Last year the Wildcats were picked by the prestigious grid magazine to finish fourth, well Sulphur Springs got third in district. By the way, the also went 14-2 and took the Division II Class 4A state football trophy.
I can remember as the season ended in a packed Alamodome with the scoreboard was clicking like a pinball machine. The state-record setting final was Sulphur Springs 69, Dayton 49. All without the help of the annual football magazine staff.
The official listing from the Texas Football for 2009 is below, listed in parenthesis is the enrollment of the school.
1. Longview (2,005)
2. Texarkana Texas High (1,852)
3. Sulphur Springs (1,082)
4. Marshall (1,665)
5. Hallsville (1,250.5)
6. Longview Pine Tree (1,420)
7. Mount Pleasant (1,403)
The green Lobos also have an honor which might make other teams in the area green with envy. They are the preseason No. 1 pick to win the Class 4A title, opening the year at No. 1 in the state. Texas High comes rolling in off the interstate at No. 12, just ahead of No. 17-state ranked Sulphur Springs.
But as Sulphur Springs graduate/head coach Greg Owens said often during the 2008 year, "it's not where you start, it's where you finish."
"Longview probably does deserve to be ranked No. 1," Owens admitted. "They lost the state championship game in the big school division and went 13-3. They not only have everybody back but they have added more depth. They don't rebuild, they just reload when you have that much enrollment. They have a lot of quality football players, they're dang good. Being ranked No. 1 they are the team to beat."
Owens is quick to point out that the success Longview had in 2008 and the No. 1-ranking is a double-edged sword which also comes with a tremendous amount of pressure and anticipation.
"They have a bull’s-eye on their back, a big one," Owens said. "They are a very good and talented team. But people around the state are reading that and they will bring Longview their A game every week."
Owens looked over the rest of the usual suspects in district like Texas High, Marshall, Hallsville, Pine Tree and Mount Pleasant and said with a wry grin, "We have another soft district this year," with his tongue firmly in his cheek.
"Longview and Texas High are ranked," Owens said. "It's soft, yeah. A state champion and a state finalist from last year and Texas High on any given day can beat just about anybody.It's unbelievable. Back to the magazine what is it good for, I don't read it. It's fun for the kids and the fans to read, it accomplishes some things, it gets people excited about football season."
Owens said his primary use for the magazine was two-fold. First, research, getting the names and positions, height and weight on the standout kids in the district and the ones coming up. Secondly, it is a motivation tool.
"It gives us some firepower to hang up on the bulletin board," Owens said. "Our coaches make a copy of the thing, we get articles on their best player and we cut that out. We highlight things, it just gives us a little firepower. We look at the predictions and coaches can use it any way you want to.But like I told my guys, we are the state champions until somebody knocks us out of the playoffs, assuming we make the playoffs. That's the bottom line. We have a bull's-eye on us, too. We get the A games also, starting with Paris. Some teams are mad about us beating them last year.
Owens said, "I'm glad we have teams like Longview in the district. I am glad we don't have to lineup and face them the first week of the playoffs like maybe teams like Whitehouse will. You can be very good, but if you go against them it will probably be over."
Longview, 13-3, 6-0 in 2008 district champs, DI state finalists.
Last year Longview started the playoffs with a bang, hanging up 61 points on an inexperienced Jacksonville team to begin their 2008 playoff run.
Longview has 34 lettermen returning with six offensive and six defensive starters back.
Dave Campbell's magazine list splayers to watch: QB Aaron Johnson (6-0, 185, 4.5), RB Tyler McCray (6-0, 180, 4.5), FS Alonte' Darden (5-10, 155, 4.4), WR Carey Fortson (6-0, 175, 4.4), LB Chris Weaver (5-10, 185, 4.5); top juniors: WR LaDarrin Robertson (6-3, 200, 4.6, SS/TB Anthony Wiley (5-11, 195, 4.6).
2. Texas High
Texas High 9-2 in 2008 area finalists
With 38 returning lettermen coach Barry Norton will have lots of players to choose from as he looks to replace Cobi Hamilton who went to Arkansas and Jacoby Thomas who is now at Kansas. The Tigers have five offensive and four defensive starters back. Quarterback Nathan Sorenson, a 6-3, 210-pounder threw for 1,951 yards and 25 scores last year. Running back Eric Sutton wants to use his 4.6 speed coming off a year with 800 yards rushing. The defensive side of the ball is bolstered by Montrae WIlliams (6-1, 205, 4.5), DB Tarell Beasley (6-0, 180, 4.6), LB Telvin Williams and DL Marlon Cooks.
