2018 Region Outlooks: 2A Division I Region IV – Will drop-downs create parity in the region where Refugio has held firm?
AS WE LOOK AHEAD TO THE 2018 TEXAS HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL SEASON, DCTF'S MATT STEPP TAKES A LOOK AT HOW EACH REGION SHOULD SHAKE OUT WHEN FALL ROLLS AROUND.
Today’s spotlight: Class 2A Division I Region IV
The landscape changed a bit in Region IV as several drop-downs from Class 3A have been added to the mix, which could mean a few more challenges for Refugio, who has dominated Region IV in recent years.
13-2A Division I has a strong Central Texas flavor with Holland, Milano, Rosebud-Lott, Thorndale and Thrall but now, add in two drop-downs from 3A in Marlin and Hearne to the mix. This might be the state’s deepest district as all seven teams made the playoffs a year ago and six of the seven teams won at least one playoff game. Only Marlin, who was a 4-7 squad in 3A, failed to win a playoff game.
14-2A Division I is more of a westward alignment as teams west of I-35 congregate with powerful Mason on the northern edges of the district all the way through the Hill Country down to Brackett. 15-2A Division I has notable omission as Refugio moves further south into 16-2A Division I with schools mostly from south of the Corpus area and the Rio Grande Valley.
Refugio is making a habit of playing for state titles as in five of the past seven seasons, the Bobcats have made it to the state championship game winning the title twice. The Bobcats return four starters on both sides of the ball and took a big loss when last year’s QB Jared Kelly decided to play baseball only. His younger brother Jordan could be in the mix to take over at QB and will battle with Ethan Perez for the job. The defense looks to be in good shape with Armonie Brown and Ysidro Mascorro returning to anchor what should be a fast unit. If Refugio can settle on a QB and get its younger skill players up to speed, it’s still the team to beat in Region IV until proven otherwise.
For most programs, advancing to the area round of the playoffs is a huge accomplishment, but for the Comanches, the bar is a bit higher as they expect to compete for regional titles year in and year out. Shiner was very young last year but return 16 starters from a team that lost to Mason 7-0 in the area round a year ago. RB Donyai Taylor returns after a solid sophomore season in which he ran for 704 yards and 10 touchdowns. He’ll be the big play guy in what should be a vastly improved offense, while LB Lane Nevlud returns as an all-state candidate to lead the defense. Shiner’s now in a different district than Refugio and if both teams win their districts (which they are favored to do), then we would not see these two square-off until the regional semi-finals in 2018.
The Punchers rolled to a 13-1 record last year behind one of the state’s top defenses but had no answers for Refugio in the regional final. Coach Kade Burns returns six starters on both sides of the ball led by district MVP RB/LB Jake Cockerham who over 1,000 rushing yards and 115 tackles on defense. Two other 1,000-yard backs return in QB Otto Wofford and RB Klay Klarener so expect the Punches to run the football, a lot. Mason’s defense will be very physical as usual but will have to replace some players lost to graduation along the defensive line. Still, expect the Punchers to be the favorites to advance to the regional final in the top side of the bracket.
The Eagles drop down to Class 2A after a strong finale in Class 3A posting a 9-3 mark and advancing to the area playoffs. Head coach Ricky Sargeant is no stranger to taking teams on deep playoff runs as he led Hempstead to the 3A Division I title game back in 2011. 15 total starters return for Hearne and there’s speed and talent all over the field, sophomore QB Michael Smith started a dozen games as a freshman and now is ready to have the entire playbook at his disposal and that could make Coach Sargeant’s squad very dangerous come playoff time.