Every year when the summer edition of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football comes out, fans and media alike look at the teams we have at the top of the pre-season rankings to get an idea of who likely makes the trip to Arlington to play for a state title at AT&T Stadium in December.
While the teams ranked highly in the pre-season are there for good reason, we all know there are always a few “mystery guests” that pop up with deep playoff runs and sometimes state titles when the season wraps up. Who are those teams you need to keep an eye on in 2018? We’ve got you covered at DCTF as we bring you our 2018 “Hipster Picks” to keep in your back pocket as you casually drop them into conversation with your friends from time to time, so once they make that deep run, you can look like a TXHSFB genius!
Hereford: While most of the talk in the Panhandle has centered around a couple of other Class 5A dropdowns, Hereford is a team that can’t be forgotten about as well. Longtime head coach Don DeLozier has led the Whitefaces on some deep playoff runs in the past and with a veteran squad back, Hereford can put themselves right in the mix in what looks to be a wide open race in 4A Division I Region I. Hereford just missed out on the playoffs a year ago posting a 6-4 record in a balanced District 3-5A, but they did earn a win over Lubbock Estacado who finished the year at 10-2 in Class 4A in 2017. QB Dodge DeLozier is back to trigger what will be a potent offense along with two-way star Seth Dixon, who ran for over 1,400 yards as a junior and 20 touchdowns. The Hereford defense returns just four starters, but there are building blocks with the return of LB Jaden Cano, DE Carson Altman and DB Sebastian Grajeda. The key early on will be getting one of the top two seeds in 3-4A Division I; if Hereford can get that done, the draw looks favorable to play past Thanksgiving.
Dallas Carter: The Cowboys knocked on the door a year ago, posting a strong 9-3 campaign and nearly taking down Texarkana Liberty-Eylau in the area playoffs. The time is now for Dallas Carter to break the door down with a senior-heavy squad in 2018. The Cowboys have one major hole to fill on each side of the ball. The first is at QB, where a three year starter has graduated. Coach Patrick Williams feels he has three capable candidates to step in and take over, so it’ll be interesting to see who wins the job this fall. The defense only brings back five starters and has to replace a game-wrecking player in Jarell Cherry, who signed with LSU. The Carter offense will have speed to burn with RB Justise Wade-Harris and WR/DB Cedric Hayes back in the fold. The Cowboys also return the majority of their offensive line as well. The defense does return disruptive defensive lineman Bernard Wright, who had eight sacks as a junior and could be the next major recruit for Carter. Williams thinks younger players from a 10-0 JV squad will be able to fill the gaps, but getting that top seed in 8-4A Division I is vital to any kind of extended playoff run because Region II in Class 4A Division I is flat-out loaded in 2018.
Crandall: It’s definitely odd seeing a DFW-area district in Region III, but it’s not unprecedented either (see 17-5A the past two years), but that’s what we’ve got as 9-4A Division I is a fringe DFW/East Texas alignment. While most of the attention (and rightfully so) centers around Midlothian Heritage, don’t be surprised if the Crandall Pirates make a little noise as well in 2018. Head coach Joe Dale Carey welcomes back nine offensive starters from a team that posted a 7-5 mark a year ago led by versatile playmaker Doneric Rivers and WR/DBs Billy and Bobby Myers. Josh Redding played QB last year and could also see time on defense as well, while Steven Dearman is a talented youngster who could see time at QB as well. The offensive line is in great hands with the return of Stanford commit Branson Bragg leading the way. Crandall’s biggest concern will be replacement of graduation losses along the defensive front seven. The playoff road won’t be easy as Crandall’s potential bi-district opponent is in 10-4A Division I, but if the Pirates can get that second seed, they could have a winnable first round game and a chance to make a multiple-round playoff push.
Fredericksburg: The Region IV reign of terror is over — after four years of domination by the Waco area district, the UIL moved Waco La Vega and China Spring over to Region II, thus setting the stage for a new champion in Region IV. Most of the talk and attention will center around Liberty Hill, who has gone toe-to-toe the past four years with La Vega and China Spring, but keep an eye on Lance Moffett’s Battlin' Billies of Fredericksburg. The Billies welcome back fifteen total starters from a team that was 6-5 a year ago, and there’s some momentum in the athletic program after a deep playoff run in baseball. There isn’t a skill position on the field that versatile Hobbs Price can’t play, but the hope is a young QB will emerge to take over the offense, thus freeing Price up to be used as a potential mismatch all over the field along with playing in the secondary. RB William Sebera ran for nearly 1,000 yards a year ago and should be in for another big season teaming with Price for a solid 1-2 duo. Seven starters are back on a defense that should be much-improved. The bi-district round of the playoffs features a matchup against a very tough 13-4A Division I; the key for the Billies will be to finish in the top two of this district because if they can get out of the first round of the playoffs, the Region IV bracket could open up a bit.