2017 Region Outlooks: 4A DII Region II — We may be headed for yet another Gilmer vs. Celina clash
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.
Class 6A: Region I / Region II / Region III / Region IV
Class 5A: Region I / Region II / Region III / Region IV
Class 4A DI: Region I / Region II / Region III / Region IV
Class 4A DII: Region I
Today’s spotlight: Class 4A DII Region II
Gilmer has long been the top team in the region, but the addition of Celina last year added another big time powerhouse to the mix. In what is one of the deepest regions in Class 4A DII, there will be tight district races throughout that determine contenders behind the traditional powers.
Gilmer cruised through District 7-4A DII last year with its only close game coming in a 35-28 win over Gladewater. The Buckeyes went on to win the regional championship in a blowout win over Celina before falling to Sweetwater in the state semifinals. With some of the most important pieces back from last year, Gilmer will be looking to return to the state championship in coach Matt Turner’s third year.
QB Aaron “Poppy” Brown’s (5,013 yards, 48 TDs) impressive numbers were somewhat overshadowed by the record shattering stats of Levelland’s Nick Gerber last year, but Brown was the only other quarterback at any level in the state to eclipse 5,000 yards through the air. He returns to captain the offense this season, and gets WR Red Jones (1,003 yards, 9 TDs) and WR Qua Heath (765 yards, 9 TDs) back, as well. The offense put up more than 41 points per game last season and will likely be just as explosive as the Buckeyes look to repeat as regional champions this year.
After joining Celina in District 7-4A DII last season, Gladewater was somewhat overlooked as a contender in the district race last season. The Bears won five straight games to start the year and two of their three losses were by a combined ten points to Gilmer and Celina. Gladewater gave up an average of just 18 points per game on defense and will be looking for another strong year behind a bruising running game.
Isaiah Davis returns to lead the way in the backfield after eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark a season ago, and the duo of OL Austin Hawley and OL Colin Keller will pave the way in the trenches. While the loss of the duo of Darnell McKnight and Cameron Callaway hurts on offense, Gladewater’s ground attack and defense will help keep the team in contention.
The Bobcats have won at least nine games in each of the last seven years and are one of the most storied programs in the state. Their move to Region II strengthened an already deep group last season and Celina went on to advance to the regional final before falling to Gilmer. While some of the top weapons are gone, coach Bill Elliot and the Bobcats will undoubtedly reload behind a few key returners.
QB Conner Pingleton and RB John Franklin are graduating, but RB Ismael Ortiz (1,092 total yards, 14 TDs) will take on a bigger role as a senior behind an experienced offensive line that features a strong returning core. DT Sam Snyder (71 tackles, 7 sacks, 5 FF) and LB Casen Heistand (92 tackles, 6 TFL, 4 FF) stand out among seven returning starters on defense. The Bobcats will be experienced and will have a return to the state championship on their mind heading into this season.
Texarkana Pleasant Grove
Another member of the loaded District 7-4A DII, Texarkana Pleasant Grove enters 2017 with an extremely talented senior class and 14 returning starters from last season’s team that made a run to the third round of the playoffs. The Hawks have been stuck at six wins in each of Josh Gibson’s first three seasons, but now have experience on their side.
LB/WR Xavier Benson is electrifying on both sides of the ball and is starting to gain attention from Division I programs, and FS/RB Chauncey Martin will be an important player in the backfield and the secondary. TJ Cole was a second-team all-district QB, but may make the transition to the backfield as sophomore Ben Harmon potentially takes over at QB. There is talent all over the field for the Hawks and the well-seasoned lineup could lead the team to a breakout season.
Brady Keane is a Contributing Writer for Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. Follow him on Twitter: @BradyKeane.