The Arp Tigers have had a strange-hold on their district for the last several years, but with an experienced Garrison team hitting the field in 2013, the league title may not be as easy as in year's past for Arp.

The rest of the district is intriguing. Winona, Frankston and West Rusk were separated by just one game last year. And with one more playoff spot available, the chase could be as exciting as ever in District 10-2A Division II.

 

District 10-2A Division II Preview

PLAYMAKERS

  • George Anthony, RB, Sr., West Rusk
  • Khiran Arrington, ATH, Sr., Garrison
  • Ozzie Buckner, QB, Jr., Frankston
  • Logan Clark, RB, Sr. Garrison
  • Ke'Aaron Cobb, RB, Sr., Winona
  • Tyrone Hunt, OL/DL, Jr., Arp
  • Marcalas Johnson, RB, Jr., Arp
  • Cameron Rodriguez, ATH, Sr., Garrison
  • Kendrick Rogers, WR/DB, Soph., Frankston
  • Tyrice Ross, DE, Sr., West Rusk

 

TOP GAMES

  • Arp at Garrison, 7:30 p.m., Sept. 27
  • Winona at Frankston, 7:30 p.m., Oct. 25
  • West Rusk at Frankston, 7:30 p.m., Nov. 8

 

1. Garrison Bulldogs

Garrison's Logan Clark. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

Coach: Craig Barker

2012 finish: 8-4 (Class 2A Division II area finalist)

Returning starters: 8 offensive, 8 defensive

Players to watch

  • RB Logan Clark, Sr., 5-8, 165 (983 rushing yards, 15 TDs; 27 catches, 271 yards, 2 TDs)
  • QB Cameron Rodriguez, Sr., 5-11, 180 (1,624 passing yards, 14 TDs)
  • ATH Khiran Arrington, Sr., 6-0, 170 (141 tackles, 3 blocked kicks)
  • OL/DL Josh Robison, Sr., 5-10, 238 (48 tackles, 4 blocked punts)
  • DL Kade Hammer, Sr., 5-11, 220 (74 tackles, 14 for loss)
  • ATH Andrew Russell, Jr., 5-9, 150 (70 tackles, 5 pass break-ups)

 

Offense:The first year under Craig Barker, the offensive coordinator for Henderson's 3A state-title team in 2010, was a success for Garrison and its offense. The Bulldogs, after a 2-3 start, caught fire down the stretch. Following its district-opening loss to Arp,

Garrison's Kade Hammer. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

Garrison reeled off six consecutive wins before being eliminated in the second round of the playoffs. During the six-game streak, Garrison averaged 41.2 points per game. And plenty of firepower returns on that side of the ball for the Bulldogs in 2013, including QB Rodriguez, who shined as a sophomore. Clark will see the bulk of the workload in the backfield after nearly posting 1,000 yards on the ground a season ago.

Defense: Garrison featured one of the top defenses among East Texas 2A schools in 2012, holding opponents to an average of 16.9 points per game. In district, the Bulldogs were even stingier with a scoring-defense average of 13.8. The defensive line should be in great shape with the return of Hammer and Robison, who not only applied pressure in the backfield but also registered four blocked kicks a season ago. The back end of the unit is strong as well as Arrington and Russell will team to wreak havoc on opposing offenses.

2013 outlook: Garrison took a sound beating from Arp, 41-7, in last year's league opener. But the Bulldogs have loads more experience returning than their district counterpart, making it likely the gap will narrow this season. There's something to be said for continuity as well as Garrison will be more comfortable with Barker and his coaching staff the second time around. Garrison also gets Arp at home, which should help the Bulldogs in their quest for a district title. Right now there does not seem to be that much separation between the two, so home-field advantage could end up making the difference.

