By DON WALLACE
News-Telegram Sports Editor
The only thing sure is that things will change.
Especially in Texas.
The Wildcats are now a member of 15-5A and in a district with some new squads and familiar foes.
Sulphur Springs is picked third in the district according to the recently released issue of Dave Campbell’s Texas High School football magazine.
Switch Darth Vadar into a green Lobo uniform and you get the top pick in the district - Longview. The magazine selected Texas High to take second, Sulphur Springs, third and the final team to make the playoffs is Hallsville.
Sulphur Springs head football coach Greg Owens doesn’t put much stock in pre-season publications. His picks, don’t match up with the legendary magazine. But that’s part of high school football. Owens, a Sulphur Springs graduate, knows how much football means to this town and in the state overall.
“Yes, it (Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine) is a great conversation piece and at times bulletin board material for opponents,” Owens said of the gridirons magazine. “Always have to be careful what we tell media types. We use it to challenges our teams/players and we have to guard against let downs sometimes too. Overall it creates a lot of buzz and builds to the excitement of football season. It’s almost here!!!”
The magazine also listed Larry Pryor and Jess Jenkins as pre-season 5A All-State players.
Jenkins was listed as offensive lineman on the 5A team. Pryor chosen as a utility player on the defense.
As far as the rankings for the teams in district, the following is the listing with enrollment figures in parenthesis.
1. Longview (2057.5)
2. Texarkana Texas High (1,982)
3. Sulphur Springs (1,126)
4. Hallsville (1,381)
5. Marshall (1,393)
6. Longview Pine Tree (1,278)
7. Mount Pleasant (1,458)
8. Greenville (1,070)
It is interesting that the two teams added to what was once 14-4A are now the bookends on the district. Longview, the largest school by enrollment and the preseason pick and neighboring Greenville with the fewest students listed and are also picked to finish eighth.
Sulphur Springs, as in recent season, is expected to do the most with the least. They are the highest ranked school with the smallest enrollment. But Owens knows that is all part of the deal. The Wildcats embrace the challenge.
The magazine also is quick to list the key losses the Wildcats suffered which include Willy Ivery (North Texas), B.J. Stribling (Tarleton State). They forget to mention lineman Garret Hood who will be playing for East Texas Baptist. The Wildcats finished 8-4 losing in DII area competition.
Hood had 75 tackles and six sacks on the defensive line last year. Stribling at defensive back, had 45 tackles and played in all 11 games.
Ivery lit up the scoreboard with 34 touchdowns. The fleet-footed running back/receiver had more than 1,600 yards on the ground and was the offensive MVP of the district. Ivery also was a threat on punt and kick returns, a skill he will have on display for the Mean Green.
The Wildcats might have lost 29 lettermen, but they have 22 returning including seven offensive starters and eight defensive starters.
Pryor, a Texas A&M pledge at defensive back, made all-state in his first full year at quarterback. He accounted for more than 2,600 yards passing and 1,000 on the ground. Pryor at 6-1, 200-pounds is a force to be reckoned with and it takes a tough tackler to bring him to the ground.
The magazine lists other players to watch as: OL Jess Jenkins (6-3, 285, 5.3), LB Zach Spigner (6-1, 190, 4.5); OL Landon Watkins (6-1, 250, 5.3). Top junior DL Cain Cody (6.3, 220, 4.8). Top sophomore: RB Jaylon Hawkins, (5-8, 175, 4.5).
Listed as other prospects include: TE Dillon Carpenter, OL Seth Harred, Austan Davis, DB Jaylon Dugan, DE Bryton Wood and RB Tyler Rosamond.
The offensive line was lauded with Jenkins and Watson recognized for their outstanding performances. Jenkins with 52 knockdowns, 17 pancakes; Watkins with 31 knockdowns and 31 pancake blocks.
The magazine also details the other teams in the district. Below is a partial list of some of the information released.
The Lobos, coached by John King, are back as the bully on the block.
It is easy to see why the green-clad squad is a pre-season pick at No. 3 in the Class 5A, Top 40.
