With his new group of Panthers, Emerson saw his program take a huge step toward championship status by winning the District 27-3A title and advancing to the area round of the playoffs.
The Panthers return 15 total starters from last season's club and enter 2007 as the frontrunners in the district and a serious threat to make a deep playoff run in Region IV.
On offense the Panthers return last season's District Offensive MVP as quarterback Matt Gonzales is back. Running back Aaron Baxter will give the Panthers some extra pop in the offensive backfield as he was named District Newcomer of the Year after averaging nearly six yards per carry last season. The Panthers also return two of the top offensive linemen in the district as consensus first team all-District pick Justin McMillian and 6-foot-4, 285 pound Patrick Hoog (an early commitment to coach Mike Gundy and Oklahoma State) are back.
McMillian was also a first team all-District pick on defense and headlines the eight returnees on the defensive side of the ball. Linebacker Bernie Lopez was a first team all-District pick at linebacker and returns along with Hoog, a second teamer on the defensive line, and all-District cornerback Neil Tschirhart.
The Salado Eagles have been on the cusp of great things over the last few seasons but Coach Jef Cheatum's club has not been able to push deep into the playoffs.
2007 could be the year as 13 starters are back from a 7-4 squad that fell to Hearne in the Division I playoffs last season.
The running game will be the strength of the Eagles offense as all-District offensive linemen Dallas Butts and Jimmy Ferrell-Raborn as well as junior Chase Stuckey are back along with all-District running backs Michael Cullin and Leo Galvan.
Senior safety Mat Fritsch headlines the five returning starters on defense as he along with Butts earned first team all-District recognition in 2006. Cornerback Tyler Wright and linebacker Josh Bush also return after all-District campaigns last season.