 

2. Arp Tigers

Arp's Marcalas Johnson. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

Coach: Dale Irwin

2012 finish: 9-3 (Class 2A Division II Region III semifinalist)

Returning starters: 4 offensive, 4 defensive

Players to watch

  • OL/DL Tyrone Hunt, Jr., 6-4, 219 (23 pancakes; 50 tackles)
  • RB Marcalas Johnson, Jr., 5-10, 180 (1,111 rushing yards, 15 TDs)
  • LB Kalik Hines, Jr., 5-10, 222 (50 tackles, 6 for loss, 1 fumble recovery)
  • QB Chase Bonner, Sr. (72 of 116, 1,334 yards, 17 TDs, 4 INTs; 31 carries, 112 yards, 2 TDs)
  • LB John Hawkins, Sr. (79 tackles, 15 for loss, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 recovery, 2 pass break-ups)
  • LB Gabe Reynolds, Sr. (38 tackles, 6 for loss, 3 sacks, 2 INTs, 1 forced fumble, 2 recoveries)

 

Offense: Arp was a rushing machine last season with two ball carriers surpassing the 1,000-yard mark and another that finished with more than 900. However, the graduation of Mikechell Potts and Michael Roberson (combined 1,943 rushing yards)

Arp's Chase Bonner. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

leave Johnson to handle most of the workload in 2013. Johnson led the team in rushing a season ago and posted an impressive 8.9 yards per carry. He'll likely see most of the action out of the backfield this season. Bonner, who put together a nice junior season, will likely be counted on to produce more out of the passing game in 2013 to counteract the loss of last season's rushing production. One good thing for Arp is that it returns one of its top lineman from a year ago in Hunt, whose combination of size and speed fits nicely into Arp's run-heavy scheme.

Defense: Arp was solid on the defensive end in 2012, holding opposing teams to less than 20 points per game. Coach Irwin will be looking for several newcomers to step up on this side of the ball after graduation took away seven starters from last year's group.

Arp's John Hawkins. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

Two of the top returners are Hawkins and Reynolds, who will team to create one of the top linebacking duos in the area. Replacing all-state safety Roberson won't be easy, but Arp has become one of the area's most consistent programs over the last decade and has a knack for finding new standouts on an annual basis.

2013 outlook: There was no doubt Arp was best team in the district last year. The Tigers outscored league opponents by an average score of 50-13, but several impact players will need their production replaced if the Tigers have visions of dominating the district as thoroughly this year. A tough non-district schedule that features matchups with Tatum, Paul Pewitt, Elysian Fields and longtime rival Troup builds up to Arp's showdown the reigning district runner-up Garrison in the 10-2A D-II opener. We'll know a lot about Arp after its first five games.

 

3. Winona Wildcats

Winona's Ke'Aaron Cobb. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

Coach: Scott Evans

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

Returning starters: 3 offensive, 6 defensive

Players to watch

  • RB Ke'Aaron Cobb, Sr., 5-8, 190 (898 yards)
  • FB Montana Morgan, Sr., 5-7, 165 (556 yards, 5 TDs)
  • TE Cristian Mendez, Sr., 5-8, 205
  • LB Devin Johnson, Sr., 5-8, 190
  • DB Corey Jackson, Sr., 5-8, 160
  • OL Kyle Boyd, Jr., 5-8, 215

 

Offense: Winona surprised a lot people last season by qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 1994, and the Wildcats did it with an offense that averaged more than 33 points per game. In fact, Winona scored 54 points in a bi-district playoff loss to Elysian

Winona's Corey Jackson. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

Fields. The Wildcats lost 1,000-yard rusher Derek Middleton to graduation, but Cobb is a back capable of putting up similar numbers, especially with an increased workload that's expected in 2013. Morgan is an adept lead-blocker for Winona's run-heavy scheme and proved he's more than able to hold his own in the rushing department as well.

Defense: The Wildcats struggled mightily on this side of the ball a year ago, and an improved defense may be the only thing keeping Winona from taking the next step with its rejuvenated football program. If Winona is to continue to progress, it must be better on defense after allowing 29.9 points per game in 2012. The good news is that more than half of Winona's defensive starters are back, including Johnson and Jackson, who both had monster seasons a last year.

