The College Station Cougars ended the 2017 football season on top of all of Class 5A Division II while hoisting their state championship trophy at AT&T Stadium.
If Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine is correct, the Cougars won’t even be on top of their new district this season.
The DCTF crew picked Lufkin to not only win District 8-5A Division I, but to claim its first state championship since 2001. The Cougars were picked second in the district.
The top-ranked Panthers are coming off a state quarterfinal appearance in 6A, and with 12 returning starters, including 2019 Arkansas pledge Carl Williams at defensive tackle, to just eight for the Cougars, there is reason for Lufkin fans to feel good about their preseason chances.
For the sixth-ranked Cougars, gone are quarterback Marquez Perez, running back DaDa Anderson and wide receivers Jaelin Campbell and Harrison Wellmann, but they have several talented playmakers waiting in the wings, including Spencer Maxwell and Austin Sosa. Brandon Williams is penciled in as the starter at quarterback. The strength of the defense will be the secondary led by Brandon Joseph along with Ryan Stapp and Jordon Bellows.
The two teams appear to be a cut above the rest of the district, and it wouldn’t be all that surprising if the champion went 7-0 and the runner-up 6-1 in league play. That makes their Oct. 12 matchup the biggest game in the district and possibly the deciding one. Luckily for College Station, the showdown will be at Cougar Stadium.
A&M Consolidated was picked to win 10-5A Division II with Rudder coming in sixth.
Consol returns most of its offense, including receivers Brian Darby and Devin Price and tackle Reid Francis, who was selected to DCTF’s preseason 5A all-state team. Both Caden Fedora and Gage Pahl played well last season at quarterback, so whoever wins the job in 2018 will have varsity experience and plenty of explosive weapons surrounding him.
The Tigers lost key pieces up the middle on defense in safety Kolby Peel and linebacker Trevor Williams, but the unit should still be a strength with tackle Josh Ellison anchoring the line, Makel Williams taking on a larger role at linebacker and cornerback Nate Floyd leading the secondary. Ellison, a Texas A&M pledge, is DCTF’s preseason 10-5A Division II defensive MVP.
Texas Football has the Tigers ranked fourth in 5A Division II, but the magazine doesn’t have them in the state quarterfinals with two teams ranked ahead of them — Manvel and Fort Bend Marshall — coming out of a stacked Region III.
In Region IV, Brenham, which is ranked 15th and picked to win 13-5A Division II, is projected to lose in the state quarterfinals to Corpus Christi Calallen.
Rudder will have to overcome the losses of running back Kevonte Johnson and quarterback Hunter Dobbins, but the Rangers look to show more steady improvement under second-year coach Greg Morgan. Clifford Chambers and Jakobe Nutall return as key pieces on the offensive line for the Rangers’ run-heavy system. Felix Conde steps in at quarterback, and Markeist Johnson returns as the top receiving option. The biggest unknown is how Rudder will fill the shoes of the bruising Kevonte Johnson.
Bryan was projected to finish sixth in 14-6A, but with 14 returning starters, the Vikings could be a dark horse for a playoff spot in the Cypress-heavy district.
The Vikings started a bevy of underclassmen last season due to injuries, and the unexpected experience could pay dividends in 2018. Jonathan Sparkman, Christian Richardson and Xavier Johnson help make up a talented secondary, but the Vikings’ season likely hinges on the play of quarterback Kerry Brooks, who showed promise as a sophomore.
The Brazos Valley’s 3A schools are well represented in the magazine’s predictions.
Rockdale and Cameron are projected to go 1-2, respectively, in 10-3A Division I, and Cameron linebacker Nico Vargas is DCTF’s pick for preseason defensive MVP. Franklin is tabbed as the 11-3A Division I champ with running back Clayton Rosprim the preseason offensive MVP and defensive back Jared Pedraza the preseason defensive MVP. Lexington tops DCTF’s projections for 8-3A Division II with Ja’Kobe Cooper the preseason offensive MVP and Aaron Allert the preseason defensive MVP.
Rockdale is fourth in Texas Football’s 3A Division I rankings with Franklin sixth and Cameron 11th. Lexington comes in at fifth in the Division II rankings. Cooper, Allert, Pedraza, Rockdale’s Cayden McBride, Franklin’s Will Fannin and Lexington’s Caleb Meyer made the preseason all-state team.
In 2A, fourth-ranked Burton was projected to win 14-2A Division II and advance to the state semifinals. De’Monderick Winters is the district’s preseason offensive MVP as well as a pick on the preseason all-state team, along with teammates Caleb Harmel and Cade Weiss.
Here are other Brazos Valley teams and their predicted regular-season finish according to Texas Football, which is now on shelves around Bryan-College Station.
• 12-4A Division I — 1. Navasota (Tyreke Houston, preseason DMVP)
• 8-4A Division II — 2. Madisonville
• 12-4A Division II — 3. Caldwell
• 12-3A Division II — 6. Anderson-Shiro
• 9-2A Division I — 1. Centerville (Calvin Gunselman, preseason OMVP; Roland Davis, preseason DMVP); 3. Leon; 4. Normangee
• 13-2A Division I — 1. Hearne; 4. Milano
• 13-2A Division II — 1. Bremond (Dalton Wilganowski, preseason DMVP); 2. Iola
• 14-2A Division II — 3. Snook; 5. Somerville
• 14-A Division II — 1. Calvert (James Green, preseason OMVP)
• TAPPS Division IV-4 — 2. Brazos Christian
• TAPPS 6-man Division III-4 — 3. St. Joseph; 4. Allen Academy