They had 23 returning lettermen. They have four offensive and three defensive starters returning from a team which went 11-2 and made the 5A Division II regional semifinals, going 6-0 in district a year ago.
Key losses include Zaycoven Henderson (A&M), Dorian Leonard (UT), Travin Howard (TCU), Vernon Hutchinson, Stephan Maxey (TJC) and and Chris Coby (TVCC).
Players to watch include: RB JaMychal Hasty (5-9, 183, 4.3) he had 1,420 yards and 13 touchdowns a year ago; OL Broderick Washington (6-3, 290, 5.1), QB Dezmond Chumley (6-0, 185, 4.4) Chumley threw for 2,250 yards with 33 touchdowns and just five picks.
Top juniors: RB Tylan Miller, (5-9, 205, 4.6), SS Keenan Madden (6-0, 195, 4.6). Top sophomore: RB D’Crayan Polk, (5-9 170, 4.4).
The Lobos had a .816 winning record under King averaging 12 wins a year. Hasty is a Baylor pledge and lauded as a top player on offense.
The defense has such standouts are Omar French. French had 17 tackles for losses and eight sacks last year.
Longview has help coming up in the form of depth, with their JV posting a record of 8-1 last year.
It’s always Texas High and if they weren’t in the district. Sulphur Springs might feel a little strange. The Wildcats and Tigers have been battling for years.
Now it’s the Tigers picked a notch ahead of the Wildcats stirring up things and they haven’t even played a game.
Texas High is coming off a 9-2 year, losing in non-district. The team went 5-0 in district a year ago, giving up just 39 points total in five games. Fans are interested to see if they can pull that off again.
The Tigers lost 24 lettermen, but had 23 coming back. They have six offensive and three defensive player back under head Barry Norton.
Key losses include: Anthony Rhone (SMU), Trey Walker, Taylor Jackson (Navy), Wanya Jenkins (Southern Ark.).
Players to watch: WR Jarion Anderson, DL William Brown (6-3, 275), RB Jarion Anderson, DL K.J. Reid (6-1, 190) DB Dale Williamson.
Other prospects: DB Jacarian Walker, OL Grant Burns, Tyler Lowe and Matt Davis.
The Tigers last year were sparked by a tough defense. Top defenders coming back are DB Brown, LB Reid, DB Williamson and Newcomer of the Year in district, DB Walker.
The Bobcats are picked fourth in the district this year. Hallsville was 6-5 last season, losing in bi-district play.
Hallsville has 24 returning starters back, including eight offensive and five defensive players.
Key losses include Macailyn Wilder (Texas A&M-Commerce), Andre Jones and David Jackson (East Texas Baptist).
Hallsville head coach David Plunk was quoted as saying he agreed with the football magazine’s picks.
Plunk told the Marshall News-Messenger, “This district is tough. It’s going to be a dog fight. It will be an honor to make the playoffs, but it’s something we’ve had to work at. It probably is the toughest district in the state. It’s certainly one of the toughest. It’s (the magazine) something about the summer than everybody looks forward to and it’s fun to read, but hopefully we can find a spot better than fourth place.
Players to watch for Hallsville include: DE Dewayne Johnson (63-215, 4.6); WR Jamil Young (6-2, 180, 4.5), RB Kah’lil Sneed (5-7, 170, 4.5) DB Dionte Johnson (5-1), 170, 4.5) OL Trey Gillespie (6-4, 270, 5.1). Top juniors: QB Roger McCuller (6-0, 175, 4.5) DL Braylon Smith (6-1, 240, 5.0). Top sophomore: LB Blair Fernandez (5-9, 170, 4.6).
Sneed ran for more than 900 yards scoring 11 times last year. Young had 32 catches for 640 yards and eight TDs.
On defense, Dewayne Johnson had 45 tackles, nine tackles for losses, five sacks, two forced fumbles.
The Mavericks were picked fifth and out of the playoff hunt. Marshall went 3-8 a year ago and finished the year with a bi-district defeat. But it was a postseason berth which seemed a long way off not too long ago.
