2017 Region Outlooks: 4A DII Region III — West Orange-Stark will need new faces to step up
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 / Region II
Today’s spotlight: Class 4A DII Region III
West Orange-Stark won its second straight Class 4A DII state championship last season and the Mustangs have really controlled Region III over the last few years. While coach Cornel Thompson loses a lot of talent from a talented senior class, West Orange-Stark will again be a favorite in the region while teams like Giddings, Liberty and La Grange appear to be on the rise.
The Mustangs are 78-11 since Thompson took over in 2011 and are 31-1 with back-to-back state championships over the last two years. The dominance WO-S put on display last year was staggering as the team outscored opponents 811-69 throughout the season. After having 10 players sign to play college football, it will be extremely tough to match that level of dominance in 2017, but there are some key pieces back that will look to take on bigger roles this season.
S Demorris Thibodeaux, S Teshaun Teel, LB Davien Teate and CB Jarron Morris were all-district selections last season and are among those that will lead the defense into this year. The offense lost a lot of talent as well, but OL Ja’Corry Brady and OL Paul Ivory return in the trenches and WR Blake Robinson is one of the top returning skill players. There are some holes to fill, but don’t expect a big letdown from WO-S.
The Buffaloes have competed well in Region III the last two seasons with a 23-4 record. The team advanced to the regional championship before falling to West Orange-Stark last year, and returns a significant amount of talent for coach Chris Jones to work with this season.
Giddings had the District 10-4A DII offensive and defensive newcomers of the year in sophomores DL Brayson Wheaton and WR Jaylon Joiner. OL/DL Mason Tyler, ATH Tavion Page and WR/CB Treveon Johnson were first-team all district selections on both sides of the ball and will be key this year. With QB Rustin Grimm (1,681 yards, 17 TDs) and OL JaQuan Thomas back, Giddings also has a ton of experience to compete among the region’s best again.
Liberty advanced to the regional semifinals for the first time since 1963 last season, finally breaking through under coach Chad Taylor. The Panthers won eight straight to start the year and advanced through the playoffs before falling to Giddings. But with some young talent from last season’s team returning, Liberty could be in for another deep run this year.
Like a lot of teams, there are some key pieces lost from last year. But electric ATH LJ Domain can make an impact on offense, defense and special teams and is back as a senior. Jeremiah Guillory was big as a freshman last year and will get time on both sides of the ball again this season. Several key players return in the trenches, headlined by OL John Ryder Moorman, and the district’s offensive newcomer of the year, QB JJ Slack, will be looking to build on a solid sophomore campaign.
Last year, an injury to Ohio St. signee JK Dobbins on the very first play of the season made things tough on La Grange. The Leopards had a young roster that was forced into action, giving coach Matt Kates some optimism in 2017 after a 4-6 finish last year.
RB Jericho Haardt (1,016 total yards, 8 TDs) stepped in for Dobbins when he was hurt and could be poised for a big year after having a productive sophomore season. WR Kayton Powell was an all-district selection as a sophomore, while LB/FB Trenton Marshall (55 tackles, 4 TFL) and LB Calvin Davis (45 tackles, 4 TFLs, 4 Sacks) return as defensive leaders. The junior class is talented, giving La Grange room to grow after gaining experience last year.
Brady Keane is a Contributing Writer for Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. Follow him on Twitter: @BradyKeane.