Written by Angel Verdejo of the Houston Chronicle
IN PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
SPRING WESTFIELD MUSTANGS
ENROLLMENT: 3,235 (6)
2014 RECORD: 13-2 6A Div. II State Semi-Finalist
THE COACH: Matt Meekins
THE PLAYERS: Ed Oliver (Sr., DL), Tyrie Cleveland (Sr., WR), Dillon Sterling-Cole (Sr., QB), Christian Applewhite (Sr., DL), Jamichael Jackson (Jr., DL), Christian Applewite (Sr., DL), Danny Young (Jr., LB), Kerry Johnson (Jr., DB), Jeremy Edwards (Sr., DB), Jaylin Martin (Jr., TE), Shaun Lewis (Jr., RB), Keeath Magee, II (Sr., LB)
THE WORD: One of Houston's - and the state's - top programs over the last decade will go into the fall with change. Not wholesale changes, but changes nonetheless. Longtime head coach Corby Meekins, who led the Mustangs to 114 wins, one state finals and three semifinals appearances, moves on to join Tom Herrmann's staff at the University of Houston. But stepping in is another Meekins - Corby's brother Matt, who has been with Westfield during its run. That should help keep continuity. Also helping will be the amount of talent the Mustangs will have on the field. DL Oliver is one the nation's top recruits regardless of position and has dominated opponents despite added attention, for years it seems. The same can be said for WR Cleveland, who caught 53 passes for 1,105 yards and 13 touchdowns, and QB Sterling-Cole. Both excelled in their first season in the program and should only improve. Westfield’s front line talent is outstanding but a lot of depth was lost due to graduation, they did get a nice off-season addition with the transfer of Magee, II in from Mississippi. How the Mustangs new faces adjust to the spotlight will be key if they want to repeat as Region II champions and possibly make a state title run.
KLEIN COLLINS TIGERS
ENROLLMENT: 3,556 (3)
2014 RECORD: 11-2 6A Div. I Regional Semi-Finalist
THE COACH: Drew Svoboda
THE PLAYERS: Justin Pratt (Sr., RB), Cameron Goode (Sr., LB), Ernest Watts (Sr., DB), Nate Edmonds (Sr., QB), Cooper Williams (Sr., OL), Deigo Gomez (Sr., DL), Jake Hume (Sr., DB), Willie Harvey (Sr., RB), Nathan Smith (Sr., DB), Quinton Newton (Jr., WR), Dante Bivens (Jr., OL), Jonathan Bucio (Jr., LB), Jacob Cooper-Bennet (Sr., WR)
THE WORD: The Tigers made up for missing the playoffs in 2013 - snapping a four-year streak - in a big way last fall. The good news is Collins reached the third round, getting back a stretch from 2009-10 with the team went a combined 23-2. The bad news (sort of) is the Tigers were the first 15-6A team out of the postseason as every team in this tough loop won multiple playoff games. But expect the same, if not more, from them. Twelve total starters are back and there's experience all over the field. That starts with RB Pratt, who started his junior year as an unknown but ended as one of the state's best after running for 2,403 yards and 16 touchdowns. He'll get his lead blocker back in FB Harvey, while OL Williams leads the front. QB Edmonds, who scored 22 rushing touchdowns, is a dual-threat weapon in the backfield as well. Defensively, LB Cameron Goode (77 tackles in 2014) and DB Watts (63 tackles) will lead the way. When it's all said and done, expect the Tigers to be at the top of the standings again.
