It seems a little weird to put "state champion" and "Richland Rebels" in the same sentence, but that is where they belong right now after defeating Mesquite in the finals of the state 7 on 7 tournament. They will represent Texas in the national tournament; however, their prospects for 11 man football look a little brighter as they were the recipients of a favorable realignment. Only 5 starters return from last year's 5-5 season, but a very good 8-2 JV will fill in the holes. Richland is on the verge of a break-out season, even if breaking out means a first round loss in the playoffs.
Athlete Tyler Cotton led the team to the state championship and his efficiency has given Richland fans a lot to look forward to. He is a pure athlete and could really rack up some yards running it this season. Last year's QB, Phillip Gonzalez, is going to have to figure out where to play. He is a Rex Burkhead type of player who can play anywhere. Likely, it will be at running back and at receiver. Steve Collins will complement him at the running back position. The offensive line is only average, but that is good for a below average district. Kyle Kettner and Taylor Carter lead the offensive line. Phillip Anderson is another receiver who had a breakout tournament in College Station.
If the defense is good, Richland can be very good this season. Damian Bell will anchor the defensive line. Casey Savage and Ryan Tice will lead the linebacking crew. Phillip Gonazlez will likely play both ways and will play a rover type of position in the secondary. Juniors Marcus Polanco and ISaac Umesi will also be in the secondary and will need to play older than juniors - especially if they make it to the playoffs as whomever they play in 4-5A will have tall physical receivers. Nathan Zeissel is also a pretty good player in the secondary.
I have taken my jabs for it, but I think Richland gets second in the district behind Abilene. They may lose another district game, but I don't see whomever beats them being consistent enough to beat some of the other middle tier teams in the district. I really like a 7-3 season out of Richland with a competitive first round loss. You have to crawl before you walk, and this season could be Richland's first taste of playoff football in Texas in quite sometime. Perhaps next season they will begin to walk a little more, but the state championship in 7 on 7 is certainly a step in the right direction.