2013 outlook: Winona finished in a tie with Frankston for the third and final playoff spot from the district last year, and got through virtue of its head-to-head victory. If that same scenario holds true this season, both teams will be in the playoffs after the UIL approved four playoff teams from each 2A district over the offseason. However, there doesn't appear to be too much separation from Winona, Frankston and West Rusk, who constituted teams 3-5 in the 2012 district standings. If Winona's defense improves, the Wildcats should have no trouble in reaching the postseason for the second consecutive year, something that hasn't been done in Winona since the late 1980's.

 

4. Frankston Indians

Frankston's Ozzie Buckner. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

Coach: Matt Nally

2012 finish: 4-6

Returning starters: 5 offensive, 5 defensive

Players to watch

  • QB Ozzie Buckner, Jr., 5-10, 180 (1,213 passing yards, 14 TDs; 77 carries, 557 yards, 4 TDs)
  • WR/DB Kendrick Rogers, Soph., 6-4, 185 (18 catches, 324 yards, 4 TDs)
  • RB Tre Staples, Jr., 5-9, 170
  • OL John Ross, Jr., 6-3, 260
  • LB Charles Minchew, Sr., 5-10, 185

 

Offense: Frankston had to replace a lot prior to the 2012 season: a Division I-bound quarterback Michael Warren (Rice) and running back Treston Coleman (UTSA), along with a new head coach. And as expected, there were some growing pains on this side

Frankston's Kendrick Rogers. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

of the ball last season. Frankston still managed to average more than 24 points per game despite starting a bevy of underclassmen. Now those youngsters have a full season of experience under their belt. Buckner is a true dual-threat quarterback, while Staples is a speed-burner that enjoyed great success last spring in track. The player to keep an eye is Rogers, who blossomed into one of Buckner's favorite targets as a freshman.

Defense: Frankston allowed opponents to score 26 points per game last season, and is looking to improve with the return of Minchew at linebacker. Rogers is also a big-play guy on defense and not afraid to apply hard contact to receivers from the other team. The Indians will be smaller up front than in year's past, but it's also likely that Frankston's team speed on defense will be much improved.

2013 outlook: The Indians tied Winona for the last playoff spot a season ago, ultimately missing out because of a head-to-head tiebreaker. Frankston was outscored by an average of 20 points in its three league losses a season ago, but in the Indians three wins, the average score was 46-10. Another year under Coach Nally coupled with a solid nucleus of returning playmakers could be enough for a return trip to the postseason for Frankston.

 

5. West Rusk Raiders

West Rusk's Tyrice Ross. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

Coach: John Frazier

2012 finish: 3-7

Returning starters: 5 offensive, 6 defensive

Players to watch

  • RB George Anthony, Sr., 5-11, 215 (1,245 rushing yards, 12 TDs; 8 catches, 180 yards)
  • DE Tyrice Ross, Sr., 6-4, 205 (56 tackles, 9 for loss, 4 sacks)
  • WR Dakota McCoy, Sr., 5-11, 170 (19 catches, 326 yards, 4 TDs)
  • DL Elijah Dews, Soph. (49 tackles, 8 for loss, 2 sacks)
  • OL Anthony Howard, Jr., 6-0, 220
  • OL Jace Foshee, Jr., 6-1, 240

 

Offense: This unit should be in good shape with the return of bruising, 1,000-yard rusher Anthony, who was one of the few bright spots in 2012 on an offense that mustered just 14.8 points per game. The front line should be much better this season

West Rusk's Elijah Dews. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

with the return Howard, Foshee and Corey Brister (6-1, 250). McCoy is a solid player on the edge, but the Raiders must find a new quarterback to get him the ball after last year's starter Cayle Bickham graduated. An increased workload for Anthony behind an experienced offensive line should help the production rise in 2013, but a few more playmakers would go along way in making the Raiders a consistent threat on offense.

