Today’s spotlight: Class 3A Division I Region I
We start with our look at Region I In 3A Division I with one of the most far-flung districts in the state as 1-3A Division I is a four team loop that features Brownfield (looking for a new coach) and Denver City both down from 4A Division II, joining Kermit and then way out in the El Paso area, Tornillo. District 2-3A is heavy on influence in the panhandle with Amarillo River Road and Bushland, who is down from 4A Division II. We’ll discuss more on Bushland below. Moving south, you have Muleshoe and Littlefield and then into the Lubbock area with Shallowater and Slaton. 3-3A Division I is a Big Country based district with the exception of powerful Wall who is the only 3A Division I program in the Concho Valley. It’ll head north and east into the Big Country of the Abilene area with Clyde, Jim Ned, Breckenridge, Early and Eastland. Moving further east and north into 4-3A, Brock headlines that group but will do some travelling north towards the Texoma area with programs like Bowie and Pilot Point, along with Whitesboro who moves over from Region II and is one of just two schools in Region I to be east of I-35. (The other being Pilot Point).
First-year head coach Bryan Wood made an impact in Shallowater in his first season at the helm, helping the Mustangs improve their win total by eight games finishing 10-2 on the season before falling to Brock in the area round of the playoffs. The return of QB Cutter Sparks, who was the 1-3A Division I MVP last year, will be a big boost, along with a full second season in Coach Wood’s system. RB Braxton Juardo returns along with a pair of all-district offensive lineman, so don’t expect the Mustangs offense to drop off much. Juardo is also an all-district defensive lineman and he’ll team with Hayden Vanderroest and Luke Duenes to give SHS one of the top defensive lines in the state at the 3A level.
The Falcons made a surprise run all the way to the 4A Division II quarter-finals a year ago and even though a wonderful group of seniors departs, head coach Jimmy Thomas’ squad will still benefit from not being one of the state’s smallest schools in their classification. Losing QB Colton Moore will be big, but the cupboard isn’t bare as RB Connor Childers and WR Ryne Frederiksen return. The defense struggled at times at the 4A level, but expect improvement as depth won’t quite be as big of a weakness with the move down. If Bushland can develop a new QB and improve on the defensive side of the ball, the Falcons will definitely be in the mix around Thanksgiving.
The Hawks were the consensus favorite to win Region I last year but were derailed by Brock in the third round of the playoffs in what has turned into one of the state’s best playoff rivalries. Wall loses quite a bit of talent, but head coach Houston Guy’s squad runs the flexbone offense to perfection and it almost seems like the Hawks can just plug and play and if they can cobble together a defense, they are dangerous. RB Braeden Sutton does return but he’ll run behind a young offensive line and the Hawks will be breaking in new QB. The Hawks should have a strong defense with the lines of DL’s Gage Weishuhn and Tate Jones returning along with DB's Drake Holifield and Austin Gray.
The Eagles advanced to the state title game a year ago, but it may have been a year earlier than most expected as 2017 was one of head coach Chad Worrell’s youngest teams. The Eagles will be locked and loaded for another possible title run with an impressive 15 starters back. TE Parker Cupp is the program’s first big time recruit and holds offers from several FBS powers, while OL John Brunner is another FBS recruit who already holds multiple offers. QB Tripp Jones (1,265 passing, 12 TDs) triggers the Brock ground-oriented attack but when he needs to take to the air, he’s more than capable. Look for the Eagles to rotate multiple backs during games as they try and use their size and depth to wear teams down. The defense is anchored by LB Zakk Young who had incredible 203 tackles a year ago, LB Jesse Hallmark and DE Kaden Hendrix each chipped in six sacks to lead the defense.