some 107 yards for two points and a JT win. — Hicks

WHAT’S THE BEST PLAY OR MOMENT YOU’VE COVERED?

WHAT IS THE BEST HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL TRADITION?

Henderson upsetting Chapel Hill in the 2010 state finals. — Sullivan

The burning “J” at Jacksonville is one of my favorites and I love the “Big Bad John”

WHAT’S THE BEST TEAM YOU’VE COVERED?

fight song at JT. — Hicks The burning “J” at Jacksonville has always been one of my favorites. — Ogden Jacksonville’s “Flaming J.” — Stallard Under Allen Wilson, John Tyler wore three different jerseys in a season. Basically practice jerseys in non-district, nice “Name” jerseys in district and then the “Cujo” jerseys in the playoffs. — Buie

WHICH TEAM HAS THE BEST INFLATABLE? The Nacogdoches Dragon. Not only does it catch your eye, but it’s also different than a helmet or the usual bulldog. — Ogden San Angelo Lake View. Really, any school that uses a teepee with smoke pouring out of it just looks really awesome. — Wright Mineola’s Yellowjacket. That thing is huge and it’s always fun to see the parents trying to put it up in gusting winds. — Parry

WHO’S BAND IS THE BEST ON FRIDAY NIGHTS? John Tyler’s is the most memorable. — Parry Plainview. This award-winning band uses large props during its halftime shows. With over 300 members, its shows span from end zone to end zone and it has been nicknamed the “Powerhouse of the Plains.” — Wright Longview High School. They’ve won sweepstakes every year since Moses was a freshman. — Stallard For halftime performances, I would lean

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toward Nacogdoches, but for in game, it would have to be John Tyler. The JT band brings a great energy to the game. — Ogden Lindale High School has a tradition of precision and fantastic music. — Hicks

WHAT’S THE BEST RIVALRY TO COVER? John Tyler vs. Lee. It is a beautiful setting with Blue & White against Red & White, at least that is supposed to be their school colors. The great bands, the Blue Brigade and Southern Belles, the Lion Guard and the Southern Gentlemen. I do miss the Lee cannon, although I would jump each time it was fired. — Hicks Odessa Permian vs. Midland Lee. Both Lee and Permian have rivalries with the other team in their city (Midland High and Odessa High), but when these two teams meet, it is always intense. — Wright Kilgore vs. Henderson. In Kilgore, I’ve seen vehicles with “Beat Henderson” written on the windows in Week 1 of the season when the two teams didn’t play until Week 10. — Stallard Lufkin vs. Nacogdoches. It was lopsided for years, but the game means so much to both schools and communities. — Ogden

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John Tyler vs. Robert E. Lee for city bragging rights. Loved those Saturday afternoon games. — Buie

WHAT’S THE BEST PERFORMANCE YOU’VE COVERED? Patrick Mahomes throwing for 605 yards, then fifth most in Texas high school history, in Whitehouse’s 65-60 loss to Mesquite Poteet in the regional playoffs in 2013. Mahomes completed 36 of 61 passes with five TDs and two INTs to go with 47 yards and two scores rushing. — Yoesting Greg Ward against Denton Guyer was memorable, but it has to be Chris Warren against Lee: 471 yards and six touchdowns on 34 carries. — Parry Trey Metoyer’s seven catches for 194 yards and five touchdowns in a half is hard to top. I’ve seen some other good ones, but that is definitely the most memorable. — Ogden Paint Rock’s Tony Diaz in 2010 against Novice. Diaz rushed for 621 yards and 12 touchdowns and passed for 151 yards and four touchdowns. He recovered a Novice fumble in the final minute to seal the 112109 six-man victory for the Indians. —

Wright

WHICH STADIUM HAS THE BEST PRESS BOX FOOD? A gentleman used to make homemade chili for the press box in Marshall. Second best chili I’ve ever eaten (my mama’s is No. 1). — Stallard Brownsboro. Coach Fred Griffin and coach Chris Frederick are awesome hosts and the food is fantastic. The fried chicken is second to my mom’s. And it reminds you of the big spread at the Great East Texas Shootout. — Hicks (Tie) Hanby Stadium in Mesquite serves a huge Abuelos spread before kickoff and has candy, popcorn and soda throughout. Tiger Stadium at Grim Park in Texarkana had everything. On my plate I had barbeque, fried fish, gumbo, pizza and a chicken tender when I went to my seat. — Parry Palestine. Great variety and plenty of food. — Ogden Bishop Gorman’s McCallum Stadium. Gotta love the Grill on the Hill. — Yoesting I remember Longview had a huge spread. — Buie TV guys don’t get any! — Sullivan


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