The Woodlands' impressive ground attack fueled a 49-21 win at Lufkin last season. There's no doubt the Panthers will have that in mind come Oct. 12.

Lufkin visits the Highlanders in a Saturday afternoon showdown at 2 p.m. Oct. 12 in what ETSN.fm expects to be the de facto District 14-5A title game. College Station A&M Consolidated won nine games a year ago and pushed Lufkin to the brink, but entering the 2013 season, The Woodlands appears to be Lufkin's toughest competition in the race for the 14-5A crown.

ETSN.fm expects big things from "the Pack" this fall.

 

District 14-5A Preview

Lufkin football players run passing drills during an Aug. 14 practice. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

PLAYMAKERS

  • V.J. Banks, Sr., ATH, Bryan
  • Stedman Bell, Sr., QB, Conroe
  • Nick Black, Sr., RB, The Woodlands College Park
  • Patrick Carr, Jr., RB, The Woodlands
  • KeKe Coutee, Jr., ATH, Lufkin
  • Derrick Dick, Jr., WR, College Station A&M Consolidated
  • Brandon Jackson, Sr., RB, College Station A&M Consolidated
  • Jamal Jeffery, Sr., WR, Lufkin
  • Tyler Patrick, Sr., WR/CB, The Woodlands
  • D.J. Williams, Sr., DT, Lufkin

 

TOP GAMES

  • Sept. 27 -- College Station A&M Consolidated at Lufkin
  • Oct. 4 -- The Woodlands at College Station A&M Consolidated
  • Oct. 12 -- Lufkin at The Woodlands (2 p.m.)

 

1. Lufkin Panthers

Lufkin DT D.J. Williams. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Coach: Todd Quick

2012 finish: 9-4 (Class 5A Division II Region II semifinalist)

Returning starters: 6 offensive, 7 defensive

Players to watch

  • ATH KeKe Coutee, Jr., 5-10, 159 (committed to Texas)
  • WR Jamal Jeffery, Sr., 5-10, 164 (committed to Texas A&M)
  • DT D.J. Williams, Sr., 6-4, 293
  • QB Trey Cumbie, Jr., 6-1, 189
  • WR Terry Mark, Jr., 6-1, 180
  • S Michael Farley, Sr., 6-0, 180
  • OT Erik McCoy, Jr., 6-4, 282
  • LB D'Angelo Hightower, Sr., 6-0, 185
  • LB D.J. Alexander, Sr.
  • DB De'Andre Hooper, Sr.
  • C Wacey Hartman, Sr.
  • OL Dominick Hall, Sr.
  • DT Tyrique Spencer, Jr.

 

Lufkin WR Jamal Jeffery. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Offense: Most teams that lose a 3,500-yard passer, a 1,600-yard receiver, and a 1,000-yard rusher to graduation have a lot to worry about offensively when going into the following season.

Not Lufkin.

Another left-hander, Trey Cumbie, steps in at quarterback for Texas A&M baseball signee Tyler Stubblefield and has a fleet of Division I-caliber receivers lining up for him. Texas commit KeKe Coutee finished second behind SMU signee JaBryce Taylor in all of Lufkin's major receiving categories last year as a sophomore, while Texas A&M commit Jamal Jeffery had the Panthers' best 7-on-7 performance of the summer. Don't forget about Terry Mark, a classmate of Cumbie and Coutee's who missed all of the 2012 season with an injury. The younger brother of former Lufkin signee and Houston defensive lineman Tomme Mark, Terry is primed for a breakout season at receiver.

The talented skill-position players will have a veteran offensive line led by college prospect Erik McCoy paving the way for them. Lufkin averaged 40.2 points per game last season, but could exceed that this season if everyone remains healthy.

Lufkin ATH KeKe Coutee. (ETSN.fm)

Defense: Lufkin had plenty of defensive struggles during the first half of last season. The Panthers allowed 39.2 points per game during a 3-3 start, then switched to the 4-3, the preferred scheme of head coach Todd Quick, the Panthers' longtime defensive coordinator under the late John Outlaw, Lufkin's head coach from 1995-2011.

Once the Pack went back to the 4-3, Lufkin's defensive fortunes changed. Lufkin held its next five opponents to 7, 7, 0, 14, and 20 during as part of a six-game winning streak that sent the Panthers to the third round of the Class 5A Division II Region II playoffs.

Seven starters are back from that unit, including the anchor in the middle, imposing defensive tackle D.J. Williams, who had a breakout junior season with almost 60 tackles. Linebackers De'Angelo Hightower and D.J. Alexander join safety Michael Farley as three of the Panthers' top tacklers from a year ago and will once again be leaders on the defensive side of the ball.

Lufkin LB D'Angelo Hightower. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Lufkin has the size, athleticism, and talent to at times be defensively dominant.

2013 Outlook: After an up-and-down start to the 2012 season, Lufkin hit its stride in mid-October. The Panthers had their first multiple-playoff-win campaign since 2005, the second of back-to-back 14-1 seasons.

