Last season however was one of those years for Coach Larry Hill and the Rangers as the upstart San Marcos Rattlers snake bit the Rangers to the tune of a surprising 35-34 bi-district round upset.
Expect the 2007 Rangers to be as focused as ever following their early playoff exit. That motivation the help of six starters returning on each side of the ball from a club that win District 26-5A with a 9-1 regular season make Smithson Valley the top 5A team in Central Texas to start the year.
One big reason why the Rangers enter the season as the top 5A team in Central Texas is their offensive line, a unit that looks to be one of the best in the Lone Star State. Thomas Parsons is the best college prospect of the group as the 6-foot-6-inch offensive tackle has already committed to LSU. But Parsons might not be the best player at this point as that honor would either fall on fellow senior James Fry, a first team all-District center last season, or 300-pound senior guard Shawn Wyatt, a second team all-District pick. The line will blow open plenty of holes for senior running back Trent Rios, a speedster who rushed for over 1,100 yards and 21 touchdowns last season and earned first team all-District recognition as return specialist.
Defensively there are some question marks as four all-District players are gone from last year's team. The key to the defense could very well be linebacker Zac Russell. Russell will lead the linebacking corps while Ben Woodchick and Dominic Hamilton anchor the secondary.
The Rangers will be able to hang with the best Region IV will have to offer, including District 26-5A rival San Antonio Madison as the two South Central Texas juggernauts could meet in the playoffs. The big offensive line will allow the Rangers to play keep away and grind the clock in close games and the offense will have more than enough to carry them through the early parts of the season while the defense comes together.
Recapping the TPI Central Texas 5A Preseason Top 10:
2. San Antonio Madison – The only thing that kept them from being No. 1 is having to rebound from last season's 5-5 finish. Devin Thomas will put up huge numbers to go along with a stingy defense.
3. San Antonio O'Connor – Plenty of offense here as the Panthers will not have a problem putting points on the board. The defense will need to step up to help them avoid having to win shootouts in November.
4. San Antonio Warren – The defense is chock full of talent, including 2009 duo Calvin Howell and Tyler Smith. Can the offense score enough points in the question with the Warriors.
6. Killeen Ellison – the senior class will lead the way and they have plenty of playmakers on both sides of the ball. Region II is always tough though and the Eagles will need some breaks to go their way to still be playing well into November.
7. Austin High – the talent is there for the Maroons to make a playoff splash in Region IV. If they can get past the first round they could do some serious damage.
8. Pflugerville – They were young last season, now the Panthers are all of a sudden one of the most experienced teams in District 14-5A as the rest of the league reloads. A typical Pflugerville team with athletes all over the field and tons of team speed.
9. Austin Westlake – The Chaps have a lot of reloading to do from last season's club that gave Southlake Carroll all they wanted in the title game. The key to their success could be junior two-way standout Ryan Swope.
10. A&M Consolidated – The losses are heavy for Consol as the Tigers will hope that youthful talent turns into production in a hurry, especially at the skill positions on offense.