District 11-2A Division I has a little bit of everything.

It'd be hard to find a better 1-2 punch in the passing game than the one in Teague. If it's old-school running attacks you prefer, look no further than last season's district-champion Franklin Lions or 2,300-yard rusher Jeffery Wilson of Elkhart.

And if you're in the mood for stories of redemption, the 2013 Crockett Bulldogs might be a good place to start.

 

District 11-2A Division I Preview

Elkhart's Jeffery Wilson. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

PLAYMAKERS

  • Korbin Boles, OL, Soph., Palestine Westwood
  • Aaron Mitchell, WR, Jr., Teague
  • A.J. Phillips, RB, Soph., Crockett
  • Zac Short, OL/DL, Sr., Franklin
  • Austin Skinner, QB, Jr., Teague
  • Pat Ward, LB, Sr., Trinity
  • Jeffery Wilson, RB, Sr., Elkhart

 

TOP GAMES

  • Crockett at Teague, 7:30 p.m., Nov. 1
  • Teague at Franklin, 7:30 p.m., Nov. 8
  • Trinity at Elkhart, 7:30 p.m., Nov. 8

 

1. Franklin Lions

Coach: Mike Hedrick

2012 finish: 10-3 (Class 2A Division I Region III finalist)

Returning starters: 7 offensive, 7 defensive

Players to watch

  • OL/DL Zac Short, Sr., 6-0, 215
  • DE Will Phillips, Soph.
  • CB Seth Kissinger, Sr.
  • QB Dylan Smitherman, Jr.
  • RB Morgan Brewer, Jr.
  • OL John Davis, Jr.

 

2013 outlook: If there's one thing that's for sure it's that the Franklin Lions will be committed to the running game. Last season on the way to the state quarterfinals, Franklin rolled up more than 5,000 rushing yards. The man responsible for more than half that total -- Darius Floyd -- may be gone, but don't expect that key personnel loss to change Franklin's identity on offense. Coach Hedrick still has the bulk of his offensive line returning in addition to his quarterback and a very capable running back in Brewer. Short will anchor a defense that returns seven starters from a group that hopes improve on the 30.3 points per game it allowed opponents in 2012.

 

2. Teague Lions

Coach: Daniel Johnson

Record: 8-4 (Class 2A Division I area finalist)

Returning starters: 6 offensive, 3 defensive

Players to watch

  • QB Austin Skinner, Jr., 6-2, 185 (233 of 412, 3,497 yards, 48 TDs, 12 INTs; 71 carries, 158 yards, 8 TDs)
  • WR Aaron Mitchell, Jr., 5-10, 180 (81 catches, 1,395 yards, 24 TDs)
  • RB/DB John Love, Jr., 5-10, 185 (74 carries, 441 yards, TD; 104 tackles, 4 for loss, 1 INT, 1 forced fumble, 1 recovery, 2 pass break-ups)
  • LB Roper Hunt, Sr., 6-0, 190 (96 tackles, 16 for loss, 5 sacks, 4 QB pressures)
  • DL Ryan Mitchell, Soph., 5-10, 220 (101 tackles, 9 for loss, 3 sacks, 2 QB pressures, 1 forced fumble)
  • DL Jonathan Roberts, Sr., 6-0, 220 (102 tackles, 12 for loss, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 recovery)

 

2013 outlook: This Lions will feature the best QB-WR combo in the district with the return of Skinner and Mitchell, who both had monster sophomore seasons. The duo was responsible for helping Teague put up 39.8 points per game in 2012. The Lions even averaged more than 36 points in their four losses, so expect similar offensive numbers this season with six returning starters. Defense is where Teague must improve if it hopes to take the next step. Last season, the Lions struggled to keep opposing offense in check, allowing 34.7 points a game.

 

3. Crockett Bulldogs

Crockett's Jamarcus Moten. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

Coach: Joe Kettler

2012 finish: 1-9

Returning starters: 5 offensive, 5 defensive

Players to watch

  • RB A.J. Phillips, Soph., 5-7, 175 (1,005 rushing yards, 12 TDs)
  • WR Carlton Shirley, Sr., 6-3, 190 (16 catches, 320 yards, 5 TDs)
  • WR Darius Barber, Sr., 6-3, 180 (20 catches, 325 yards, TD)
  • OL JaVarious Taylor, Jr., 5-9, 190
  • LB Ricardo Hidalgo, Jr., 5-10, 175 (105 tackles)
  • DB JaMarcus Moten, Jr., 5-10, 170

 

Offense: Struggles were anticipated on offense in 2012 after the Bulldogs graduated a large and talented senior class the year before. The heavy turnover caused Coach Kettler to play a vast amount of freshmen and sophomores a season ago, and it

Crockett's Ricardo Hidalgo. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

showed on the field. Crockett averaged just 20 points a game as its young corps of playmakers was feeling its way through its first season at the varsity level. But the new season has renewed optimism. Phillips had a remarkable freshman season at running back, and receivers Shirley and Barber are primed for big junior years after getting their feet wet in 2012.

Defense: Graduation also took a toll on the defensive side of the ball for Crockett, which allowed more than 36 points per game last year. But just like the offense, several underclassmen were forced into action and should reap the benefits in 2013. One of those players will be Hidalgo, who notched more than 100 tackles as a sophomore and will be counted upon for leadership on the defense moving forward. Coach Kettler also is expecting big seasons from defensive back Moton and linebackers Jordan Washington and Leon Tran.

