DISTRICT 4-4A – DIVISION I
IN PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
ENROLLMENT: 707.5 (6)
2014 Record: 12-3 4A Div. I State Semi-Finalist
THE COACH: Kenny Davidson
THE PLAYERS: Bohner Cottongame (Sr., LB), Landry Turner (Sr., QB), Taylor Reddell (Sr., LB), Jose Gonzales (Sr., OL), Nick Martin (Sr., RB), Connor Smith (Sr., TE/LB), Weston Womack (Sr., DB), Logan Taylor (Sr., OL), Juan Arrendondo (Sr., DL), Justin Escalon (Sr., RB), Hunter Dooley (So., OL)
THE WORD: The Steers will have a good chance of making their fourth straight state semifinal, especially with several offensive weapons back. Turner, the reigning 4-4A MVP threw for 3,281 yards with 32 TDs, should be even more comfortable in his second year with the Steers. With four offensive linemen returning plus power runner Nick Martin (1,451 yards, 19 TDs), moving the ball shouldn’t be an issue. Graham’s defense should take a step back after losing three secondary starters and both defensive ends, but the unit still should be formidable because of its linebackers. Cottongame (140 tackles) was the district’s top defensive player and he’ll team with Reddell and Smith to form a hard-hitting, versatile unit. Besides the secondary, Graham is also raw at receiver, but Escalon’s return from a torn ACL will help Turner in the passing game. Just like last year, the Steers could get pushed for the district title by Decatur, but they’re the team everyone is chasing in 4-4A and also a regional favorite.
ENROLLMENT: 876 (3)
2014 RECORD: 7-4 4A Div. I Bi-District Playoffs
THE COACH: Mike Fuller
THE PLAYERS: Payton McAlister (Jr., RB), Ryan Durdon (Sr., WR/DB), Cole Vaughan (Sr., LB), Jorge Martinez (Sr., DB), Gunnar Parker (Sr., WR), Terry Lee Hogan (Jr., OL), Mason Baur (Sr., LB), Brandon Garza (Sr., WR/DB), Tyler Ticknor (Sr., QB/DB)
THE WORD: Decatur didn’t miss a beat in Fuller’s first season, which ended with a four-overtime loss to Stephenville in the first round. One of the district’s biggest playmakers will be McAlister, who scored 29 touchdowns as a sophomore and is a speed threat in the running and passing game. Durdon, who caught 10 touchdowns a year ago, is also a proven weapon in Decatur’s Air Raid offense. One concern is on the offensive line because Hogan, the 4-4A Offensive Newcomer, is the sole returner. Vaughan (120 tackles) and Martinez were first-team all-district selections on a defense that should be better after allowing 36 points per game in 2014. Decatur was Graham’s only competition for the 4-4A title last season – the Eagles lost a double-digit lead in the final minutes before falling in overtime. If Decatur gets solid production from new guys up front, they could be a threat to the Steers again.
ENROLLMENT: 708 (5)
RECORD: 4-7 4A Div. I Bi-District Playoffs
THE COACH: Keith Hall
THE PLAYERS: RB Zukari Long (Sr., FB/DL), Erik DeLeon (Sr., OL), Ruben Hernandez (Sr., OL/DL), Isaac Garza (Jr., TE), Manny Rodriguez (Sr., OL), Braylen Fugett (Jr., OL), Calin Hardin (Sr., OL), Hunter Turbeville (Jr., QB), Bryce Royal (Sr., WR/DB), Kaleb Willis (Sr., RB/DB), Michael Bradley (Sr., RB/DB), Zalen Long (So., DL), Seth Bennett (Jr., RB/DL), Christian Saenz (Sr., DL)
THE WORD: There’s no debate what Gainesville’s biggest strength will be this season. If the Leopards are going to return to the playoffs in Hall’s fourth season, it will be because of their dependable play in the trenches. Zukari Long (665 rushing yards, 8 TDs) will be a power/blocking back on offense, and because of his 260-pound frame, the four-year starter is also drawing college interest because of his defensive ability. Hernandez (5-11/220) and DeLeon (6-1/305) are also tough to shed while blocking for Gainesville’s Wing-T offense. Turbeville hopefully will benefit from playing in a few district games last year. Although Gainesville is replacing several skill kids, the JV won seven games and guys like Willis and Royal have upside. The Leopards won’t be explosive on offense but have the personnel to keep the chains moving, which would help out a brand new set of linebackers. Gainesville probably won’t contend for the 4-4A title, but it’s difficult to imagine the Leopards not making the playoffs.
