Our dark horse picks for 4A in 2017

They don't have glitzy preseason rankings, but we could see these teams storming through the playoffs if things fall right.

Every year there’s a team or two that surprises most of the observers with a longer than anticipated playoff run. There are always a lot of variables involved with making that run, but — as always — a little challenge never deterred us at DCTF. So we take a look at one team from each region that we think has a chance to make a little noise in 2017.

Region I: Lubbock Estacado

First-year head coach Marcus Shavers led the Matadors to an 8-4 record and a trip to the area playoffs a year ago. In year two of his system, and with seven returning starters on both sides of the ball, Estacado could be a real sleeper in Region I. If the Matadors can earn the top Division I seed, the bracket opens up very nicely for them, much like it did for Levelland last year when they advanced all the way to the state quarterfinals. 

Region II: Melissa

Melissa could quietly be a real factor in 2016 after going with a youth movement last year. The Cardinals started out the season slow but came on late with an 8-4 record losing in the area playoffs. Nine starters are back on both sides of the ball and head coach Seth Stinton’s squad could be poised to challenge Celina for the district title. Region II will likely go through Gilmer once again, but Melissa has a real shot to be a thorn in the side of the traditional powers.

Region III: Bay City

Head coach Lupe Florez has quietly built Bay City from a doormat to a team that’s fresh off a trip to the area playoffs. The Blackcats are in one of the state’s toughest districts 12-4A Division I with the likes of El Campo and Stafford, but eight starters back on both sides of the ball and an outstanding crop of sophomore talent has many believing Bay City can be a real threat in Region III. A lot of Bay City’s potential playoff path will be determined by how high they finish in the district standings.

Region IV: Hondo

Hondo only won a single game in the regular season a year ago, but they then proceeded to stun 9-1 Devine in the first round of the playoffs before finishing at 2-10. New head coach Brett Ratliff welcomes back nine starters on the defensive side of the ball to a team he feels will be vastly improved. As we saw a year ago, Region IV in Division II 4A is a wide-open group and on any given night massive upsets can happen come playoff time, so don’t be surprised if the Owls are making some major noise once again in November.

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Matt Stepp is the Texas High School Football Inside for Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. Find him on Twitter: @Matt_Stepp817.

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