2013 outlook: The Bulldogs might still be one year away from returning to the form of 2010 and 2011 when Crockett combined to go 21-4, but that doesn't mean it won't be a serious factor in the district-championship race this fall. Crockett annually fields one of the most athletic teams in the region, and if the Bulldogs can put it all together in Coach Kettler's second year in charge, big things could be in store for Crockett sooner rather than later.

 

4. Trinity Tigers

Coach: Jarrod Smith

2012 finish: 5-6 (Class 2A Division I bi-district finalist)

Returning starters: 8 offensive, 7 defensive

Players to watch

  • LB Pat Ward, Sr., 6-0, 225 (119 tackles, 13 for loss)
  • LB Terrance Potts, Sr., 6-2, 195 (118 tackles, 9 for loss)
  • DL Jesse Reyes, Sr., 6-0, 185 (62 tackles, 5 for loss)
  • WR KeMon House, Sr., 5-6, 170 (34 catches, 482 yards, 7 TDs)
  • QB/DB Michael Lewis, Jr., 6-1, 175 (465 passing yards, 4 TDs; 46 tackles, 4 INTs)
  • LB Tyreke Carroll, Jr., 5-8, 180 (30 tackles, 1 INT)

 

2013 outlook: Expectations are high as 15 starters return from last season's playoff team. Trinity overcame a four-game losing streak in the middle of the year by rebounding to win three of its final four to claim the district's final postseason berth. The Tigers may not have the guns to keep up with league favorites Franklin and Teague, but there are a ton of playmakers returning on the defensive side of the ball. The linebacking trio of Ward, Potts and Carroll could be the best in the district, while big things are expected from Reyes up front.

 

5. Elkhart Elks

Elkhart's Jordan Ives. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

Coach: Sam Wells

2012 finish: 2-8

Returning starters: 4 offensive, 5 defensive

Players to watch

  • RB Jeffery Wilson, Sr., 6-1, 190 (278 carries, 2,329 yards, 26 TDs)
  • OL Zack McFarland, Jr., 6-2, 270
  • WR Cullen Adams, Jr., 5-9, 170
  • DB Jackson Adair, Soph., 6-0, 160
  • QB/DB Jordan Ives, Sr.

 

Offense: It all starts with Wilson, who was a bright spot in an otherwise lackluster 2012 season for Elkhart. The FCS recruit touched the ball on almost every snap, and rushed for more than 300 yards on four separate occasions, including a 401-yard effort against

Elkhart's Zack McFarland. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

district-champion Franklin. Wilson was pretty much the Elks' entire offense a season ago, producing despite all of the opposing defenses concentrating on shutting him down. If he stays healthy, Wilson is primed for another big season, but Coach Wells would like to see a few other playmakers emerge to add more dimensions to the Elkhart offense.

Defense: As exciting as it was to watch Wilson shine on offense, the Elks' defense struggled to stop the other team, allowing more than 36 points a game in 2012. Some of that can be attributed to a late arrival by Coach Wells, who took over the head coaching job just a few days before the school year let out. The five returning defensive starters along with the newcomers now have a full year under Wells' system, so expect a more consistent defensive unit in 2013.

2013 outlook: Everyone is excited to see what Wilson has in store for an encore, but more team success is the ultimate goal. It will be an uphill battle, but if Wilson can stay healthy and Coach Wells can discover some additional playmakers on offense, Elkhart might surprise this fall. However, if the defense fails to improve, Elkhart may be kept out of the playoffs for the ninth consecutive year.

 

6. Palestine Westwood Panthers

Palestine Westwood's Korbin Boles. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

Coach: Roger Mays

2012 finish: 3-7

Returning starters: 4 offensive, 5 defensive

Players to watch

  • OL Korbin Boles, Soph., 6-2, 305
  • FB Trey Jenkins, Soph., 5-8, 215 (36 carries, 81 yards, TD)
  • LB Hoss Jones, Jr., 5-10, 190 (86 tackles, 1 sack)
  • DB Micah Ellerbe, Jr., 6-0, 160 (36 tackles, 1 INT, 1 pass break-up)
  • DE Gabriel Means, Sr., 5-8, 165 (44 tackles, 2 for loss, 1 sack)

 

Offense: Westwood averaged right at 20 points per game in 2012, but the Panthers graduated all but four of its offensive starters in the offseason. Westwood loses both quarterbacks, its top three rushers and top two pass-catchers. So the offense figures to

Palestine Westwood's Trey Jenkins. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

be a work in progress for Coach Mays and Co. this fall. Boles has big-time potential on the offensive line, so if Westwood can find some young playmakers to put on the field, protection may not be as big of an issue. Expect running back Derrick Hicks and fullback Jenkins to get the bulk of the work in the backfield.

Defense: The Panthers will be young on defense as well. Jones emerged as a playmaker at linebacker as a freshman and Ellerbe enjoyed a fine sophomore season for the Panthers, but Coach Mays will look to a large contingent of newcomers to improve a defense that allowed opponents to average almost 38 points per game in 2012.

2013 outlook: A 3-7 finish was not exactly what Westwood expected after dropping from Class 3A, but a new season always brings renewed optimism for football programs all across the state. With so many question marks looming on both sides of the ball, it's hard to expect too much in the way of success for the Panthers this season. All Coach Mays can hope for is that his young group can set the tone for brighter days in the future.