The Texas high school football teams that proved Dave Campbell's Texas Football wrong

Photo by Dency McClure

This is Tepper’s Take, the weekly offseason column from Dave Campbell’s Texas Football managing editor Greg Tepper. Let him know what you think on Twitter or via e-mail.

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Every summer, we at Dave Campbell’s Texas Football put out a 400-page magazine (perhaps you’ve heard of it). It’s chock-full of analysis and compelling reads, but it’s also got a ton of the thing people love the most: predictions.

We predict everything — college football conference finishes, college football records, who’s going to win the Heisman, who’s going to win every Texas high school football district. It’s essentially a 400-page book of predictions for the upcoming season.

There’s only one thing people love more than predictions: proving predictions wrong.

Together with our partner Jerry Forrest, we crunch the numbers before the season and rank every Texas high school football team as part of our comprehensive computer rankings. Then, we use that data — and our own intuition — to come up with district rankings, state rankings and, eventually, our state championship picks.

And while we do a pretty good job overall of predicting Texas high school football — we correctly nailed 84% of the UIL playoff teams, and 67% of the district champions — we definitely have our swings and misses.

BIG misses.

My parents taught me that when you get something wrong, you own up to it. Here are the teams in each classification that made us look the silliest in 2018.

Photo by Hoss McBain
Photo by Hoss McBain

CLASS 6A: Amarillo Tascosa
Preseason Rank: 141st

Postseason Rank: 15th
Coming off of a ho-hum 6-4 season in 2017, we had big questions about how the Rebels were going to replace 14 departed starters. That’s why we slotted them 4th in District 2-6A and figured they would be first-round cannon-fodder if they made the playoffs at all. Little did we know that QB Joseph Plunk and RB King Doerue would turn the flexbone offense into one of the most dangerous in the state, running all the way to the state semifinals and leaving egg all over our faces.
Honorable Mention: Mission, Channelview, Katy Tompkins, Haltom

Photo by Mark Flanagan

CLASS 5A DIVISON I: Alvin Shadow Creek
Preseason Rank: 56th
Postseason Rank: 3rd
New schools are inherently difficult to project, because, well, we don’t have any data on them. And while Shadow Creek was drawing from the talent-rich Alvin ISD, it’s not like they set the world on fire as a JV team the year before — just 5-3 in 2017. That’s why the Sharks were picked 6th in a difficult District 10-5A DI. Then came QB Ja’Marian George, DB Xavion Alford and one of the most remarkable stories of 2018, as coach Brad Butler led the Sharks on an improbable run to the state championship game. It’s safe to say we’ve got a better read on them now.
Honorable Mention: Azle, San Antonio Harlandale, San Antonio Wagner

Photo by Russell Wilburn

CLASS 5A DIVISION II: Baytown Lee
Preseason Rank: 102nd
Postseason Rank: 50th
Sometimes, just getting out of the cellar is the biggest surprise. The Ganders have really, really struggled in the last half-decade — entering 2018, Lee had won just four games in the last five seasons, a big reason why they were picked at the bottom of District 12-5A DII and near the bottom of all of Division II. But second-year coach Tim Finn worked his magic in 2018, unleashing junior QB Ijenea Wooley for a 4-6 season, which included near-misses against programs like Crosby, Barbers Hill and Splendora. They didn’t make the playoffs, but the Ganders sure proved us wrong and are clearly moving in the right direction.
Honorable Mention: Pharr Valley View, Frisco, Bryan Rudder, San Antonio Southside

Photo by Carter Pirtle

CLASS 4A DIVISION I: Canyon
Preseason Rank: 55th
Postseason Rank: 13th
The Eagles were already in an odd spot, slotted in a four-team district in District 3-4A DI…and honestly, we didn’t know if they were going to be able to fill in the gaps defensively. That’s why we picked them fourth in the district and right in the middle of the pack in Division I. And boy, were we wrong — the Eagles’ defense was stifling, QB Lawton Rikel lit it up offensively, and the Eagles finishes second in the district and soared into the regional semifinals. We’d like a do-over on that one.
Honorable Mention: Lampasas, Paris, Gonzales

CLASS 4A DIVISION II: Hamshire-Fannett
Preseason Rank: 80th
Postseason Rank: 39th
When you go 3-17 in your last two seasons, it’s hard for us to believe that you’re going to make a leap. That’s the case with the Longhorns, who brought in Mark Waggoner from a tremendous stint at  Waco Reicher to revive the proud program. And revive them he did — picked last in their district, the Longhorns roared back into the playoffs at 5-5, nearly taking down Silsbee along the way. And with dual-threat dynamo QB Marcus Morris back in 2019 for his senior year, they may not have a chance to prove us wrong again, because we’re definitely paying attention now.
Honorable Mention: Dalhart, Wharton, Lorena, Port Isabel

