2013 Football Preview: Daingerfield + New Boston Should Again Lead District 8-2A Division I
Daingerfield and New Boston have enjoyed a five-year stretch that just about any pair of district foes would envy.
The Tigers have won at least 10 games during the last five seasons, a stretch that has seen New Boston achieve the same feat four times.
The Lions are coming off a District 8-2A Division I championship and the most wins in school history (12), but would love to avenge a Region II title loss to -- you guessed it -- the rival Tigers. Daingerfield hopes to get back to the state title round for the fifth time in six years.
Both teams are again the favorites in the 8-2A D-I race, which could once more come down to the Oct. 4 encounter to open league play.
District 8-2A Division I Preview
- Kris Ables, Sr., RB, Mount Vernon
- Keris Alexander, Sr., QB, Daingerfield
- Kolby Browning, Sr., DB, Redwater
- Calvin Bryant, Sr., LB, Daingerfield
- Willie Evans, Sr., OL, Daingerfield
- Jeff Gladney, Jr., ATH, New Boston
- Wesley Holmes, Sr., OL/DL, New Boston
- Neo Hudson, Jr., RB/LB, Redwater
- Jawuan Johnson, Sr., DB, New Boston
- R.J. Williams, Jr., LB, Hooks
- Sept. 27 -- Daingerfield at Redwater
- Sept. 27 -- Mount Vernon at Hooks
- Oct. 4 -- New Boston at Daingerfield
- Oct. 11 -- Redwater at New Boston
1. Daingerfield Tigers
Coach: Aric Sardinea
2012 finish: 12-4 (Class 2A Division I state finalist)
Returning starters: 6 offensive, 6 defensive
Players to watch
- LB Calvin Bryant, Sr., 5-10, 175 (212 tackles, 22 for loss, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles)
- QB Keris Alexander, Sr., 6-0, 166 (2,226 passing yards, 19 TDs; 2 rush TDs)
- OL Willie Evans, Sr., 6-4, 335
- DB Cory Smith, Sr., 5-9, 155 (101 tackles, 3 INTs)
- RB Cordarius Anderson, Sr., 5-6, 160 (1,029 rushing yards, 15 TDs)
- LB Kelshin Neal, Sr., 5-10, 170 (69 tackles, 5 for loss, 2 forced fumbles)
- RB Ramius Wallace, Sr., 5-10, 165 (546 rushing yards, 4 TDs)
- RB/DB Troy Stuard, Sr., 5-6, 155 (130 rushing yards, 1 TD; 47 tackles, 4 INTs)
- OL/DL Dylan Williams, Sr., 6-0, 350
- DB Jesse Biles, Jr., 5-8, 155
- WR Denzel Mims, Soph., 6-1, 160
- WR Chris Chism, Jr., 6-1, 160
- RB Justin Taylor, Soph., 5-7, 170
- WR Keaton Key, Sr., 5-10, 155 (11 catches, 162 yards)
- WR Cedarion Hopkins, Sr., 5-10, 160
- TE Spencer Alexander, Sr., 6-1, 180
- OL Cameron Precise, Sr.
Offense: Daingerfield has six starters back from an offense that averaged 34.3 points per game. Keris Alexander is back as the Tigers' signal caller after having a breakout junior season that included more than 2,200 passing yards and 21 total touchdowns. Daingerfield also returns a pair of running backs in Cordarius Anderson and Ramius Wallace who combined for almost 1,600 rushing yards and 19 touchdown runs.
But the two players who were Daingerfield's most consistent playmakers have both graduated. Mr. Versatility Edwin Mims is gone after accounting for 2,483 yards of total offense and 24 total touchdowns. He was a threat to throw, run, or catch, plus a dangerous special teams option.
Fellow athlete Shawn Hooks also graduated after leading the Tigers in receptions (69), receiving yards (1,069), and touchdown catches (9).
Alexander having an entire season of starting experience should help the Tigers transition new playmakers into those pass-catching roles, but there's no doubt that Mims and Hooks will be missed.
Defense: The always-athletic Tigers will once again have plenty of speed all over the field, although five starters are gone from last year's defense, which held opponents to 20.2 points per game.
