These 13 Texas high school football teams will bounce back in 2022

Photo by Artie Guerrero

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The most accurate predictor of future success is past success.

That's a mantra that we here at Dave Campbell's Texas Football keep top of mind throughout the offseason when putting together not only our summer edition, but all of our preseason content. If you have been good lately, you're more likely to be good this year. Just take a look at the preseason DCTF rankings – the 12 teams we predict to win UIL state championships in 2022 lost a combined 15 games in 2021. We are pretty firm in our thoughts that statewide contenders tend to show themselves the year before.

But that's not always the case. Just because you struggled the year before doesn't mean you're destined to struggle again — look at these 24 teams that improved their win total by at least seven victories from 2020 to 2021. And that's is only the beginning, since 638 UIL teams won more games in 2021 than in 2020 (at least partially aided by fewer COVID-related cancellations).

So which Texas high school football teams could be in for a bounceback season in 2022? I took at look at the 825 Texas high school football teams that finished with a .500 record or worse in 2021, and picked out one in each classification and division that could make last year's struggles a thing of the distant past.

6A: Spring Dekaney

Veteran coach Anthony Williams’ Wildcats started slow in 2021 — real slow. But following a 55-6 district-opening drumming at the hands of Spring, they turned the corner, winning five of their final six games to make the playoffs before dropping their bi-district matchup to Willis via a furious fourth-quarter rally. But there’s plenty of reason to believe Dekaney can carry over their torrid finish to the 2021 season into 2022, especially with blue-chip receiver Jonah Wilson anchoring an elite receiver corps and defensive back Ty Morris chief among eight starters back on defense. They may still finish third in district behind Spring ISD bunkmates Spring and Westfield, but if they can secure the top DII seed out of District 14-6A, they could be a tough out once the playoffs kick off.

5A Division I: Burleson Centennial

It’s hard to know what to make of the Spartans’ 2021 season. Certainly when they were 1-5 and 0-3 in district play, it was pretty easy to diagnose them as an also-ran; but three wins in the final four games, plus a heart-stopping playoff win over Justin Northwest told a different story. Whatever the case may be, Centennial’s 11th season of varsity play should result in a 9th consecutive playoff berth and potentially much more, especially if part-time-turned-full-time starting quarterback Phillip Hamilton can emerge as a star. The defense should be one of the best in 5A Division I led by safety Chapman Lewis. And while Denton Ryan and Aledo will garner much of the headlines in District 3-5A DI, you overlook coach Kyle Geller’s bunch at your own peril.

5A Division II: Huntsville

The Hornets missed the playoffs for the first time in five years in 2021, but the distance between a losing season and perhaps second place in district was remarkably narrow. Consider this: three of Huntsville’s four district losses came by a combined 12 points — a 3-point overtime loss to Bryan Rudder, a 2-point loss to Lamar Consolidated and a 7-point overtime loss to Montgomery. This will still be a relatively young team, but with exciting playmakers like running back Jawann Giddens and cornerback Isaiah Collins entering their junior seasons, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Hornets claw back those 12 points and win the newly constituted District 10-5A DII.

4A Division I: Andrews

It took a while for the Mustangs to find their footing in 2021, starting the year just 2-6 after a stupefying loss to Big Spring in the district opener. But the offense led by breakout running back Luis Cervantes caught fire down the stretch, winning the final two games plus a playoff game over Fabens before giving regional finalist Springtown everything it wanted in an area round loss. In  the final four games of the season, the Mustangs averaged 49.5 points per game. Can that carry over into 2022, with district MVP Cervantes back in the mix? We’re inclined to think so, though much of their fate will depend on new coach Tom Harvey, promoted from his defensive coordinator role, steadying a defense that returns seven starters.

4A Division II: Silsbee

Ah, the Tigers — one of 2021’s most confounding teams. The highs were very high, like beating eventual regional finalist Pleasant Grove and upsetting white-hot Hamshire-Fannett in district play; but the lows were pretty low, like a disappointing season-opening defeat at the hands of Vidor and a stunning loss to Orangefield in the district opener. Can coach Randy Smith steady the ship and get the Tigers playing more consistent? History suggests so — remember: this is a program just four years removed from a state semifinal run — and so does the roster — receiver Dre’lon Miller is among the most dynamic players in all of Class 4A.

3A Division I: Cameron Yoe

Rick Rhoades — who guided the Yoemen to three straight state championships and four consecutive title games — made his grand return to Cameron in 2021, and on the surface, the results were slow: an 0-4 start gave way to a 4-7 finish. But if you look closely, the details tell a much more optimistic story: the seven losses came to teams that won an average of 11.5 games and accumulated a combined 81-12 record, including a pair of state champions (Franklin and Lorena) and an undefeated outlaw program now in 5A Division I (Lake Belton). District 11-3A Division II is a monster with both of the aforementioned state champions plus 11-win Little River Academy, but with 13 starters back including star linebacker Colton Barbo in the fold, the second year for Rhoades should be much brighter.