Williams had 50 tackles and Beasley turned in 40 tackles and two picks.
3. Sulphur Springs
Sulphur Springs 14-2, state champion division II
The Wildcats have big shoes to fill as the top running back and quarterback both graduated. Tyrik Rollison took his more than 9,400-career passing yards to Auburn. Running back Ryan Young is now off in the wild blue yonder attending the Air Force Academy after rushing for 2,314 yards and a school record 28 touchdowns last year.
Players to watch according to the Texas Football magazine include Bryant (Day Day) Jackson, a 6-4, 175-pound senior safety/defensive back who was listed on the Super Team second team defensive squad.
Owens said, “Jackson getting recognized and being on the Super Team is a product of both his talent and us winning state. He’s already committed to Texas. He’s good athlete and was on a team that won state, people want winners in their programs.”
Along with Jackson, also listed: WR, Shane McQueen (5-10, 165, 4.4), OL Mason Y'Barbo (6-2, 300, 5.5) OL Beau Carpenter (6-6, 240, 4.8), DE Kedrick Dial (6-5, 220, 4.7), LB Tyler Higginbotham (6-0, 210, 4.7), OL Colby Suggs (6-0, 240), WR/DB Sharard Timmons (6-2, 170). Top prospects - DB Triston Crook, OL Alex Peek, WR/DB LeMarcus Kendricks and QB Colton Lee (6-3, 180).
Owens added, "I don't know about all these predictions, especially this time of year. Nobody has played a game. I guess, looking at it on paper we are about third behind Longview and Texas High, that sounds about right. But we were picked third and if that pick means we will get another state championship then I will take it!"
Marshall Mavericks 6-5, divsion II bi-district finalist.
The Mavericks return five starters on both sides of the ball from a field of 20 returning lettermen. The big loss is speedster/QB Darius Jones who has taken his fleet feet to Waco to play for the green and gold Bears. Also gone are Matthew Shepherd (La. Tech); Jacob Bibb, Joshua Bibb and K.D. Johnson.
Players to watch: J.C. Haigwood (5-9, 175, 4.6), SS Aaron Franklin (6-1, 205, 4.4), OL Tre Glover, (6-2, 175, 5.3), QB Brandon Fitzgerald (6-1, 190, 4.6.) and OL Michael Harper, (6-5, 310, 5.4).
The team is hopeful that Fitzgerald will step into the quarterback slot and lead the team to the playoffs with the help of several players coming up to the Friday night lights after going 6-4 on the junior varsity level.
Hallsville 5-5, 2-4 in 2008
These Bobcats are looking for direction after losing starters like A.J. Jones, Michael Boyd, Dalton Buchanan and Jacob Jackson and a total of 35 lettermen. Back are 20 lettermen including some fierce competitors on defense. DT Kyle Pack had 63 tackles and two forced fumbles, FS Eric Mitchell had 77 tackles and one pick while LB Bo Marcum added 65 tackles and two interceptions. The squad has five offensive and five defensive starters back in the lineup. Mitchell will play both ways and use his 4.5 speed as running back. WR Jacob Kinnsey is another threat behind a line highlighted by Josh Cockran (6-6, 265).
6. Pine Tree
Pine Tree 2-8, 0-6 in 2008
The Pirates have a new skipper on the ship. Tim Russell set sail after five seasons and is now the assistant coach at state-ranked Gilmer. Taking over the reins is Huey Chancellor. The team will be learning a new system under Chancellor, they have four offensive and six defensive starters back in the fold.
Players to watch include: Tyler Kids, at DB (6-1, 185, 4.5), DL Steven Hawkins (5-11, 240, 4.7), OL Niko Welch (6-2, 240, 5.1), LB Breynon Henderson (6-0, 270, 4.8).
The team features good size with Welch, Hawkins and Henderson on the line. Henderson also plays linebacker and recorded 133 tackles last year. Kids proved he could do it all and find a way to the end zone. He had two running touchdowns, five touchdown passes. Kids also picked off three passes.
Mount Pleasant 3-7, 1-5 in 2008
The Tigers finished near the bottom in 2008 and this year, Dave Campbell's magazine picked the Mount Pleasant team for last place. The squad lost 20 lettermen with four offensive and four defensive starters returning.
Mount Pleasant players to watch include: QB/LB Cash Thompson (6-0, 170, 4.6), RB/LB Austin Turner (5-11, 190, 4.7), OL/DL Ed Ordaz, (5-10, 230) and RB/LB Landon Whitaker, (5-11, 180).
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