2017 Region Outlooks: 4A DII Region I — Will Sweetwater replicate last year’s magical run?
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 DII Region I
Sweetwater’s long playoff run was the big story out of Class 4A DII Region I last year as the Mustangs advanced all the way to the state championship game before running into formidable West Orange-Stark. The return of QB Chris Thompson keeps Sweetwater in contention entering this season, but graduation hit a lot of top teams in the region hard, leaving the door open for some new contenders.
Sweetwater finished second in district play before embarking on a long playoff run last year that didn’t end until a 24-6 loss to West Orange-Stark in the Class 4A DII state championship game. Coach Shane Mobley left to take over at Sealy, but the Mustangs have some key pieces back for Mobley’s replacement – former Temple offensive coordinator Ben McGehee – to work with.
McGehee inherits a roster with one of the best returning quarterbacks in Class 4A in Chris Thompson (4,285 total yards, 58 TDs). While the Mustangs will have to replace Jacoby Hunt in the backfield, Thompson gets his top weapon back in WR Kobe Clark (1,248 yards, 12 TDs). Kiante McCoy (122 tackles, 9 TFL, 3 INTs) put up big numbers last year and will be a key returner on defense heading into this season. McGehee’s spread-style offense won’t change much for the Mustangs, and Sweetwater has the weapons to make another playoff run.
Graham was a dominant force from 2012-2014 with three straight regional championships, but the Steers have failed to match that success the last two years. The team is coming off a seven-win campaign, but the outlook for this season is bright.
The Steers’ senior class is a talented group and will bring a lot of experience to the table in 2017. QB Tucker Horn (2,625 yards, 20 TDs) and WR Adam Groves (887 yards, 11 TDs) are the key offensive pieces returning behind a stout offensive line. Coach Kenny Davidson will have to replace 1,500-yard rusher Jaxon Brockway, but Chase Gilmore (422 yards, 4 TDs) averaged more than five yards per carry as a sophomore. Joel Jones (134 tackles, 5 sacks), Wes Martin (112 tackles) and Will Hays (94 tackles) will be leaders on an experienced defense.
Monahans reached nine wins for the first time since 2011 last year and advanced to the third round of the playoffs before falling to Seminole in a tight 28-21 game. The Loboes suffered some big losses from the senior class, but have some building blocks to work with heading into 2017.
RB Tylan McCalister (1,751 yards, 26 TDs), QB Dante Griner (1,011 yards, 13 TDs) and WR David Birdwell (301 yards, 4 TDs) are back to lead the offense, but the loss of four starters on the offensive line will hurt. Monahans returns just four starters on defense, which could lead to some growing pains early in the season. The growth of some younger players throughout the year should allow the Loboes to compete in District 2-4A DII again.
After struggling in the tough District 2-4A DII last season, Pecos enters 2017 as one of the few teams with key skill position players returning. The Eagles have 15 total starters back, including eight from an offense that averaged 40 points per game, giving coach Chris Henson a legitimate shot at breaking through in a competitive district this year.
QB Bubba Henson (3,212 total yards, 43 TDs) heads into his fourth year as the starting quarterback, while WR EJ Garcia (1,028 yards, 10 TDs) enters as the leader of an experienced receiving corps. Pecos also has three returning starters on the offensive line and gets RB Michael Rambo (676 yards, 5 TDs) back, as well. The defense struggled at times last year, but seven returning starters should show marked improvement this season. Competing with Monahans, Midland Greenwood, Seminole and Sweetwater makes the district race tough, but Pecos has the pieces needed for a return to the playoffs.
Brady Keane is a Contributing Writer for Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. Follow him on Twitter: @BradyKeane.