Today’s spotlight: Class 4A Division I Region I
The biggest story here isn’t so much the teams as it is the number of teams in the Region. With very few teams being out west and travel being a major sticking point, the UIL put together a region that has just 18 teams total. Which means only two teams in the entire region will miss out on the playoffs and both will come from the six team District 4-4A Division I. That means every team from the other three districts will make the playoffs, making the regular season just a seeding exercise for Week 12’s games. District 1-4A Division I is a four-team loop on the eastern edges of the city of El Paso consisting of the two Clint ISD schools, Fabens and San Elizario. The district very nearly had five teams as El Paso Riverside missed dropping down to 4A by just 13 students. District 2-4A Division I is the district based mainly in the Permian Basin as Andrews, who has been making the long road trip west into El Paso the past four years now, has its travel burden reduced as it is joined by Big Spring, 5A drop-down San Angelo Lake View and 4A Division II move-up Seminole. 3-4A Division I is a four-team panhandle loop that features three teams moving down from 5A led by Dumas who won a district title. But Canyon and Hereford should be tough outs come playoff time as well. 4-4A Division I is the largest district in the region highlighted by Wichita Falls Hirschi and Decatur, both of which are favorites within the region. The rest of the district looks to be solid with Springtown and Mineral Wells fresh off playoff appearances and improving squads in Gainesville and Burkburnett.
The Mustangs dominated their El Paso foes the past four years and had some success in the playoffs as well, including a strong run in 2016. Andrews is fresh off a 9-3 season and even though only three return on each side of the ball, head coach Ralph Mason is confident a 9-1 JV team can restock the ranks. Junior QB Brett Leach has a ton of upside and got some seasoning as a sophomore, he looks ready to take over the Mustangs high powered attack, while LB Jacob Mechler (104 tackles, 2 sacks) will lead a quick defense.
The Demons posted an impressive 9-2 record in Class 5A last year rolling to the 3-5A district title, but the season ended in a disappointing first round playoff loss. Now Dumas will look to first-year head coach and former defensive coordinator Aaron Dunham to navigate the new waters in Class 4A. Seven offensive starters return and five defensive starters are back, with reinforcements coming from a JV squad that posted a strong 8-2 record. If Dumas can settle on a QB and answer questions on the defensive side of the ball, the Demons could be a factor for a deep playoff push in 2018.
Wichita Falls Hirschi
The Huskies had one of their best seasons in school history rolling to an 11-3 record and advancing to the regional finals before falling to Stephenville. They lost a great group of seniors but return one of the state’s elite players regardless of classification in RB Daimarqua Foster who ran for an incredible 3,270 yards and 50 touchdowns as a junior. The rest of the offense will have to be rebuilt but expect Foster to put up big time numbers again. The defense is led by dominating DT Lloyd Murray and district defensive Newcomer of the Year, LB Fred Fleeks. The Huskies’ defense also brings back a decent amount of returning players an could be key to another big playoff run.
The Eagles and their potent offensive attack posted a three-round run in 2017 finishing at 8-5, two of those losses came at the hands of district rival Wichita Falls Hirschi. The return of RB A.J. Martinez and QB Wilson Hicks should mean once again the Eagles fast paced attack will fly high. The big question (and it has been a question the past few years) is will Decatur be good enough on the defensive side of the ball to consistently get stops against the top teams in the region?