2017 Region Outlooks: 4A DI Region III — Carthage is king until dethroned
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 III
Carthage returned to the top of Class 4A DI after knocking off Abilene Wylie in the state championship last year, and the Bulldogs look poised for a run back to the title game. But behind the five-time state champions, Region III gets a little cloudy. Stafford fell to Carthage by just one point in the regional final, but enters the year with a much younger roster. Bridge City, Silsbee, Kilgore and Henderson always compete, but Bay City and El Campo enter 2017 on the rise.
The Bulldogs have won five state championships under coach Scott Surratt and have consistently been a power atop the region. Carthage is coming off a state title win over Abilene Wylie, capping off a playoff run that included wins in four games decided by six points or fewer. Carthage knows clutch.
With a host of key players returning, the Bulldogs enter 2017 as the favorite in Region III. RB Keaontay Ingram (2,736 total yards, 35 TDs) returns as one of the most dynamic playmakers in the state and has an experienced offensive line back, as well. Surratt has to replace Kason Davis at quarterback, but WR Dewaylon Ingram (1,002 yards, 11 TDs), WR Dee Bowens (857 yards, 12 TDs) and WR Mekhi Colbert (293 yards, 6 TDs) should make that transition a smooth one. LB Mykel Gates (160 tackles, 180 TFL, 2 INTs) will lead a defense that has five talented starters back this season. District 9-4A will be a tight race between Kilgore, Henderson and Center, but Carthage enters the season looking to make a run at back-to-back championships.
In two years under coach Guadalupe Florez, Bay City has gradually improved since a winless campaign in 2014. The Black Cats won seven games last season and advanced to the second round of the playoffs before falling to Bridge City.
With the steady improvement the team has seen under Florez, this could be the year Bay City breaks through to compete for a championship in District 12-4A. The offense will look to improve with the growth of QB Dylan Davidson (2,846 total yards, 21 TDs), who was electric as a sophomore and won the district’s newcomer of the year award. LB Adam Smith (58 tackles) and DE Will Grumbles (82 tackles) return to lead the defense, giving the Black Cats a lot to work with heading into year three under Florez.
Kilgore’s only district loss was a 40-39 heartbreaker to Center last season and the Bulldogs advanced to the second round of the playoffs before falling to Stafford. Kilgore is in a tough district competing with Henderson, Carthage and Center, but the Bulldogs return enough talent to compete this year.
QB Patrick “Buddy” Jackson was the district’s offensive MVP and brings dual-threat ability to the offense and OL Austin Adams returns to lead the way up front. WR Jonathan Shepherd is one of the top recruits in the state and WR Deiontae Wheat is another weapon on the outside, while DL Demorrea Richardson is back to anchor the defense.
Coach Wayne Condra led the Ricebirds to an 11-win season in his second year at El Campo, and the team’s only loss came to Henderson in the second round of the playoffs. After winning 11 straight last year, El Campo will be looking to bounce back from what was an early exit in the playoffs.
RB Neri Enriquez (1,589 yards, 19 TDs) returns after a big junior year and the offense will likely flow throw Enriquez again this season. El Campo will have to replace Brock Brandl and Dedrick Holloway on offense, but DL Jurvon Bryant and LB Reyden Svatek return to lead the defensive unit. Stafford and Bay City will be tough competition again in District 12-4A, but the Ricebirds have a chance for a second-straight district title.
Brady Keane is a Contributing Writer for Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. Follow him on Twitter: @BradyKeane.