CLASS 3A DIVISION I: Vanderbilt Industrial
Preseason Rank: 88th
Postseason Rank: 44th
Back in 2008-2010, the Cobras were a force, winning 30 games in three years. But leaner years have hit Vanderbilt, including a 3-7 campaign in 2017 that didn’t have us thinking much about Industrial heading into 2018. But perhaps we underestimated first-year coach James Dixon, who used a multi-faceted two-back shotgun attack to vault the Cobras back into the playoffs, a far cry from their sixth-place finish in District 14-3A DI that we predicted.
Honorable Mention: Troy, Gladewater Sabine, Altair Rice Consolidated, Whitney

CLASS 3A DIVISION II: Tulia
Preseason Rank: 62nd
Postseason Rank: 24th
In our defense, there was plenty of decent reason for us to doubt Tulia. The Hornets went just 2-9 the previous year, which was actually an improvement over their 1-9 season in 2016, which was actually an improvement over their 0-10 season in 2015. They had to replace seven starters on offense. And, oh yeah: they didn’t have a coach — Duane Toliver left to take over at Brownfield, and Zach Ramos wasn’t promoted to the head coaching job from his assistant’s position until June 7. So we had our reasons for picking Tulia to finish fifth in their six-team District 3-3A DII. As good as our reasoning was, this is a huge miss for us, as the Hornets surged into third place in an exceptionally difficult district, and buzzed all the way to the regional semifinals, finishing 8-5 on the year. We were flat-out wrong on Tulia, plain and simple.
Honorable Mention: Clifton, Spearman, Ingram Moore

Photo by Rickey Brown

CLASS 2A DIVISION I: San Saba
Preseason Rank: 61st
Postseason Rank: 5th
Behold: the biggest whiff of 2018 for Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. We basically didn’t think once about San Saba, let alone twice…and why would we? The Armadillos were 3-7 in 2017, 0-10 in 2016 and hadn’t had a winning season since 2011. Sure, they had 18 starters back, but so what? They were a fifth-place team in a six-team District 7-2A DI, as far as we saw it. Well…yeah, about that. Coach Jerod Fikac lit something special in San Saba behind QB Sean O’Keefe and RB Eli Salinas, rolling to an unbelievable 14-1 season and a state semifinal appearance. Fikac earned our Coach of the Year award, the Armadillos earned the state’s respect, and we earned a big fat plate of crow.
Honorable Mention: New Deal, West Sabine, Winters, Tom Bean

CLASS 2A DIVISION II: Ralls
Preseason Rank: 81st
Postseason Rank: 38th
We didn’t pick Ralls last in District 4-2A DII…but that’s only because we picked them ahead of New Home, who was moving up to 11-man ball after years of playing six-man. We weren’t very excited about the Jackrabbits after winning going just 7-33 in their previous four seasons. But even if you were a Ralls superfan, I’m not sure you could’ve seen a 9-1 regular season and district championship coming, with RBs Jerry Flores and Abraham VanGundy leading the way alongside an outstanding defense. It ended too early with a first-round upset at the hand of Clarendon, but make no mistake: the Jackrabbits made us look foolish.
Honorable Mention: Vega, Snook, Quanah, Eldorado

Photo by Tim Huchton

A small note on Class 1A: we do six-man rankings and predictions a little bit differently in the magazine, leaning on our six-man insider Leman Saunders for the magazine content. He can and does differ with our computer, so to be clear — this is based on the computer rankings, which are a bit different than the rankings that appeared in the magazine.

CLASS 1A DIVISION I: Nueces Canyon
Preseason Rank: 59th
Postseason Rank: 24th
It had been five years since the Panthers had won more than two games in a season, including a pair of 2-8 seasons since moving to six-man football in 2016. There was hope that new coach Naphtali Fletcher could turn their fortunes around, but also a thought that it would take a little bit of time. Well, coach Fletcher wasted no time, using a slew of underclassmen like junior center Jordan Short, sophomore quarterback Kam DeLeon and junior running back Victor Contreras to guide the Panthers to an astonishing 8-3 mark and a spot on the Made Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Look Silly Wall of Fame.
Honorable Mention: Grady, Spur, Leakey

CLASS 1A DIVISION II: Sierra Blanca
Preseason Rank: 52nd
Postseason Rank: 16th
The Vaqueros,were looking for a bounceback season after winning just three games in their last two years and struggling with participation numbers, and realignment did them no favors, slotting them with powers like Buena Vista and Grandfalls-Royalty. That’s what made their run to the playoffs even more remarkable, as coach Elo Ramirez deployed Giovani Canaba — who earned district offensive MVP honors — to perfection in surging to a stunning playoff spot.
Honorable Mention: McDade, Whitharral, Cranfills Gap

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So congratulations to all the schools who made us look foolish in 2018. While I'm still pretty pleased with our predictions overall, I'm happy to sit down to a big plate of crow, too.

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