With 13 returning starters and serious athleticism all over the field on both sides of the ball, Lufkin is the frontrunner for 14-5A title this fall. Not only that, but if the Pack protects the ball as well as it should pitch it around, Lufkin could be a contender for the D-II Region II championship, along with defending regional champ Austin Westlake, rival Longview, and Plano West, which knocked out the Panthers 55-52 in last year's Region II semifinals.

The Sept. 20 non-district contest at Longview, which hammered Lufkin 45-14 last year, will be one of East Texas' top 2013 matchups. And if both teams meet their potential, fans could see a rematch come the Region II championship.

 

2. The Woodlands Highlanders

Coach: Mark Schmid

2012 finish: 8-4 (Class 5A Division I area finalist)

Returning starters: 4 offensive, 7 defensive

Players to watch

  • RB Patrick Carr, Jr., 5-10, 180 (210 carries, 2,019 yards, 21 TDs)
  • WR/DB Tyler Patrick, Sr., 6-1, 185 (committed to Kansas; 600 receiving yards, 3 TDs; 82 tackles, 3 INTs)
  • OL Tyler Rapp, Sr., 6-1, 280
  • WR Bayley Novak, Sr., 6-2, 190 (14 catches, 154 yards, 2 TDs)
  • DL Matt Miller, Sr., 6-3, 220 (39 tackles, 2 sacks)
  • DB T.C. Schneider, Jr., 5-10, 170 (21 tackles, 1 INT)
  • LB Tanner Birdsong, Sr., 5-10, 220 (66 tackles)

 

2013 outlook: With 11 returning starters, the Highlanders have aspirations of defending their 14-5A championship. Carr had a monster sophomore season and big things will be expected of him again in the fall. Patrick and Novak are solid options at receiver, but The Woodlands needs to find several replacements along the offensive line and at quarterback.

Rapp is a physical player and should anchor the O-line. Defensively, the Highlanders should be solid. Miller will be counted on to be a force up front, Birdsong will man the middle at linebacker and the combination of Patrick and Schneider in the secondary give The Woodlands plenty of reason to be optimistic on the defensive side.

The district championship, like it does every year, should come down to the game with Lufkin, which is 2 p.m. Oct. 12 at The Woodlands in a Saturday afternoon showcase. Where The Woodlands goes after that depends on how much firepower surrounds Carr on offense.

 

3. College Station A&M Consolidated Tigers

Coach: David Raffield

2012 finish: 9-3 (Class 5A Division II area finalist)

Returning starters: 3 offensive, 4 defensive

Players to watch

  • RB Brandon Jackson, Sr., 5-9, 170 (70 carries, 461 yards, 4 TDs; 14 catches, 136 yards)
  • WR Derrick Dick, Jr., 5-9, 175 (24 catches, 371 yards, 6 TDs; 40 carries, 164 yards, 2 TDs)
  • LB Riley Garner, Jr., 6-3, 215
  • WR Daniel Zivney, Jr., 6-0, 180
  • DL D.J. Jackson, Sr., 6-0, 275
  • DB Corey Stoll, Sr., 6-0, 160 (2 INTs)
  • QB Gus Miller, Sr., 6-2, 200 (11 of 15, 215 yards, 3 TDs)
  • WR Kerry Thomas, Sr., 6-0, 175

 

2013 outlook: There was heavy personnel loss brought on by graduation, but Coach Raffield has a few playmaker he can turn to this season. Jackson should see the majority of the carries at running back after serving as the team's No. 2 back in 2012.

Dick is a proven target at receiver who will be expected to help bring along other receivers Zivney and Thomas. Miller will get a shot at quarterback duties, but there are questions up front as the Tigers must replace almost the entire offensive line. Garner, Jackson and Stoll are playmakers on the defensive end, which lost seven 2012 starters to graduation.

A&M Consolidated shared the district title with The Woodlands and Lufkin last season, but the Tigers might have to deal with a few growing pains early in the year. But expect the Tigers to be right in the middle of the playoff race.

 

4. The Woodlands College Park Cavaliers

Coach: Richard Carson

2012 finish: 4-6

Returning starters: 6 offensive, 7 defensive

Players to watch

  • DB Eric Harrell, Sr., 6-0, 175 (71 tackles, 2 sacks)
  • DL Jayvon Jackson, Sr., 6-0, 215 (46 tackles, 11 for loss, 4 sacks, 1 forced fumble)
  • DB Alex Myres, Sr., 5-11, 170 (48 tackles, 2 for loss, 1 forced fumbles, 2 recoveries, 3 pass break-ups)
  • LB Tristan Newman, Sr., 6-1, 215 (73 tackles, 4 for loss, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 2 INTs)
  • DB Stephan Johnson, Sr., 6-0, 170 (49 tackles, 1 INT, 4 pass break-ups, 1 fumble recovery)
  • TE Jayden Holden, Sr., 6-4, 185 (12 catches, 200 yards, 1 TD)
  • RB Nick Black, Sr., 5-9, 185 (112 carries, 691 yards, 5 TDs)
  • OL Ben Shepard, Sr.

