No district in Class 4A will be as competitive as 23-4A, where two schools hold legitimate state title aspirations, while four of the other five teams will jockey for one playoff spot. In fact, it is likely that a 7-3 team in this district could find itself sitting at home.
All eyes will be focused on the Oct. 12 showdown between defending state Division II champion La Marque and Friendswood, which has perhaps its most talented team since the 1973 state title squad that head coach Steve Van Meter was a part of. Angleton, with explosive RB/DB D.J. Monroe, will compete with a Dickinson team that welcomes back 18 starters, while Texas City -- a consistent playoff threat -- will look to reload after losing the bulk of a squad that reached the Region III finals.
1. La Marque Cougars (Division II representative) -- New head coach Chris Jones' up tempo passing game works perfectly with the strengths of the Cougars, who have a wealth of talent at wideout and a quarterback in Jarius Kerlegan who can get it to them. As usual, the Cougars lost its share of top-shelf talent; as usual, there are new faces that will become familiar as the weather cools down. Those doubting La Marque have been proven wrong time and again. This year will be no different.
2. Friendswood Mustangs (Division II representative) -- No school will have as much offensive firepower as the Mustangs. QB Jacob Karam is a star on the rise and will be protected by an offensive line that averages over 270 pounds per player. Matt McLaren is as sure-handed a wideout the area has to offer, but he's not the only receiver opponents will have to contend with. Will Ebner anchors an underrated defense. The Mustangs are loaded, and a win over La Marque could be the boost it needs to keep a fan base busy with both them and its state-ranked volleyball team well into the fall.
3. Dickinson Gators (Division I representative) -- The Gators have the area's version of Tim Tebow in 6-5, 235-pound QB Brodie Trahan, who can punish defenses with his arm (23 touchdowns) and his legs (10 rushing scores). The offense has playmakers Donald Hunter and Sterling Mullins back at wideout as well. The Gators' fate will rest on how well the defense plays. Dickinson can trade points with anyone, but if Warren Trahan's team can stop offenses on occasion, the 30th anniversary of the school's only state title could be celebrated with its second, especially if the Gators can roll into Division I.
4. Angleton Wildcats -- Don't be fooled into thinking the Wildcats are just Monroe. He can break a team's soul on any given play, but QB Bubba Grant is underrated. Remember this name: Henry Josey. The sophomore RB is probably the only player in this district that can match Monroe's speed; if head coach Finis Vanover can make this duo work offensively, then an underrated defense will be enough to lift Angleton past Dickinson for the final playoff spot.
5. Texas City Stingarees -- Don't underestimate head coach Tim Finn. The Stings have been ripped by graduation (and the loss of all-district LB-DB Kris Johnston for the season will hurt), but Finn has enough young talent to keep Texas City a factor. Johnny Thomas will move from the secondary to RB, and K Mitch Russo is an added weapon few schools can match. TC will be under the radar this season, which works perfect for a coach who has long been under it.
6. Brazosport Exporters -- New head coach Brian Welch has 15 starters back, including versatile WR-QB Melvin White, but the distance between B-Port and the teams in front of them is considerable in ways other than physical distance. The Exporters will have to have a lot of things go well for them to just to flirt with a .500 record.
7. Santa Fe Indians -- The Tribe welcomes a new coach (Brent Southworth) who will move the offense from ground pounders to pass-happy. A veteran defense will have to guide the Indians as the team adjusts to the new offense. The Indians will be tough, but are at least a year away from being a playoff factor.
TPI 23-4A Preseason Team
QB -- Jacob Karam, Friendswood
RB -- D.J. Monroe, Angleton
RB -- Johnny Thomas, Texas City
WR -- Matt McLaren, Friendswood
WR -- Logan Carey, Dickinson
WR -- Desmond Haynes, La Marque
OL -- Luke Landers, Friendswood
OL -- Cameron Kaufhold, Friendswood
OL -- Ivory Wade, Dickinson
OL -- James Fugate, Santa Fe
OL -- Warren Woods, Angleton
DL -- Jacob Schultz, Angleton
DL -- Brian Ritell, La Marque
DL -- Brian Cesari, Santa Fe
LB -- Will Ebner, Friendswood
LB -- Gaston Benson, La Marque
LB -- Michael Ray, Texas City
LB -- Chris Myers, Dickinson
DB -- Alvin Taylor, La Marque
DB -- Chavis Barron, Texas City
DB -- D.J. Monroe, Angleton
DB -- Colbert Archie, Dickinson
Specialist -- Mitch Russo, Texas City
23-4A Offensive Player of the Year
QB Jacob Karam, Friendswood
23-4A Defensive Player of the Year
DB Alvin Taylor, La Marque
Top College Prospects
1. D.J. Monroe, RB-DB, Angleton
2. Jacob Karam, QB, Friendswood
3. Luke Landers, OL, Friendswood
4. Will Ebner, LB, Friendswood
5. Johnny Thomas, CB-RB, Texas City