Today’s spotlight: Class 4A Division I Region III
When you read through the teams to watch in this region, one thing becomes clear quite quickly and that’s that District 10-4A Division I will once again be absolutely loaded. We’ll touch on the top three teams in the “District of Doom” below. The DFW area moves into Region III and that may be the biggest surprise as Midlothian Heritage joins schools on the eastern fringes of the area that get to head south and east come playoff time. Down in Southeast Texas 11-4A, Division I is highlighted by a trip of 5A drop downs who are hoping for better fortune in Class 4A as Splendora, Livingston and Lumberton join Huffman, Bridge City and Little Cypress-Mauriceville. 12-4A Division I is dominated by Houston ISD as five HISD schools are joined by Stafford and Navasota who has a new coach in Casey Dacus. Dacus, a Navasota alum comes home after an outstanding run as the offensive coordinator at Graham.
The Jaguars quickly established themselves as one of the top small school programs in DFW, advancing to the state quarterfinals in 2016 and the regional semifinals a year ago. They came within a whisker of beating Kennedale in round three a year ago but gone is a senior class that did a lot of that heavy-lifting. QB Landon Ledbetter returns and with Jay Wilkerson and Langston Anderson returning, expect the Jags to continue to be a high-powered offensive attack. The key for Heritage to take the next step will be improvement on defense, especially against the run. LB Conner Jones and DL Jon Sanders will be key in that effort along with three returning all-district players in the secondary.
Scott Suratt’s numbers at Carthage are staggering. He has as more state titles (six) as he does playoff losses (five), just a mind blowing stat for any head coach. His status in East Texas is reaching legendary levels and the scary part is he’s young and has no plans on leaving Panola County anytime soon. His Bulldogs lost a wonderful group of seniors that played a part in a state semi-finalist in 2015 and back to back state title winners in 2016 and 2017. QB Gunner Capps and his 49 touchdown passes return along with a good offensive line, but the big questions will be replacing all that skill talent that’s graduated. Carthage brings back six starters on defense, so the Bulldogs could be carried early on against their tough non-district slate by that unit while they allow their inexperienced skill kids to mature.
The Bulldogs have been overshadowed in a lot of ways by Henderson and Carthage but are still plenty dangerous. RB Daniel Sifford, who was a fullback last year, may see a lot more carries in the Kilgore ground based attack, but one thing that can never be questioned is how much speed Kilgore brings to the table, so look for some young talent to rise up. The defense is led by playmaking junior defensive tackle Deundre Blanton along with senior LB’s Nesba Brown and Damien Parker.
The Lions posted a stellar 11-3 mark a year ago with two of those losses coming at the hands of arch-nemesis Carthage. Gone are 13 starters, but the pieces are place in the trenches to compete once again. LB Brady Odom is back after an incredible sophomore season where he tallied 146 tackles and eight sacks. Another junior WR Caleb Medford leads the offense after a strong season where he had 861 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. The biggest question marks will be finding a QB and settling on a featured running back.