2017 Region Outlooks: 5A Region I — Ryan and Aledo lead a top-heavy group
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 5A Region I
Aledo is the constant atop Class 5A Region I and their dominance continued last season with the program’s sixth state championship in the last eight years. Denton Ryan won the region in Division I behind the play of quarterback Spencer Sanders, who is back to lead the way again this season. Both Ryan and Aledo suffered significant losses and teams like Colleyville Heritage, Abilene Cooper, Lubbock Cooper and Fort Worth Boswell will be looking to build off promising campaigns last season. Teams like Richland, Ft. Worth South Hills, Justin Northwest and Grapevine have also had a strong run of late, but are facing significant changes following their 2016 seasons.
The Bearcats have always set the tone in the region, but may not be as dominant of a team as they have been in the past. The senior class led the way last year and while there is a lot of talent, another long playoff run will depend on how quickly a host of young players in the lineup are able to mature.
There is no doubt that Jase McClellan will be the focal point of the offense after rushing for 1,527 yards and 20 touchdowns as a freshman last year. The defense will be led by returning playmakers in sophomore DT James Williams (107 tackles, 9 sacks) and junior FS Wyatt Harris (108 tackles, 4 INTs). Aledo will again have the tools to be successful, but the Bearcats will have to overcome their youth to repeat as state champions. Still, bet against their success at your own peril.
Denton Ryan was a state title favorite after moving down from Class 6A last season, but the Raiders fell short of those expectations after an injury to star quarterback Spencer Sanders late in the playoffs. Sanders will be back this year, but like Aledo, Ryan will have a lot of new faces – especially on the defensive side of the ball.
The offense will be fine behind the return of Sanders, WR Gabe Doublas (1,302 yards, 17 TDs), WR Tauskie Dove (1,191 yards, 16 TDs) and some experience on the offensive line. But the majority of the Raiders’ stout defensive unit from last season is gone. The offense will keep the team in games early in the year, but the defense will have to step up to have a chance at another deep run.
Fort Worth Boswell
We’re not used to seeing the Pioneers in this position, but Boswell had a long run to the regional final before falling to Aledo and did it with a freshman quarterback leading the way. The Pioneers finished third in District 6-5A behind Aledo and Justin Northwest, but were able to put together some playoff magic to reach the regional final.
The loss of 2,000 yard rusher Damon Williams hurts, but QB Brayden Thomas threw for 1,912 yards and 23 touchdowns as a freshman and is sure to take another step forward with his leading receiver Breshun Berry (860 yards, 10 touchdowns) back, as well. The Pioneers may not be most talented team in the region, but they’ll be looking to build off a strong finish to last season.
The Cougars made a nice run in the playoffs last season before eventually running into Aledo in the third round. While they lose a lot of talent on defense, there is some experience coming back on both sides of the ball for coach Todd Moebes.
Tyrees Whitfield ran for 859 yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior and quarterback Ender Freeman, who spent last season as the backup, showed a lot of promise after throwing for 262 yards and three touchdowns in the second half against Aledo when starter Austin Smith left the game with an injury. WR Myller Royals gives Freeman an established number one target on the outside after going for 1,165 yards and 9 touchdowns last season. The offense has a lot of potential, but Moebes will have to replace six first team all-district players on defense to give the Cougars a chance to be competitive against the top teams in the region.
Brady Keane is a Contributing Writer for Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. Follow him on Twitter: @BradyKeane.