KLEIN OAK PANTHERS
ENROLLMENT: 3,889 (1)
2014 RECORD: 10-4 6A Div. I State Quarter-Finalist
THE COACH: Dave Smith
THE PLAYERS: Austin Davis (Sr., WR), Ryan McCollum (Sr., OL) Noah Clark (Sr., LB), Bart Baritti (Sr., DB), Jontavius Smith (Sr., RB). Odessa Thurman (Jr., DB), Brandon Blair (Jr., QB), Chris Garcia (Sr., DB), Nygel King (Sr., DB), Seth Glenn (Sr., DB), Cody Gardner (Jr., DL), Richard Jones (Sr., DL), Conner Arneson (Sr., WR)
THE WORD: Talk about bouncing back in a big way. The Panthers missed the playoffs in 2012 and 2013, winning eight games over the two years. They reached double-digit wins for the first time in six years and used an opportunistic defense and run game to reach the quarterfinals before falling 38-20 to Dallas Skyline. Now it's time for the next wave to step in. QB Blair is a candidate to step in under center after playing receiver a year ago. Coach says he has the arm, but Blair will team with RB Smith to form one of the fastest backfield duos around. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Smith has two gold medals as part of the Panthers' two-time winning 400-meter relay team. The offense has a downfield threat as well in the 6-5 Davis, who caught 32 passes for 550 yards and also has a passion for blocking. Defensively, watch for LB Clark and SS Baritti. Clark will be a coach on the field. Baritti has great instincts and scored multiple defensive touchdowns last season. The secondary as a whole will be a key strength with Thurman, Garcia, King and Glenn back as well.
ENROLLMENT: 3,472 (5)
2014 RECORD: 10-4 6A Div. II State Quarter-Finalist
THE COACH: Sam Parker
THE PLAYERS: Bravvion Roy (Sr., DL), Ka'Darian Smith (Sr., DB), Cameron Rose (Sr., WR), Addison Mahana (Sr., LB), Rashad King (Sr., LB), Eric Spencer (Jr., QB), Willie Smith (So., TE), Jalan Cooper (Sr., DL), Davien Montgomery (Sr., OL), Christian Sanders (Sr., OL), Ashton Ellis (Sr., DB)
THE WORD: Last may not have been a surprise to those inside the Spring locker room or the Lion faithful, but it definitely was to nearly everyone else. Before 2014, the Lions won 11 total games under Sam Parker. But with a stingy defense and tough run game, they won 10 and reached the quarterfinals before losing to arch rival Spring Westfield. Looking ahead, it's going to be hard to duplicate that success - the Lions lose a number of key players and their district remains among the toughest in the Houston area and the state for that matter. Look for the Lions to lean on their defense early on. DL Roy (98 tackles, nine sacks) is a special talent who's been on varsity since his freshman year. He can stuff the run and also get to opposing quarterbacks. LBs Mahana (68 tackles, five sacks) and King (53 tackles, seven sacks) patrol the second level, while DB Smith (55 tackles, four INT) has good size in the secondary. QB Spencer takes over under center, but he has an established target in WR Rose, who caught 53 passes for 734 yards and nine touchdowns. OL Montgomery started all 14 games last season and will be counted on to help a young front grow up.
SPRING DEKANEY WILDCATS
ENROLLMENT: 2,722.5 (7)
2014 RECORD: 5-5
THE COACH: Anthony Williams
THE PLAYERS: Adrian Hardy (Sr., QB), Aaron Cephus (Sr., WR), Justin Brown (Sr., LB), Charles Walton (Sr., OL), Dekavion Champion (Sr., DL), Aurellio Gilder (Sr., DL), Elliot Albert (Sr., LB), Tyric Mitchell (Sr., RB), Josh Brown (Jr., LB), Josh Bledsoe (Jr., DB), Le'Verek Scott (Jr., LB), Malvin Sadler (Sr., OL), Darielle Weathers (So., RB/DB)
THE WORD: The Wildcats trended upward in the win column in Williams' second season - two victories to five - and are banking on an experienced offensive line and aggressive defense to keep those wins coming. It won't be easy, but Dekaney has never been a program lacking in talent. QB Hardy is the latest offensive weapon and coming off a 1,300-yard junior season. He's an explosive athlete that could on defense if he wanted. His top target is a mismatch - 6-foot-5 Cephus combined good hands with sprinter's speed. Watch for RB/DB Weathers, who will find a place to contribute due to his top-end speed. OL Walton has the size (6-4, 285) and footwork to play at the next level. Sadler and Byron Jones join him in returning up front. On the other side, DL Champion (68 tackles, 3 sacks) epitomizes the "aggressive" approach. DL Gilder, LB Albert and DB Bledsoe are also back, while LB Brown totaled 42 tackles in just four games.