Maverick head coach Clint Harper, a former Marshall player, has the program headed in the right direction.
Harper was quoted in a recent publication as saying that the district was one of the toughest in the state.
“We added Longview and Greenville. All those teams have great athletes,” Harper said. “ We are one of the biggest teams on the line in district. We have the most returning starters. A lot of our kids have played a lot of games. That’s the strength of our team, never wavered on that. It doesn’t matter how good your skill kids are if you don’t have a line to block for them because football games are won and lost in the trenches, which is why I thing we have a legitimate shot at a district championship.”
Marshall has 25 returning lettermen with seven offensive and nine defensive starters back.
Key losses are: Mitchell Leonard (Tarleton State), Jauque Kuykendall (Texas A&M-Commerce).
Players to watch: OL Chett Munden (6-7, 305, 5.1), WR John Love (5-11, 195, 4.4), DE Trey Valentine (6-4, 230, 5.0), OL C.J. Powell (6-2, 295, 5.2) OL Tyler Hodges (6-0, 290, 5.5), DL Antonio Washington (6-0, 250, 4.9). Top juniors: QB Justin Hart, (5-11, 175, 4.8), RB Deondre Osborne (6-0, 205, 4.4). Top sophomore: QB Cameron Haller, (5-10, 195. 4.5).
Longview Pine Tree
Picked sixth is a group of Pirates which failed to win a district game a year ago.
The team should be improved with 23 returning lettermen. They have six offensive and seven defensive starters back from a 3-7 team.
Players to watch: QB Mason Hays (6-1, 185) running back Quay Ward (5-9, 185) RB Quay Henderson (5-7, 150), WR Jonathan Gidding (5-9, 185) OL Chris Charvis (6-0, 285) LB Irvin Shen (6-0, 200), DB Tekanya Reeden (5-10, 220). Top juniors: Alex Kuitko (6-0, 230) DB Jakevian Evans (6-2, 175).
Hays is an explosive playmaker. Last season he had more than 500 yards rushing, he caught 37 passes and threw for more than 700 yards. Giddings had almost 400 ground yards.
The team did not have trouble scoring, putting up 30 points per game. The trouble was their defense allowed 43 points per game.
The defense will be asked to be tougher this year. That side of the ball is led by Shen with 75 tackles. Defensive backs Evans and Darden each had at least 24 tackles.
The Tigers have to find out what life is like without K.D. Cannon. The state sprinter and standout receiver is now at Baylor after several very productive years at Mount Pleasant.
Other losses from a year ago are Andrew Flanagan, Joel Bautista (East Texas Baptist), Joshua Scoggins, Tyzesjawon Walker and Devon Hargrove.
Last season the team went 4-6 overall, 1-4 in district play. The Tigers have a new coaching staff and 12 returning starters.
The top players include WR Jaquille Rogers (6-0, 170, 4.7) and junior Keanan Brown (5-8, 15, 4.6).
The Tigers allowed an average of 41.9 points per game last year. Top defender returning is Brown (3 ints, 2 TDs).
The Lions are facing an uphill battle.
After going 0-10 a year ago, the Greenville squad got moved into one of the toughest district around.
Greenville went 0-7 in district play in 2014, therefore, they are picked to be last in the newly constructed 15-5A district.
Coach Marvin Sedberry’s team has 21 returning lettermen, including three offensive starters and a half dozen back on defense.
Key loss: John Franklin (SFA).
Players to watch: OL Shaquille Anderson (6-1 310), Cameron Canady (6-0, 205), LB Devon Charrier (6-1, 190). Top junior: RB Carandel Hale (5-11, 190, 4.5). Top sophomore: OL Montana Bottone, (6-0, 310).
Other prospects: Spencer Gilbert II, LB Dakota Sandman. OL Thomas Pitts, WR Octavian Phelps.
The Lions have 0-10 seasons dating back to 2010. They are trying for their first win since 2009.
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