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 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 Texas high school football genius.
There are few regions in the state quite as wide-open as Class 5A Division II Region I as realignment wreaked havoc and moved traditional power Aledo to Region II and opened the door for a new power to emerge. Although most think Lubbock Cooper, El Paso Parkland or Justin Northwest are the primary contenders, head coach Gaylon Selman’s Raiders could be poised to break out after a pair of less-than-stellar seasons. If you haven’t heard the name, then get to know JaSean Barrow. The 6-foot-2 205-pound junior is fresh off a 1,200-yard rushing season and 20 touchdowns as a sophomore. He’s poised to carry the load and could lead the Raiders to great things. Dual-threat QB Landen Nix is back for his third season leading the offense. He guided Randall to a 6-5 mark a year ago and if teams stack the line to slow Barrow, Nix could be a game-changer. The biggest key for Canyon Randall and a potentially deep playoff run will be how a very young defense can mature. Only two starters return led by DB’s Hagen Escoto and Tavian Combs. The front seven will be young, but Selmon likes the talent as most of the front seven will consist of players from a 9-1 JV squad. The wildcard factor for the entire district will be how teams handle the extreme travel in some instances and Randall is on the far northern end of this district. The Raiders only drew two away district games in 2018, one in Plainview which is only 68 miles away and the other at Wichita Falls Rider, 231 miles away.
How can a team that finished 12-2 and returns 15 total starters be considered a hipster pick? Easy, when that team is moving up from 4A Division I to 5A Division II and is in a district with perennial powers Ennis and Corsicana along with a North Forney squad that finished 10-3, you have the recipe for a team that’s really good, but really overlooked. Kaufman is a senior-laden squad with plenty of playoff experience so going against Ennis and Corsicana won’t phase this group, especially with playmaking QB Trey Collier (3,114 passing, 37 TDs) and RB Jay Gasper (1,428 rushing, 23 TDs) returning to carry the load. The Lions have very good team speed on the defensive side of the ball and the size up front to do some damage. The biggest key for Kaufman will be remaining healthy in 2018. The Lions don’t have a lot of depth and a rash of injuries can easily derail a team that could be a sleeper for a district title to an also-ran.
It’s been odd seeing the Broncos struggle the past couple of seasons, but 2018 could be a real rebound year for second year head coach Jeff Nations’ squad. The Broncos still have to navigate a difficult district that includes Port Neches-Groves, Crosby, Nederland and Barbers Hill but with 15 returning starters, a return to the playoffs could be in order and, with the right early round matchups, playoff wins could be on the horizon. The offense has plenty of firepower returning with QB A.J. Nail, RB Justin Santee, WR Jermond Lovely leading the way. Chris Olige will give Dayton plenty of versatility and another dynamic playmaker to add to the fold. The defense, which returns seven starters, has some excellent speed in the secondary with Zack Pike and possible Olige contributing as well. OLB RJ Orebo is a pass rushing demon off the edge in the 3-4 defense, but the Broncos will go as far as their youthful offensive and defensive line can take them.
If you are looking for the team out of the Rio Grande Valley to make a deep playoff run, the Sharyland Rattlers might be the best candidate for that title. Coach Ron Adame’s squad brings back a ton of experience from a 9-3 squad and realignment has certainly opened the door for a deep run as 5A Division II Region IV has never been more wide open. QB Edgar Longoria returns to lead a potent offense that has eight total starters back. The senior accounted for 32 touchdowns as a junior and is a tremendous leader for the fast-paced Sharyland offense. Ruben Davila and Gabriel Tamez will be the primary targets as that duo combined for 18 touchdown receptions a year ago. LB Javier Lopez leads a defense that is young but very talented. The big keys for Sharyland will be developing a consistent running game and depth along the defensive line. The big thing Sharyland has working in its favor is playoff success against Region IV powers like Calallen. Coach Adame’s squad won’t be in awe of the top teams in Region IV come playoff time.