Colmesneil's new district features two other teams that made trips into the Texas high school playoffs a season ago, but the Bulldogs are looking good heading into the season.

With a group of players that have Class 2A playoff experience and considering Colmesneil technically moved down a division, the squad will enter the 2014 season with a small edge against other teams in the district.

Historically playing up a level should not give the Bulldogs the league title though. There are plenty of perilous teams running around the district.

Iola and Normangee return more lettermen and starters and have a slightly bigger talent pool to draw from. And while Sabine Pass has floundered the past few seasons, it has stability under second-year head coach Trey Harvey and a handful of 2013 all-district players constituting the Sharks lineup.

Are the Bulldogs ready to run the table?

 

District 7-4A Division I Preview

PLAYMAKERS
  • Austin Aguirre, WR/CB, Jr., Normangee
  • Zach Bryan, OT/LB, Sr., Colmesneil
  • Bryson Cornish, RB, Jr., Normangee
  • Elijah Eastern, QB/DB, Jr., Normangee
  • Kaleb Lindsey, WR/DB, Jr., Colmesneil
  • Hayden Martinez, QB/DB, Sr., Iola
  • Blake Shaw, C/DT, Sr., Normangee
  • Chris Thedford, G/DT, Sr., Colmesneil

 TOP GAMES

  • Oct. 10 -- Colmesneil at Normangee
  • Oct. 31 -- Colmesneil at Iola
  • Nov. 7 -- Normangee at Iola

 

1. Normangee Panthers

Coach: Kevin Morton

2013 finish: 4-6

Returning starters: 9 offensive, 8 defensive

Players to watch

  • QB/DB Elijah Eastern, Jr., 6-2, 185 (2,064 passing yards, 17 TDs)
  • C/DT Blake Shaw, Sr., 6-1, 255, (16 TFLs)
  • WR/CB Austin Aguirre, Jr. (53 catches, 800 yards, 12 TDs, 4 INTs)
  • RB Bryson Cornish, Jr., 6-0, 215 (768 rushing yards, 6 DS)
  • WR/OT/DE Colton Jones, Sr., (6 sacks)

 

2014 outlook: A 4-6 season with a small senior class is somewhat impressive. With 17 returning lettermen and experienced players constituting 17 returning starting spots, Normangee has quite a bit to rival Colmesneil with. The Panthers have a strong offense headlined by quarterback Elijah Eastern. He threw for more than 2,000 yards and scored 17 touchdowns through the air. Running back Bryson Cornish looks like a player ready to break through after averaging 77 yards per game as a sophomore. Eastern's connection with Austin Aguirre might be the district's best. The duo hooked up for 800 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013.

The Panthers' game with the Bulldogs will likely determine who wins the district and certainly could help one team avoid the better top half of a similarly strong District 11-2A Division II featuring Maud, Mount Enterprise, Tenaha, Timpson and Overton.

 

2. Colmesneil Bulldogs

Coach: Ed Trotter (first year)

2013 finish: 10-2 (Class 2A Division II area round finalist)

Returning starters: 6 offensive, 6 defensive

Players to watch

  • LB/OT Zach Bryan, Sr. (158 tackles)
  • WR/DB Kaleb Lindsey, Jr., 5-6, 145 (9 catches, 186 yards, 3 TDs, 5 INTs)
  • G/DT Chris Thedford, Sr. (first-team District 12-2A Division II offense and defense as a junior)
  • WR/LB Dalton Davis, Jr., 5-11, 162
  • G/DE Hunter Rawls, Sr.

 

Offense: Six starters return to a group that average 41 points per game last season. The Panthers outscored opponents 494-286. Kaleb Linsey will see much more work in his junior year after some promising things on the offensive side of the ball. He scored three touchdowns on nine catches.

Defense: This is the strength of the team, averaging 23.8 points against per game last season, with six starters returning to the unit. Its linebacking corps is unmatched within the district and Lindsey contributed five interceptions as a sophomore. Chris Thedford is a defensive tackle with first-team selections on both sides of the ball under his belt

2014 outlook: The Bulldogs were hit with 12 graduations after falling in the area championship round to West Sabine, but the group has technically moved down a division from the old Class 2A to a group consisting predominantly freshly named 1A teams in the UIL's new 2A definition. Perhaps experience against teams with larger talent pools will serve Colmesneil well in its new district. This is most likely a playoff team considering the bottom half of the district's makeup.

 

3. Iola Bulldogs

Coach: Pete Martinez

2013 finish: 5-5 (bi-district finalist)

Returning starters: 8 offensive, 9 defensive

Players to watch

  • QB/DB Hayden Martinez, Sr., 5-11, 205 (1,889 rushing yards, 26 rushing TDs, 722 passing yards)
  • OT/DT Reed Fairbanks, Sr., 6-3, 305
  • OT/TE/FB/MLB Ryan Renick, Sr., (21 catches, 355 yards, 5 TDs, 103 tackles)
  •  G/DT Dustin Timm, Sr., 6-0, 275

 

2014 outlook: Iola certainly can't be ruled out of the district championship race. Its games against Colmesneil and Normangee will likely determine the league's winner. The Bulldogs' offensive line is very large, and the players double at other positions for the team. Hayden Martinez might be the best offensive player in the district with nearly 5,000 career rushing yards entering his senior year. Iola has 17 starters returning this season to aid its big names.

 

4. Evadale Rebels

Coach: Mark Williams

2013 finish: 4-7 (bi-district finalist)

Returning starters: 3 offensive, 5 defensive

Players to watch

  • QB Logan Hare, Sr., 6-0, 178
  • TE/OLB Colby Thompson, Sr.
  • C/DT Tynan Meagher, Jr.

 

2014 outlook: Evadale has eight starters with postseason experience and had a good hold on the old District 11-1A Division II with a 3-1 league record. Unfortunately, losing 15 players to graduation to returning eight lettermen means the Rebels will have to season up in its five non-district games.

 

5. Sabine Pass Sharks

Coach: Trey Harvey

2013 finish: 1-9

Returning starters: 4 offensive, 5 defensive

Players to watch

  • QB/LB Dahlton Gonzales, Soph., 5-9, 160
  • OT Dominic Gillette, Jr., 6-3, 210

 

2014 outlook: Sabine Pass' best strength is its coaching. The program has found stability with head coach Trey Harvey and returns 16 lettermen. The team definitely will need a good showing against the likes of Cushing and Hull-Daisetta, but it has some winnable games against teams outside of the UIL to build some confidence.

 

6. Burkeville Mustangs

Coach: Kenneth Thomas

2013 finish: 0-9

Returning starters: 7 offensive, 7 defensive

Players to watch

  • RB/LB Billy Craft, Sr., 5-10, 190 (116 tackles)
  • QB Donovan Wysinger, Jr. (826 passing yards, 6 TDs)
  • QB/RB/WR/DB J.D. Spikes, Soph., 5-9, 160 (16.9 yards per carry)

 

2014 outlook: Burkeville is, by far, the smallest school in the district with 91 students. The returning lettermen have nice size, but the program is dangerously close to not being able to field a complete team with a few injuries. It's going to be an uphill battle against the likes of Colmesneil, Normangee and Iola.