TPI Houston Area 4A Countdown: #2

Steve Van Meter may have his best team to date at Friendswood. A high-powered offense, combined with an underrated defense, gives the Mustangs a chance to not only break past District 23-4A power La Marque, but also deliver the city its first state football title since 1973.

The Friendswood Mustangs have been one of the more consistent teams in the Houston area; this year may be the season head coach Steve Van Meter replaces "consistent" with "championship."

With QB Jacob Karam at the helm, the Mustangs will pose the biggest threat to La Marque in District 23-4A. The much-anticipated debut of Karam didn't disappoint as he threw for 2,306 yards and 20 touchdowns en route to leading Friendswood to a 7-4 mark. The junior is bigger, stronger and more in tune with the offense, which could lead to even bigger totals this fall.

Karam also benefits from having WR Matt McLaren return. McLaren scored eight touchdowns and averaged almost 18 yards per catch and enters his senior season as the district's top wideout. Fellow receiver Andre Gautreaux is on the verge of a breakout season. Cory Hart, Blake Jackson and Andrew Weber are also productive targets for Karam to look to.

Van Meter's offense will be more efficient behind an offensive line that returns Luke Landers, who missed the bulk of the 2006 season with an injury. His presence, along with 23-4A first team tackle Cameron Kaufhold, gives the Mustangs the district's -- and perhaps the area's -- best pair of bookends on the line. Guards Andrew Makransky and Michael Sanders, along with center Blake Sargent, also return.

Austin Beaty will be the featured back in Friendswood's spread attack. Beaty's ability to catch out of the backfield makes him an extra piece of the passing game.

Despite the loss of LB Mo Mosley and DE Ryan Williams, the Mustangs will be solid on defense. Depth is available on the line with the likes of Bobby Bryant, Justin Reyes and promising Taylor Staudt at tackle. The end position will be filled by Sean Jacobson and Shane Lockridge.

LB Will Ebner is a two-year starter that has established himself as one of the district's top defenders; he will also be a big part of the Mustangs' running game. Fellow RB Beaty also will line up at the position, along with Ben McGee.

Stuart Stock had two interceptions and leads a talented and young secondary that will have to mature before facing similar pass-happy offenses (La Marque, Dickinson) in 23-4A. Craig Brezina also lends experience, but Brandon Grey and Broderick Sasser are a pair of incoming juniors who also will play a key role.

In most districts, Nathan Harvey would clearly be the top kicker. He certainly ranks among the area's best, but will have to compete with Texas City's Mitch Russo and La Marque's Denroy Van Horn for 23-4A elite status.

State titles are familiar to Van Meter, who was part of one of the greatest 2A teams (1973) ever as a player. He could be more familiar with one as a coach this fall, and there's no reason to think the Mustangs can't fulfill that goal.


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