East Texas district is toughest in 3A
By Dennis Hall / Texas Football
Usually, a team that drops in classification can breathe a sigh of relief and be thankful because its chances for success have significantly increased.
Coming off a 5-5 season in Class 4A, Henderson had to be initially excited about the prospect of dropping down to Class 3A and improving its fortunes in 2010. But that enthusiasm didn’t last long, because the UIL did the Lions no favors in February when it put Henderson in the same district with three East Texas powerhouses.
District 16-3A features both 2009 Class 3A state champions: Gilmer and Carthage. Both are highly ranked again entering the 2010 season – Carthage is No. 4 and Gilmer is No. 13 – and there’s no question that they have the talent and athleticism to compete with just about any Class 4A team.
Pittsburg didn’t make it to a state final last year, but the Pirates won a regional title en route to a 12-2 record. Pittsburg opens 2010 ranked No. 18.
Henderson fits right into the thick of the district race with its No. 15 preseason ranking. The Lions return the most starters (14) of any of the powerhouse teams, and they’re the biggest school in the district with 879 students. But a playoff bid is far from a certainty against this playoff-tested group.
Carthage has arguably the two best players in the district: QB Anthony Morgan and LB Kendall Thompson. That’s a big reason why Carthage is the preseason district favoritedespite returning only eight starters.
Gilmer lost even more. The Buckeyes have only four returning starters, and they lost arguably the best player in the state when QB Stump Godfrey graduated. But Gilmer still has plenty of talent in the system and should still figure into the playoff picture.
Pittsburg might be the dark horse heading into the season. The Pirates lost an elite running back in Ted Burns, which will put pressure on QB Mitch Manley to be even better than he was last year. Pittsburg has 11 returning starters.
The bottom two teams in this district figure to be Gladewater and Longview Spring Hill. Gladewater snuck into the playoffs in 2009 despite a 3-7 regular-season record. You can bet that no one from this district will make the 2010 playoffs with a losing record. Spring Hill had a respectable 4-6 record in 2009 and has 14 starters back. But the Panthers have to know that a playoff bid in 2010 would require a couple of major upsets. Such is life in 16-3A.
District 5-3A: This is only a five-team district, but it’s still likely that a good football team won’t be making the 2010 playoffs. Brownwood, Abilene Wylie and Big Spring all won at least 10 games last year and all three have their eyes set on making long playoff runs again in 2010. But Snyder, coming off a 5-5 season, also figures into the mix with 32 returning lettermen and 17 returning starters. Only Sweetwater seems out of the running.
District 9-3A: The top three teams in this district – Argyle , Pilot Point and Aubrey – combined for one regular-season loss in 2009. And that was a Pilot Point win over Aubrey. Pilot Point went on to win a 2A state title. Aubrey features the state’s all-time winningest coach, G.A. Moore. Sanger and Gainesville both finished 5-5 last year, meaning Whitesboro is the only team in the district that had a losing record.
District 11-3A: North Texas is full of title contenders this year, and you have to include Lucas Lovejoy and Prosper in that conversation. Lovejoy is coming off a state semifinalist season and returns 16 starters, including one of the state’s top QBs in Michael Means. Prosper won a state title in 2008. Farmersville is also coming off a playoff season, and Princeton Is expected to have an improved team that will be trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 1976.
District 14-3A: This district is one of the hardest to figure in the whole state. Four teams had winning records a year ago and appear to have the talent to challenge for the district title this year: Lindale, Wills Point, Van and Canton. Then there’s Quinlan Ford, which is picked fifth but might surprise with the addition of transfer QB Kailob Wallace, who was a 1A star down the road at Quinlan Boles.
District 23-3A: Five of the six teams in this district made the playoffs in 2009, but only three can advance in 2010. Who will it be? We picked Giddings, Caldwell and Navasota, but La Grange actually had the longest run of anybody in this district a year ago. Rockdale also figures in the mix, and even the team we picked last, Smithville, has 10 starters back from a 5-5 campaign. Not one team in this district had a losing record in 2009.
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