Defense: It all begins with Ross, whose big frame makes him difficult for offensive tackles at the 2A level to handle. If double teams come his way, Dews is a solid lineman in his own right and should benefit from the extra attention paid to Ross. The rest of the defense is a work in progress, and Coach Frazier is hopeful this year's group can improve on 2012 when the Raiders allowed opponents to average more than 32 points per game.

2013 outlook: West Rusk finished one game outside of a playoff berth, finishing fifth behind Winona and Frankston, which shared the third spot. The Raiders actually defeated Winona, but missed out on the postseason with a 20-point loss to Frankston in the regular-season finale. So despite having to replace half of its starters, West Rusk should once again be in the mix for a playoff spot. It will be tough as both games against Winona and Frankston this year are on the road.

 

6. Hawkins Hawks

Hawkins' Skylar Phillips. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

Coach: Marty Moore

2012 finish: 2-8

Returning starters: 8 offensive, 8 defensive

Players to watch

  • OL/LB Skylar Phillips, Sr., 6-0, 215 (78 tackles)
  • RB/DE Lavon Davis, Jr., 6-4, 170
  • ATH Jason Hass, Soph., 6-2, 190
  • DE Kenneth Hughes
  • RB Drew Roden

 

Offense: It was a rough transition back up to Class 2A for Hawkins, especially on offense where the Hawks averaged just 11.4 points per game in 2012. Things should go a little smoother this season as Coach Moore welcomes back eight offensive starters.

Hawkins' Drew Roden. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

Davis and Roden are two backs that figure to get a ton of reps, while Hawkins searches for a quarterback and receivers capable of moving the chains. Hass is another player to keep an eye as he transitions to the varsity level after a solid freshman season.

Defense: Hawkins played good defense at times last year, and with eight starters back expect some of the inconsistencies to dissipate. Hawkins played solid defense to begin the year, holding opponents to less than 18 points per game. However in district, Hawkins struggled to keep other teams out of the end zone, allowing almost 40 points on average. Phillips is the glue on defense after making 78 tackles a season ago from his linebacker spot. Coach Moore will need others to step up in order for the unit to become more consistent.

2013 outlook: The main thing that might hold Hawkins back is its lack of offensive firepower in a league whose top three teams from 2012 all averaged well over 30 points per game. The defense, despite its struggles in league play, was much further along than the offense. And if Hawkins hopes to become a factor in the playoff chase, the offense will need to catch up to the defense.

 

7. Union Grove Lions

Union Grove's Garrett Gibson. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

Coach: Roger Adams

2012 finish: 2-8

Returning starters: 5 offensive, 6 defensive

Players to watch

  • LB Garrett Gibson, Sr., 6-1, 218 (136 tackles)
  • DB Tristen Thompson, Jr., 5-9, 171
  • DB Kyle Cotten, Sr., 5-8, 162
  • OL Garrett Bowery, Jr., 6-2, 273
  • OL Micah Brantley, Jr., 5-7, 185

 

Offense: There wasn't much to cheer about on offense for Union Grove in 2012; the Lions averaged less than 18 points per game. Union Grove loses six starters off last year's offense, and will be counting on young players this fall to help increase offensive

Union Grove's Garrett Bowery. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

production. The problem confronting Coach Adams is a lack of depth at the skill positions, so whoever steps in and ends up starting at quarterback, running back and receiver will need to stay healthy in order for the Lions to have a realistic shot of improving upon last year's numbers.

Defense: The defensive side of the ball wasn't a strength either last season with Union Grove allowing its opponents to average 33 points per game. Six starters are back from last year's group, including one of the best linebackers in the district in Gibson. But the Lions will need other players in a similar mold to keep Union Grove competitive, especially if the offense continues to be a work in progress.

2013 outlook: Union Grove has not made the playoffs since 1968, but Coach Adams is hopeful in his second year in charge that the Lions can begin making strides to turn things around. Despite the postseason drought (the longest in the East Texas area), Union Grove has had four winning seasons since. And with the number of playoff teams in 2A expanded to four per district, that drought may come to an end sooner rather than later. It might not happen this year, but the odds are in Union Grove's favor in the future.