Calvin Bryant is the most recognizable name returning for Daingerfield. He had a monster junior season as East Texas' No. 2 tackler behind Elysian Fields linebacker Tanner Norman (225 tackles). Bryant has had two big seasons to set him up for what could be a huge senior finale.
Cory Smith and Troy Stuard are veterans in the secondary, while Kelshin Neal gives third-year head coach Aric Sardinea another quality defender at the linebacker spot. Daingerfield may be a bit undersized, but the Tigers certainly won't lack speed.
2013 Outlook: Daingerfield has enjoyed quite a run during the last five years. The first three of those campaigns saw the Tigers go a combined 44-3 with three consecutive state championships. Sardinea has kept the momentum going with a cumulative record of 22-8 and a state title appearance -- the Tigers' East Texas-leading ninth -- during his first two years at the helm.
The five-year, double-digit-win run is the second in school history, matching the Tigers' incredible 69-3-2 run from 1982-86. Does that success bring pressure? Of course, but Daingerfield's players and fans wouldn't have it any other way.
The Tigers lost some key pieces on both sides of the ball, but as always, they should contend not only for a District 8-2A Division I crown, but the regional title. Daingerfield starts the season ranked No. 3 (TheOldCoach.com) and No. 7 (Dave Campbell's Texas Football), respectively, in 2A Division. ETSN.fm believes the Tigers could very well live up to those expectations and play at least four playoff games once again this fall.
2. New Boston Lions
Coach: Jamey Thomas
2012 finish: 12-1 (Class 2A Division I Region II finalist)
Returning starters: 6 offensive, 8 defensive
Players to watch
- DB Jawuan Johnson, Sr., 6-0, 190 (committed to Northern Illinois; 101 tackles, 5 INTs, 2 forced fumbles, 3 defensive TDs)
- ATH Jeff Gladney, Jr., 5-10, 180 (8 total TDs)
- OL/DL Wesley Holmes, Sr., 6-3, 280
- QB Aaron Conkleton, Sr.
- RB Quinn Dedmon, Jr., 5-10, 165
- DB T.Q. Dedmon, Jr.
- LB Wes Teague, Sr.
- DE Dale Roberts, Sr, 6-4, 200
- DE/LB Dedric Draggoo, Jr. (5 forced fumbles, 3 recoveries)
- OL Hunter Lee, Sr., 6-4, 240
- LB Phillip Pyle, Jr.
- RB Devontae Wade, Soph., 5-10, 165
Offense: New Boston faces one of the most unenviable tasks in Texas high school football this fall: replacing Damien Haskins.
The Oregon State signee was ETSN.fm's East Texas Super Team Offensive Player of the Year last season, rushing for more than 3,200 yards and 52 touchdowns in a virtuoso performance that led to multiple Division I FBS offers. Haskins scored twice as many touchdowns as the rest of New Boston's roster (26) in 2012.
In other words, he will be missed.
But Haskins replaced Shakeem Jefferson, who had back-to-back 2,000-yard seasons in 2010-11, so the Lions have experience replacing game-breaking backs. Two juniors -- Quinn Dedmon and Jeff Gladney -- should help New Boston fans acclimate to post-Haskins life. Gladney has serious speed and scored eight total touchdowns a variety of ways last season.
Whoever the new go-to guy is, he'll have a veteran offensive line led by the burly Wesley Holmes and Hunter Lee. New Boston can also rely more on Aaron Conkleton, who threw for about 700 yards as a junior.
Defense: New Boston should be stout on defense. The Lions return eight starters from a unit that held opponents to 14.8 points per game last season.
Safety Jawuan Johnson will again be the Lions' stalwart at the back end. The Northern Illinois-bound defensive back had more than 100 tackles and scored three times on defense as a junior. He and T.Q. Dedmon give new head coach Jamey Thomas two proven playmakers in the secondary, which also boasts the highly athletic Gladney.