MINERAL WELLS RAMS
ENROLLMENT: 950.5 (1)
2014 RECORD: 5-5
THE COACH: Gerald Perry
THE PLAYERS: Cameron Weiss (Jr., DB), Jordan Duckett (Jr., WR), Johnny Morales (Jr., RB), Ty Tarver (Sr., LB), Tristen Perry (Jr., QB), Stefon Sandoval (Jr., LB), Carlos Gray (So., WR), Tristan Seargant (Sr., WR/LB), Trent Guinn (Jr., WR), Max Grider (Sr., WR)
THE WORD: Even though Perry’s first year ended without a playoff berth, the Rams took major steps forward from a winless 2013 campaign. Although Mineral Wells will lean on Morales (724 yards, 13 TDs) in the running game, the Rams should be more pass-happy with Perry’s son Tristen at quarterback and Duckett as the leading receiver. The offensive line should be much improved with four starters returning and there’s hope the defense can be more physical after getting pushed around by bigger teams like Graham and Gainesville. Tarver (135 tackles) will be one of the district’s top linebackers, while Weiss showed off his speed and knack for the football during an eight-interception sophomore season. Considering how young Mineral Wells was last year, there’s definitely upside to be even more improved, which should translate into a playoff spot.
WICHITA FALLS HIRSCHI HUSKIES
ENROLLMENT: 730 (4)
2014 RECORD: 3-8 4A Div. I Bi-District Playoffs
THE COACH: Danny Youngs
THE PLAYERS: Dorian Norwood (Sr., LB), Taviun Lee (Jr., WR/DB), Josh McKnight (Jr., WR/DB), Xavier King (Jr., ATH/DB), Tavion McKinney (Jr., RB), Deondre Clark (Jr., OL/DL), Jerimiah Scott (Jr., RB/LB), Ezekiel Holmes (So., TE/DL), Garrick McKinney (So., RB/DB), Jacob Wadjun (Sr., OL/DL). Devon Harbuck (Sr., OL/DL), Francisco Hernandez (Sr., OL/DL), Edgar Ramirez (Jr., OL), Javon Banks (So., WR/DB), Martez Vrana (So., QB), Clayton Roberson (Sr., QB), Roman Turner (Jr., RB/LB)
THE WORD: If the Huskies are going to take the next step in Youngs’ second season, they’ll have to be more balanced on offense, especially since all-state tailback Cedric Battle is gone. While Hirschi will divvy up carries to both McKinneys and Scott, any one of four guys could win the quarterback gig. The Huskies don’t return a starter on the offensive line, but Harbuck (6-6, 260) provides athleticism and should be an asset after sitting out last year. Norwood notched a team-leading 103 tackles and will be among the mainstays of a defense that allowed 40 points per game last year. Hirschi should be better in the second year of a new system. Lee, who shared defensive newcomer honors last year, and Knight are proven starters at cornerback. The Huskies will have a chance of clinching one of 4-4A’s final playoff spots, and with so many juniors playing prominent roles, Hirschi’s future could look even brighter in 2016.
ENROLLMENT: 943 (2)
2014 RECORD: 1-9
THE COACH: Scott Boswell
THE PLAYERS: Brennan Mullins (Sr., QB/LB), Jacob Boswell (Sr., OL), Rizonn Hendricks (Sr., WR/DB), Brandon Ingram (WR/DB), Darion Chafin (Jr., WR/DB), Kolten French (Sr., WR/LB), Mitchell Jennings (Jr., QB), Danny Wood (Sr., DL), LJ Gill (Sr., OL), Michael Brooking (Sr., LB), David Barron (Sr., WR/LB), Mason Everett (Sr., WR/K)
THE WORD: The Bulldogs missed the playoffs for the first time since 2006, and it wasn’t even that close. Burkburnett’s biggest downfall was a defense that surrendered 46 points per game. There’s optimism depth and experience on the defensive line will help curb big rushing nights that proved costly time and time again. After two years running the flexbone, the Bulldogs are switching to the spread offense and have two guys in competition for the quarterback gig – Mullins and Jennings. If Mullins earns it, he’ll have to take a lesser role on defense, where he made 83 tackles last season. Everett will give the Bulldogs an edge in special teams and Boswell also has 34 seniors, the biggest senior class in his tenure. Burkburnett needs to get the ball to its playmakers in space, but the defense is going to have to improve immensely in order for the Bulldogs to finish as one of the top four teams in 4-4A.
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