3A Division II: Wall

Give Wall coach Houston Guy and his staff credit: they’re not afraid of anyone. The Hawks finished 2021 with a 5-5 mark — their first non-winning season since 2008 — but the losses were as follows: a 7-point loss to area finalist Eastland; a double-overtime loss on the road at 2A Division I regional finalist Cisco; a 6-point loss on the road to perennial 2A power Mason; a loss to eventual 2A Division I state champion Shiner; a loss to then-reigninng state champ Jim Ned; a disappointing 10-point loss at district rival and area finalist Early; and a playoff loss to eventual state runner-up Brock. Aside from the loss to Early, that’s a pretty salty résumé if you look past the record. Now the Hawks drop to 3A Division II in realignment and do so with 18 starters in tow, including 10 on defense led by safety Nathan Pepper.

2A Division I: Joaquin

At the 2A level, when you’re talking about teams with enrollments in the 100s and 200s, injuries can play a pivotal role in a season. Such is the case with Joaquin, which started well enough — 5-2, with respectable non-district losses to Beckville and Elysian Fields – before collapsing down the stretch, losing the final three games including a playoff rematch with Beckville. It’s certainly not the standard that coach Wade Lawson expects, considering it’s his first non-winning season since his first year back in 2015, but health was decidedly a factor, with injuries to quarterback Cole Bragg and versatile athlete Maddox Hutchins taking a toll. But the Rams are healthy and ready to roll with 18 starters — including Bragg, Hutchins and dynamic back Malik Stouts — back in the mix. Health is no guarantee, but if Joaquin can avoid the injury bug again, a deep playoff run is in sight.

2A Division II: Price Carlisle

It’d be easy to divide Carlisle’s season into the first half (0-4 start) and the back half (5-0 finish before a first-round playoff exit), but perhaps it’s more instructive to divide it between teams with winning records and teams with losing records. Carlisle played five teams with winning records, finishing with a 1-4 mark (lone win: 36-28 victory over 7-5 Hawkins in district play); the Indians played five teams with losing records, finishing a 4-1 mark (lone loss: 23-21 defeat to 4-6 Palestine Westwood in the season opener). So why so bullish on the Indians in 2022? For one, returning experience — the Indians return 19 starters including all-district utility MVP Brody Eaves and seven other first-team all-district selections. Secondly, the schedule — the Indians move down to 2A Division II and should be favored in nearly all of their games. Thirdly, the latest news — with Alto being ruled ineligible, the Indians become the clear top challenger to Tenaha for District 11-2A DII supremacy.

1A Division I: Borden County

The Coyotes have the second-most wins in six-man football since 1986, accumulating a 284-114-4 record in that span. That’s what makes last year’s 6-6 finish so hard to square — the fewest wins since 2013 (though they still won their 14th consecutive district championship). History would suggest that BC is due for a big bounceback year, especially with all but three starters back for Trey Richey’s bunch, most notably superstar QB Ishmael Rodriguez and returning-from-injury running back Kalan Kuehler. There is a potential speedbump, though — realignment dropped the Coyotes into 7-1A Division I with Garden City, Rankin and Sands, a group that Richey called the toughest district they’ve had in many years. But if they can make the playoffs, they could be in for a classic Coyotes season.

1A Division II: Paducah

The Dragons are coming off of a 4-6 season that finished with five losses in their final six games. But there’s reason to believe that John York’s squad can have a resurgent 2022 thanks in large part to realignment. The Dragons drop from Division I to Division II, and slide from Region I to Region II into District 6-1A Division II. Now, it’s no cakewalk there — after all, preseason No. 1 Benjamin rules the roost there — but it’s a more manageable district than their previous one, especially when you consider the return of running back Joshua Gonzales and defensive end Cord Piper. The Dragons figure to be one of the faster teams in Region II, and if they can make that stand up, they have a chance to make some noise.

11-Man Private Schools: Bellaire Episcopal

Long a hotbed for top-end recruits, the Knights have hit a skid the last two seasons, managing just five wins in the last two seasons including last season’s 3-6 mark. But 2022 could mark a return to form for the 8-time SPC champions (most recently in 2019), with some certified star power in the mix — receiver Andre Thompson, quarterback Karson Gordon and athlete Jackson Chavis headline a squad that was very sophomore heavy in 2021. The Knights took their lumps the last two years; it should pay dividends in this year.

6-Man Private Schools: Fredericksburg Heritage

The six-time state champion is in a rebuilding mode following their 2019 state championship, as coach Tim Shipman readily admits. The Eagles fielded a remarkably young team last season and finished 6-6, pretty remarkable all things considered. But now the young Eagles are ready to soar behind junior LB/RB Tres Jons and all-purpose sophomore Bridger Welch. Division III of the TAPPS six-man word is brutal — including District 4 bunkmate Bulverde Bracken and perennial powers Lubbock Kingdom Prep and Longview Christian Heritage — but if the rebuilding timeline is as York hopes it is, Fredericksburg Heritage could be right back in that upper echelon.

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