New Boston must replace two of its top tacklers in Sawyer Smith and Reginald Scales, but linebackers Wes Teague and Phillip Pyle are back to help ease the transition. New Boston should also be strong on the edge with Dedric Draggoo -- who showed a penchant for playmaking as a sophomore with almost a half dozen forced fumbles -- and Dale Roberts.
2013 Outlook: For the first time since 2004, Rick Barker won't be roaming the New Boston sidelines. Nevertheless, Thomas has experience as a head coach and inherits a talented roster poised for another big year. The preseason publications placed high expectations on the Lions, picking them No. 3 (Dave Campbell's Texas Football) and No. 11 in 2A Division I, respectively.
Not having Haskins is a huge blow, but if New Boston can get reasonable offensive output, the Lions should have a good shot at winning at least 10 games for the fifth time in sixth years, something they've never done. The Oct. 4 trip to Daingerfield should once again be the league's most influential contest in the district championship race, but as the Tigers proved last season, that early fall matchup may not be the most important of the season between these two programs.
Don't be surprised if New Boston and Daingerfield play twice again in 2013.
3. Redwater Dragons
Coach: Tommy Graf
2012 finish: 5-6 (Class 2A Division I Region II bi-district finalist)
Returning starters: 8 offensive, 7 defensive
Players to watch
- RB/LB Neo Hudson, Jr., 6-0, 180 (85 carries, 914 yards, 12 TDs; 94 tackles)
- RB/LB Dalton White, Sr., 5-10, 180 (750 rushing yards)
- DB Kolby Browning, Sr. (79 tackles, 5 INTs)
- LB Matthew Candelaria, Sr. (78 tackles)
- QB Michael Cochran, Jr., 5-10, 175
- RB Dionte Hudson, Soph., 5-9, 165
- OL Braven Smith, Sr., 5-10, 200
- OL Spencer Long, Sr., 5-10, 180
Offense: Redwater should once again possess a strong running game with the return of Neo Hudson and Dalton White, who combined for almost 1,700 rushing yards in 2012. Hudson had a breakout sophomore season with more than 900 rushing yards while doubling as the Dragons' leading tackler.
Hudson and White are two of Redwater's eight returning offensive starters from a unit that averaged 28.1 points per game. Redwater got hot down the stretch after opening District 8-2A Division I play with losses to Daingerfield and New Boston, averaging 42.3 points in a four-game winning streak to close league play and send the Dragons to the playoffs.
That could be a harbinger for the 2013 Dragons since they have so much experience back on offense.
Defense: The defense has almost as many returning starters. Seven starter-quality veterans are back for the Dragons, who yielded 24.5 points per game last season.
Like the offense, Redwater got better as the season progressed. That four-game winning streak saw the Dragons surrender only 15.5 points per contest.
Hudson should once again be a defensive stalwart at linebacker, while Kolby Browning returns after a big junior season in which he led the team with five interceptions. Matthew Candelaria will team with Hudson to give Redwater a potent duo at the linebacker position.
2013 Outlook: A tough non-district schedule that includes White Oak, Hughes Springs, and Mineral Springs -- a team that lost in the Arkansas Class 3A state semifinals in 2012 -- should prepare the Dragons for 8-2A D-I play.
Redwater once again starts league competition with Daingerfield and New Boston, but as the Dragons showed last season, even if they lose both contests they are definitely not out of the playoff race. ETSN.fm expects Redwater to be the favorite for the third playoff berth from 8-2A D-I thanks to 15 returning starters and a ground game that should be potent.
4. Hooks Hornets
Coach: Hart Jeanis
2012 finish: 4-6
Returning starters: 4 offensive, 4 defensive
Players to watch
- LB R.J. Williams, Jr., 6-0, 230 (78 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 3 recoveries)
- ATH Jimmie Houston, Sr., 6-1, 175 (22 carries, 207 yards, 6 TDs; 9 catches, 118 yards, 2 TDs)
- OL/DL Anthony Sciara, Sr.
- RB Jamall Fort, Soph.
- ATH ReShawn Parker, Soph.
- OL/DL Cody Templeton, Jr.
- OL/DL Mark Kingcade, Jr.
