2017 Region Outlooks: 4A DI Region II — Van and Midlothian Heritage rise to the top
AS WE LOOK AHEAD TO THE 2017 TEXAS HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL SEASON, DCTF'S BRADY KEANE TAKES A LOOK AT HOW EACH REGION SHOULD SHAKE OUT WHEN FALL ROLLS AROUND.
The 2017 Texas high school football season will be here before you know it, and in a year without UIL realignment, we have a grasp on who should challenge for region — and state — titles across the state. We’ll take a closer look at the frontrunners in each region throughout the spring doldrums.
Today’s spotlight: Class 4A DI Region II
Kennedale finished atop Class 4A DI Region II last season, but the region is loaded with several teams from Districts 6, 7 and 8 capable of making a deep run. Midlothian Heritage looks loaded after an impressive first varsity season, but Paris, Alvarado, Liberty-Eylau, Van, Terrell and Kaufman are among those that will look to compete in one of the state’s deepest regions.
The Wildcats have won at least 11 games each of the last three seasons and they did so last year behind a dominating run game. Kennedale averaged more than 350 yards rushing per game last season and advanced all the way to the state semifinals before falling to Abilene Wylie.
With a tough non-district schedule featuring matchups against 4A DII state champion West Orange-Stark, 9-3 Alvarado and 9-3 Terrell, Kennedale was well prepared for a long playoff run. They return one of the most dynamic backfields in the state with De’shaun Kirven (1,914 yards, 27 TDs) and Jaden Knowles (1,395 yards, 11 TDs). QB Evan Jowers (952 total yards, 15 TDs) is back as well. The loss of Ohio State signee Baron Browning on defense hurts, but Kennedale is loaded and ready for another deep run.
Midlothian Heritage was in its first year as a varsity program last season, but the Jaguars quickly claimed a spot amidst the region’s powers. Lee Wiginton led the team to 11 straight wins after losing the opener to Sunnyvale and the playoff run didn’t end until a 49-47 loss to Kennedale in the third round.
Heritage scored more than 46 points per game last season and that was behind a roster primarily composed of sophomores. All the top weapons are back – QB Landon Ledbetter (3,002 yards, 39 TDs), RB Nathan Gaskamp (1,328 yards, 14 TDs), WR Kerrion Fields (1,692 yards, 18 TDs) and WR Noah Parker (885 yards, 12 TDs). There’s depth behind the stars, and the defense gets a lot of young talent back, as well. After such a successful first season, the Jaguars enter 2017 as one of the favorites in the region.
Paris reached nine wins for the first time under coach Steven Hohenberger and advanced to the third round of the playoffs before falling to Van. The Wildcats finally got past Liberty-Eylau in district play and have the potential to compete for that top spot again this season.
On offense, RB Donovan Williams (1,701 yards, 19 TDs) will lead the way and OL Elijah Ellis is back to anchor the line. The defense gets its top playmakers back in FS Jordan Furtch (125 tackles, 6 INTs), DE Vershaud Richardson (99 tackles, 11 TFL, 6 sacks), LB Tre Perry (46 tackles, 2 INTs) and LB Perry Franklin (78 tackles, 4 sacks). If Paris can develop a quarterback, they have a chance to make another run this season.
Jared Moffatt won 12 games in his first year as the head coach at Van and led the Vandals all the way to the regional final before falling 34-28 to Kennedale. Van had some big regular season wins, including a 41-21 victory over 3A DI state champion Mineola.
The Vandals found success behind a dominant offensive line last year and OL Kris Dike returns as the leader of that group. Dual-threat QB Garrett Moseley (4,467 total yards, 61 TDs) is one of the top offensive weapons in the state and enters his senior season poised for another big year. Van will have to find some new weapons on the perimeter while also replacing a few defensive leaders, but Moseley gives the Vandals a lot of firepower heading into the season.
Brady Keane is a Contributing Writer for Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. Follow him on Twitter: @BradyKeane.