ENROLLMENT: 2,198 (8)
2014 RECORD: 6-4
THE COACH: John Bolfing
THE PLAYERS: Anthony Thomas (Sr., WR/DB), Clay Alexander (Sr., TE/DL), Jaime Davis (Sr., OT), Jake Loera (Sr.,WR/DB), Mason Calhoun (Sr., LB), Tucker Niesner (Sr., LB), Alex Nunn (So., RB/DB), Brandon Jones (Sr., OL), Justin Anderson (Sr., DB), Jeffrey Hunter (Sr., RB), Brendan Fox (Sr., OL), Ian Coyne-Pierce (Sr., DL).
THE WORD: The Bears were more than prepared in making the move to the state's largest classification. They went undefeated in non-district play, gave first-place Westfield all it could handle and posted a winning record. Only problem was they missed the postseason for the first time since 2007. Things won't get any easier in one of the deeper districts in Region II, but pieces are there for the Bears and Bolfing, who enters his 12th year at the helm. The offense line will be strong with OLs Jones, who has a high ceiling, and Davis, who posses great feet and quickness out at tackle. Alexander moves from fullback, where he should be able to utilize his speed and hands in addition to his blocking ability. Whoever takes over at quarterback will also have an established target in WR Loera, who caught 36 passes for 477 yards and five touchdowns. On the other side of the ball, LBs Calhoun (88 tackles, six sacks) and Niesner (61 tackles) have the chance to be impacts players. The same goes for DB Thomas, a two-way player who might be one of the best in program history.
ENROLLMENT: 3,799 (2)
2014 RECORD: 2-8
THE COACH: Shane Hallmark
THE PLAYERS: Thomas Reynolds (Sr., TE), Wesley Black (Sr., OL), John West (Sr., OL), Nick Kohler (Sr., QB), Lorenzo Olguin (Sr., LB). Austin Trammell (Jr., WR/DB), John Craig (Jr., OL), Colton Chelootz (So., WR), Keidric Nelson (Sr., RB), Kyle Halliday (Sr., DB), Eddie Martinez (Sr., DL), Collin Reedy (Sr., LB)
THE WORD: Following back-to-back playoff appearances, graduation finally caught to the Bearkats, who struggled in 2014. A 2-2 start, including a win to start district play concluded with a six-game losing streak in which the offense could never find a groove (Klein scored 14 points or less four times). This fall could be more of the same, with only 16 lettermen and eight total starters back in the fold, but the future looks bright. There are pieces in place though, starting with a strong offensive front. OLs Black (6-3, 280), West (6-3, 260) and Craig (6-2, 260) have frames to be anchors, while TE Reynolds should be the same while also using his 6-foot-5, 250-pound body to be a mismatch downfield. QB Kohler completed 51.7 percent of this passes in two starts and should improve with time. Watch for Trammel as a weapon in special teams - the junior was an all-district returner. The defense does return five starters and will need all-district LB Olguin (48 tackles last season), to take his game to the next level.
KLEIN FOREST GOLDEN EAGLES
ENROLLMENT: 3,514 (4)
2014 RECORD: 1-9
THE COACH: Barry Abercrombie
THE PLAYERS: Tremaine Jackson (Sr., DB), TC Whiteing (Sr., QB), John Edwards (Sr., WR), Jarredd Williams (Sr., DL), Sharrias Maffix (Sr., OL), Chris Simionas (Sr., OL), Kenneth Morris (Jr., RB), Desmen Van During (Jr., LB), Malik Jenkins (Jr., LB), Derrick Arrington (Sr., WR), Deijon Blalark (Sr., RB), Stacey Holley (Sr., DL)
THE WORD: The Golden Eagles are still trying to find the magic they had at the turn of the century, when the program made the playoffs eight times in nine years. Under Abercrombie, who led Hightower to the state finals in 2011, it's been a combined 4-26. Klein Forest is also in one of the state's deepest district - three of the four playoff teams reached at least the state quarterfinals a year ago. But this could the year, as nine total starters are back, including five on the offensive side of the ball. QB Whiteing, who threw for nearly 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior, should only improve and he has a pair of reliable targets in WRs Edwards (25 catches in 2014) and Arrington. The front should be a strength with 6-foot-2, 330-pound Maffix and 6-3, 335-pound Simionas. The young defense will need to lean on DB Jackson and DL Williams early. If the unit matures come district play, the Golden Eagles may surprise.
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