Offense: Head coach Hart Jeanis must replace seven starters from an offense that averaged 28.2 points per game in 2012. There's no doubt that Aaron Doddy's abilities will be missed. The versatile 6-foot-4 playmaker, who qualified for the state track meet in the high jump, signed with SFA after serving as perhaps the Hornets' top offensive weapon the last two or three years.
Jimmie Houston could be the man to fill that role in 2013. He accounted for 325 yards and eight touchdowns on only 31 touches last season. Jamall Fort, a sophomore running back, is another name to remember as a potential breakout player.
Whoever the skill players are, they'll have a few big men up front who gained experience a year ago in Mark Kingcade, Cody Templeton, and Anthony Sciara.
Defense: Like the offense, only four starters return on defense, but one of them is one of District 8-2A Division I's best players.
R.J. Williams had a strong sophomore debut and is back for what should be a huge junior season. At 6-foot, 230 pounds, the big, physical linebacker has already drawn attention from colleges and could develop into a Division I FBS prospect. He showed his playmaking ability last season when he recorded four sacks and played a part in five fumbles.
Williams will be the key figure for a Hooks defense that tries to improve on the 30.0 points per game it allowed in 2012. The Hornets allowed 50-plus points three times, but those three losses came to teams that went a combined 31-5 (Hughes Springs, Jefferson, New Boston).
2013 Outlook: Hooks must find 14 new starters in the quest for its first playoff berth since 2009, when the Hornets finished 5-6. Hooks has made only two playoff trips int he last 10 seasons and its only two postseason victories came in 2006, when former head coach Jim Rice led the Hornets to a 10-3 record.
Hooks' playoff chances could hinge on the Sept. 27 home game vs. Mount Vernon, which beat the Hornets 28-26 last season. Mount Vernon also lost a lot of experienced players to graduation, so the 8-2A D-I opener could be a trial by fire for a lot of new faces on both sidelines.
5. Mount Vernon Tigers
Coach: Mike Alexander
2012 finish: 7-3
Returning starters: 2 offensive, 4 defensive
Players to watch
- RB Kris Ables, Sr., 5-8, 182 (95 carries, 667 yards, 14 TDs; 7 catches, 81 yards)
- QB Sam Alston, Sr., 6-0, 175 (68 of 124, 970 yards, 6 TDs, 4 INTs)
- LB Mason Cook, Sr., 5-10, 175 (85 tackles, 7 sacks)
- LB Ray Perales, Sr., 5-9, 200
- LB Colby White, Sr., 5-10, 160
- OL/DL Tyler Carpenter, Sr., 6-0, 205
- WR/DB Grant Lowry, Sr.
- OL/DL Zach Migues, Sr., 6-1, 300
- OL/DL Tristan Hodges, Sr., 5-11, 250
- TE/DE Equavian Evans, Jr., 5-11, 230
- ATH Austin Decker, Soph., 6-0, 190
- ATH Rosendo Flores, Jr., 5-8, 165
Offense: Head coach Mike Alexander has a lot of work ahead of him replacing nine graduated offensive starters who helped the Tigers average 28.0 points per game in 2012.
The good news is the return of two proven backfield weapons: tailback Kris Ables and quarterback Sam Alston. Ables led the Tigers with 667 rushing yards and his 14 touchdowns were more than twice as many as anyone else on the team. Alston completed almost 55 percent of his passes during a productive junior campaign.
Sakorey Chandler's graduation will hurt Mount Vernon in the passing game, where the athletic playmaker led the team in catches (28), receiving yards (442), and touchdown grabs (5). In fact, none of the players who contributed to Mount Vernon's 13 touchdown receptions in 2012 are back this fall.
Defense: There's a little more experience returning for Alexander and company on the defensive side of the ball, which boasts four starters who contributed to a unit that held foes to 18.8 points per game last season.
The first name that comes to mind is linebacker Mason Cook, who had a very productive junior campaign. He led the team in tackles and sacks and should be an even bigger leader on this year's squad.
Another player to keep an eye on is Tristan Hodges. The burly lineman missed a lot of playing time last season with an injury and could help Mount Vernon's defensive front against the powerful rushing attacks in district play, when the Tigers faltered at the end of last season after a 7-0 start.
