20 Days 'Till Texas Football: Toughest 4A District
By Jake Shaw/TexasFootball.com
Is there any real debate? Like Bush over Dukakis in '88 (or Clinton over Bush in '92, the analogy depends on your party affiliation), District 16-4A wins the title of "toughest in the state" in a landslide.
In fact, the greater debate should be which team in 16-4A most deserves to be the preseason No. 1. Copperas Cove earned that distinction. The reasoning: seven starters back on offense, including a quarterback in Robert Griffin who some consider even better on the track than running an offense.
Griffin set a national record in the 400 hurdles and has come close on two other events, but he's said in numerous interviews football is his bigger passion.
As great as all that sounds, let us serve this reminder: Waco beat Cove last season by two touchdowns. They had the same end of year result, each losing in a Class 4A Divisional final.
While Cove returns 7/5 (seven on offense, five on defense), Waco is the opposite, returning 5/7. That's scary for Class 4A, as Waco's defense ranked among the best last year.
The most sought after player on that unit (recruiting-wise) is Victor Johnson, a rangy safety who had five picks last year. The offense also returns a 1,500-yard rusher in Jarred Salubi, an early pledge to hometown Baylor.
By no means, however, is this a two-act district. Brownwood shocked the state in the playoffs in 2006, entering the postseason with a 4-6 mark but making it to the regional finals. It took a rematch with Waco to finally knock out Brownwood.
The storied Lions program returns one of the top underclassmen in the state, junior QB Casey Pachall, who had a fairly nice debut season with over 2,000 yards passing. Six other starters return on that unit, and another seven return defensively.
After preseason No. 1 Copperas, No. 4 Waco and No. 7 Brownwood, District 16-4A becomes more ordinary but remains competitive. Killeen appears to be the best of the second half of 16-4A. In fact, with 15 returning starters (including nine on defense, led by David Grant, an OSU pledge), Killeen would challenge for a title in most other districts.
Midway has been steady in recent years, while University had made the playoffs each year this decade until a recent two-year slide. With the big boys in 16-4A as good as they are, that slide should continue.
And the big boys better hope the fierce competition within 16-4A prepares them for the playoffs -- instead of wearing them down.