 

2013 outlook: College Park got off to a hot 3-0 start but ended the 2012 season with four consecutive losses, knocking the Cavaliers from playoff contention. Coach Carson has a solid nucleus of returning starters back that should help College Park finish the season on a better note this fall.

Black is expected to see most of the carries out of the backfield, but most of the other playmakers on offense graduated. The offensive line should be in good shape, however, with the return of Shepard and Holden at tight end.

The strength of the Cavaliers may be on defense where seven starters come back. The secondary should be strong with the return of Harrell, Myers and Johnson. Jackson will anchor the front line, while big things are expected from Newman, who enjoyed breakout success last season at linebacker. With the amount of experience returning, expect College Park to be a legitimate postseason contender.

 

5. Conroe Tigers

Coach: Robert Walker

2012 finish: 3-8 (Class 5A Division I bi-district finalist)

Returning starters: 7 offensive, 8 defensive

Players to watch

  • QB Stedman Bell, Sr., 6-3, 200 (141 of 249, 2,140 yards, 10 TDs; 116 carries, 464 yards, 5 TDs)
  • WR Karl Smith, Sr., 6-1, 200 (34 catches, 503 yards, 1 TD)
  • RB Darius Nelms, Sr., 5-8, 175 (29 carries, 165 yards, 2 TDs)
  • DB Arthur Harris, Sr., 5-9, 180
  • LB Lonnie O'Neal, Sr., 6-0, 215
  • DL Will Demmings, Sr., 5-10, 260
  • LB Tyron Wallace, Jr., 5-10, 210
  • DL Iren McBride, Jr., 6-1, 250

 

2013 outlook: The Tigers bring back more than half of their starters from last season, including Bell, who might be the best quarterback in the district. In 2012, the dual-threat QB hurt teams through the air and on the ground and figures to be a big part of the Tigers' season once again. It appears as if Nelms will the be the featured back, while Smith looks to improve after a junior season that included a yards-per-catch average of almost 15.

Conroe will be tough up front on defense with the return of Demmings and McBride on the D-line and O'Neal and Wallace at linebacker. The Tigers grabbed the final playoff spot from the district last season, and they should once again be a factor in 2013.

 

6. Bryan Vikings

Coach: Ross Rogers

2012 finish: 3-7

Returning starters: 7 offensive, 7 defensive

Players to watch

  • ATH V.J. Banks, Sr., 6-1, 175 (committed to Rice; 41 catches, 611 yards, 6 TDs)
  • RB Bobby Johnson, Sr., 5-10, 175 (166 carries, 797 yards, 6 TDs)
  • LB Darius Ross, Jr., 5-9, 205 (113 tackles)
  • LB KeKe Johnson, Jr., 5-11, 230
  • DE Jacorey Goosby, Sr., 5-11, 212
  • OL Brandon Menjares, Jr., 6-0, 270
  • LB Coleman Johnson, Jr., 6-1, 225
  • ATH Broderick Ross, Soph., 5-10, 165

 

2013 outlook: The Vikings finished in a tie with Conroe for the final playoff spot from 14-5A a season ago, and with 14 returning starters back in the fold, Coach Rogers is hoping Bryan can sneak into the postseason this year.

Banks is a threat on both sides of the ball and big things are also expected of Johnson, who had a nice junior season at running back. Broderick Ross is also an intriguing prospect on offense, while Menjares figures to anchor the offensive line.

On defense, the 2015 linebacking trio of Darius Ross, KeKe Johnson and Coleman Johnson feature size and speed and could make life miserable for opposing offenses. Bryan will need to find a quarterback capable of pulling the trigger in Rogers' spread attack, and if one is found, big things could be on the horizon in Bryan this fall.

 

7. Conroe Oak Ridge War Eagles

Coach: Dereck Rush

2012 finish: 1-9

Returning starters: 7 offensive, 8 defensive

Players to watch

  • DB J.D. Hurd, Sr., 5-6, 170
  • DB Tyler Marcel, Sr., 5-7, 160
  • OL Grant Homrighaus, Sr., 6-1, 225
  • QB Braden Letney, Soph., 6-2, 195
  • RB Kwame Etwi, Jr., 5-8, 170
  • DT John Williams, Jr., 6-2, 275
  • RB DeMarcus Durst, Sr., 5-10, 190
  • WR Jamarqus Durst, Sr., 6-2, 180

 

2013 outlook: Points were hard to come by last season for Oak Ridge, which averaged just 13.4 points per game. But second-year coach Derek Rush is hoping his offense will get a spark from up-and-coming prospect Letney at quarterback.

Etwi returns as well after putting together a solid sophomore campaign in the Oak Ridge backfield. DeMarcus and Jamarqus Durst have big-time playmaking potential as well. On the defensive end, Hurd and Marcel anchor what could be a stellar secondary. Williams broke out as a sophomore and has solid potential on the defensive front.

The pieces are in a place for improvement this season, but it remains to be seen how much Oak Ridge has closed the gap on the rest of the district.