2013 Outlook: Mount Vernon was probably a playoff-caliber team last season in a lot of districts, but the top of 8-2A D-I prevented the Tigers from nabbing their first postseason berth since 2005. Mount Vernon's seven-game winning streak to start the season was halted when the back end of the Tigers' schedule featured Daingerfield, Redwater, and New Boston, the three teams that represented the district in the playoffs.
The addition of a fourth playoff berth should give a retooled Mount Vernon team some hope with only six returning starters from last year's club. The Sept. 27 district opener at Hooks could be a huge game for both teams in their quest for a playoff berth. Mount Vernon's Oct. 4 home game against Pattonville Prairiland has the potential to hold similar importance if the Patriots rebound from last season.
Entering 2013, Mount Vernon has too many question marks for ETSN.fm to pick the Tigers as a playoff team from 8-2A D-I, but the potential is there for the Tigers to fight their way into the race for the final two playoff spots behind Daingerfield and New Boston.
6. Queen City Bulldogs
Coach: Eric Droddy
2012 finish: 5-5
Returning starters: 6 offensive, 6 defensive
Players to watch
- QB/DB Drew Davenport, Sr., 5-11, 175
- RB Chris Reese, Sr., 6-0, 175
- QB/LB Easton Droddy, Jr., 5-8, 175
- ATH Zack Walker, Sr., 6-2, 205
- DB Kendal Griffin, Sr., 5-10, 165
- LB Chase Norman, Sr., 5-7, 175
- TE/DE Ryan Hawley, Soph., 6-0, 175
- RB Cody Ball, Jr., 5-9, 160
Offense: New head coach Eric Droddy takes over an offense that returns six starters from last year's .500 squad. Drew Davenport will again be a key piece for the Bulldogs on both sides of the ball, while Chris Reese could be the first player in line to get a chance to replace 1,000-yard rusher Darryl Shepard.
Queen City scored at least 41 points three times in during its 5-2 start last season (one win came via forfeit vs. Waskom). If the Bulldogs get similar production this season, they could once again get off to a fast start.
Defense: The defense also returns six starters who hope to improve on the 42.2 points per game the Bulldogs allowed a year ago.
Realistically, the number wasn't that high for most of the season. Queen City yielded 40 percent of the points they allowed all season in the final three games of the year vs. Mount Vernon, Daingerfield, and New Boston.
Nevertheless, the 36.1 points per game allowed in the first seven games is still something to work on. Davenport, Zack Walker, Kendal Griffin, and Chase Norman should be several of the Bulldogs' top defensive performers this season. If Queen City is to truly turn the corner and compete and for its first playoff berth since 2001, it's likely that the most progress must come defensively.
2013 Outlook: Queen City could again start fast with the favorable portion of its schedule coming at the beginning. But the key will be to maintain that momentum once District 8-2A Division I play starts, something that is obviously much easier said than done.
The new coaching staff would do well to get the 'Dogs back to .500 and perhaps push Mount Vernon and Hooks for the final playoff spot. Assuming anything more than that is probably a bit too premature at this point.
7. Pattonville Prairiland Patriots
Coach: Alex Richters
2012 finish: 3-7
Returning starters: 5 offensive, 5 defensive
Players to watch
- ATH Blake Upchurch, Jr.
- RB Conner Skidmore, Sr., 5-10, 185
- LB Colton Lewis, Sr., 5-9, 175
- OL Haskell Walker, Sr., 5-10, 225
- ATH Jasper Goodson, Sr., 5-8, 150
2013 Outlook: New head coach Alex Richters takes over after serving as Marshall's boss the last two years, which saw the Mavericks go a combined 3-17. Richters doesn't have a lot of veterans to work with as the Patriots graduated 12 of their 22 starters from last year's three-win squad.
Prairiland could be solid at the skill spots if Blake Upchurch and Conner Skidmore come through, but the Patriots will likely be hard-pressed to qualify for that fourth playoff berth this fall. After all, they went 0-6 in District 8-2A Division I last season, and there just doesn't appear to be the experience back to greatly improve upon that performance in 2013.