3A DI: Region I /
Today’s spotlight: Class 3A Division I Region II
The big story in Region II heading into 2018 will be the addition of several 4A drop-downs who could be contenders come playoff time. Overall, there are four teams down from Class 4A and there’s at least two who could be in the mix around Thanksgiving. We start in 5-3A Division I where the Texoma influence is heavy along with some of the schools on the fringes of East Texas. Bonham, down from Class 4A and with a new head coach, will look to be its program pointed in the right direction after some recent struggles. 6-3A Division I is a Dallas/Cedar Creek Reservoir district as Eustace, Kemp and Malakoff all lie around the lake and those schools will team with three located in the Dallas city limits. Two charter schools, A Plus Academy and Life Oak Cliff along with DISD’s Madison. East Texas lies in District’s 7 and 8; with northeast Texas being the center of 7-3A Division I. All the schools in this district are located along or north of I-30 with the exception of Jefferson. Atlanta, down from Class 4A, will be the team to watch along with the Jefferson Bulldogs. District 8-3A Division I is based more along I-20 and points south, two 4A drop downs Gladewater and Tatum will team with powerful West Rusk (up from Division II) and the 2016 state champions Mineola in what should be a very competitive district.
2017 was a record-setting season for the ‘Jackets advancing all the way to the state semifinals and with 16 starters returning, they could be poised for a title run. If Kemp’s going to get it done, it’ll have to do it with a new coach after the departure of Brandon Hankins in late March as he took over at Farmersville. WR/DB Jaise Bowie (400 receiving, 4 touchdowns, 5 interceptions) is an FBS level prospect and will be a key player on both sides of the ball. QB Cameron Clamon had 37 total touchdowns and is a three-year starter. He’s a true dual-threat and is a great decision maker. Montray Booker returned five kicks for touchdowns and should also be more of a factor on the offense this year as well at WR. LB Boomer Irvin (186 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 interceptions, 3 blocked punts) according to his former head coach “is the best LB I’ve ever coached.
Matt McClure enters his eighth season at the helm in Atlanta and for the Rabbits, optimism is high as 14 starters (including nine on offense) are back from a 4A playoff team. Atlanta has had to knock heads in a very tough district with the likes of Texarkana Pleasant Grove, Gilmer and Pittsburg so it will be battle-tested. RB Jawan King (1,505 total yards, 16 touchdowns) is a 210-pound back who moves like a scat back and he has great ability to catch the football as well. QB Andrew Samples accounted for 30 total touchdowns last season and gives Atlanta an outstanding dual threat weapon. Coach McClure says, “he’s the toughest guy on the team.” Atlanta’s got a couple of holes to fill on defense, but have some young talent waiting in the wings. On paper this looks like a team primed for a run.
The Tigers had a sensational 11-1 season falling in a heartbreaker to Kemp 23-16 in the area round of the playoffs. Realignment has made things much tougher, but a strong cast returning should keep Josh Finney’s squad in contention. The return of district MVP and two-way force Kason Pletcher at RB and SS will be key along with DL Daniel Arnold and LB Nathan Smith. The Tigers’ defense should be stout in the secondary with Pletcher and Kedris Chandler returning as well.
The Bulldogs had one of the top offenses in East Texas a year ago posting a 10-2 record and the return of highly rated prospect WR/DB T.Q. Jackson and QB Trey Hodge should spell more fireworks in 2018. The key for Jefferson will be improving on the defensive side of the ball where it allowed 30 points or more in five games in 2017. The return of DE Eric Gipson, LB Kannon Glover and LB Brennan Varnell among others, should spell for some improvement as seven total starters return on defense.