If nothing else, District 12-3A Division I should be intriguing in 2014.

Kirbyville, East Chambers and Kountze constitute the new district's playoff teams from a season ago, two of the remaining five are breaking in new coaching staffs, while the other three have several starters returning to the fold this fall.

Between the district's postseason representatives from last year, there was just one playoff win. But with the amount of firepower the trio is bringing back, it would certainly not be a surprise to see at least one school make a deep run in the playoffs.

District 12-3A Division I Preview

PLAYMAKERS
  • Grayland Arnold, QB, Jr., Kountze
  • DeCorian Cauley, DB, Sr., Kirbyville
  • Josh Cooper, QB, Sr., Anahuac
  • Tyler Ebner, WR, Sr., Kirbyville
  • Jackson Gore, QB, Jr., Kirbyville
  • Justin Harper, WR, Sr, Kountze
  • Deontra Morgan, DB, Sr., Kountze
  • Tyrel Phelps, DE, Jr., East Chambers
  • Landon Prejean, LB, Sr., East Chambers
  • Dylan Silcox, ATH, Jr., East Chambers

 

TOP GAMES
  • Sept. 26 -- Kountze at Kirbyville
  • Oct. 3 -- East Chambers at Kountze
  • Nov. 7 -- East Chambers at Kirbyville

 

1. Kirbyville Wildcats

Coach: Greg Neece

2013 finish: 9-3 (2A D-I area finalist)

Returning starters: 8 offensive, 7 defensive

Players to watch

  • DB DeCorian Cauley, Sr. (98 tackles, 2 INTs)
  • QB Jackson Gore, Jr. (634 passing yards, 10 TDs)
  • WR Tyler Ebner, Sr., 5-10, 160 (308 receiving yards, 5 TDs)
  • DB Tevin Samuel, Sr. (45 tackles, 4 PBU)
  • FB Pat Beaty, Jr. (528 rushing yards, 5 TDs)
  • LB Dwayne Diggles, Jr.
  • RB Ty Dennis, Soph.
  • DL Josh Breed, Sr.

 

2014 outlook: Kirbyville appears to be the clear-cut favorite in the district with 15 returning starters back from a nine-win team in 2013. The offense, which averaged just 26.4 points per game a season ago, should be much-improved with the rushing duo of junior fullback Pat Beaty and sophomore running back Ty Dennis. While both backs are young, expectations are high for the duo. The Wildcats also bring back quarterback Jackson Gore and Tyler Ebner, who accounted for roughly half of the team's receiving yards and TDs last year. On defense, there may not be a better defensive back in the district than senior DeCorian Cauley. Fellow senior Tevin Samuel will join him in the secondary, while senior lineman Josh Breed and junior linebacker Dwayne Diggles will shore up the defensive front for Kirbyville.

 

2. East Chambers Buccaneers

Coach: Russ Sutherland

2013 finish: 7-4 (2A D-I bi-district finalist)

Returning starters: 6 offensive, 8 defensive

Players to watch

  • LB Landon Prejean, Sr., 5-10, 168 (146 tackles, 4 for loss)
  • DL Tyrel Phelps, Jr., 6-1, 185 (105 tackles, 8 sacks)
  • ATH Dylan Silcox, Jr., 6-2, 185 (52 carries, 400 yards, 2 TDs; 391 receiving yards, 3 TDs)
  • DL Juan Lopez, Jr., 5-7, 235
  • RB Darius Guillroy, Jr., 5-8, 155
  • QB Austin Sutherland, Jr., 5-11, 160
  • DB Dominique Marshall, Sr., 5-9, 150
  • WR Aaron Sutherland, Jr., 5-10, 160

 

2014 outlook: The Buccaneers return more than half of its starters from last season's playoff squad, including a pair of stalwarts on the defensive side of the ball. Linebacker Landon Prejean and defensive end Tyrel Phelps should help East Chambers improve a defense that allowed a respectable 19.4 points per game in 2013. Junior Dylan Silcox is one of the most versatile athletes in the district, and should be a major threat whether out of the backfield or as a pass-catcher. The offense, which put up 25 points per game a season ago, is more seasoned with the return of the return of quarterback Austin Sutherland, running back Darius Guillroy and wideout Aaron Sutherland, who all had an impact as sophomores.

 

3. Kountze Lions

Coach: Tracy Franklin

2013 finish: 6-5 (2A D-I bi-district finalist)

Returning starters: 8 offensive, 6 defensive

Players to watch

  • QB Grayland Arnold, Jr., 5-10, 170
  • DB Deontra Morgan, Sr., 5-10, 155 (90 tackles, 4 INTs)
  • WR Justin Harper, Sr., 6-0, 175 (20 catches, 400 yards)
  • DB Jaydon Cunigan, Jr.
  • RB Jace Warren, Jr.
  • OL Vernon Thomas, Jr., 5-10, 300
  • LB Kyler Bumstead, Jr., 5-11, 170
  • DL Henry Barnes, Sr.

 

2014 outlook: There may not be a more scary athlete at the quarterback position in 12-3A D-I than junior Grayland Arnold, a bona-fide basketball star who played exclusively on the defense last season. Arnold, a threat to take off from the pocket on any play, showed off his throwing skills this summer in leading Kountze to a deep run at the state 7-on-7 tournament in College Station last month. Receiver Justin Harper has good size and should serve as Arnold's top weapon in the passing game, while junior Jace Warren will get a look as the team's featured running back. The defense, which surrendered only 15.2 points per game in 2013, will be anchored by the return of hard-hitting defensive back Deontra Morgan.

 

4. Buna Cougars

Coach: Bradley Morgan

2013 finish: 5-5

Returning starters: 9 offensive, 6 defensive

Players to watch

  • TE/DL Tyler Edwards, Sr., 6-5, 275 (39 tackles)
  • DL Ty Tamplin, Sr., 5-10, 210 (50 tackles)
  • FB Josh Kelly, Jr., 6-0, 185
  • RB Collin Boutin, Jr., 5-9, 170
  • QB Joseph Clark, Sr. (563 passing yards, 7 TDs)
  • DL Justin Durden, Sr., 6-2, 230
  • RB Mason Lopez, Sr., 5-8, 175 (402 rushing yards, 5 TDs)
  • RB Perry Smith, Sr., 5-8, 165

 

2014 outlook: Buna just missed out on the playoffs last season, and with 15 starters returning, the Cougars have visions of reaching the postseason this year. Most of Buna's impact players are seniors now, which could be a huge advantage in the leadership department. The offense stands to improve upon its 2013 scoring average of 22.9 points per game with the return of quarterback Joseph Clark and a slew of running backs, which include seniors Mason Lopez and Perry Smith and juniors Josh Kelly and Collin Boutin. The strength of Buna's defense will be its defensive front, which has size aplenty with the return of seniors Tyler Edwards, Ty Tamplin and Justin Durden.

 

5. Anahuac Panthers

Coach: Jason Speights

2013 finish: 3-7

Returning starters: 6 offensive, 8 defensive

Players to watch

  • QB Josh Cooper, Sr. (72 of 139, 881 yards, 11 TDs, 8 INTs; 142 carries, 839 yards, 6 TDs)
  • LB Chris O'Banion, Sr., 6-1, 185 (129 tackles, 3 for loss, 4 forced fumbles, 2 recoveries)
  • WR Blake Moulton, Sr., 6-0, 195 (23 catches, 188 yards, 1 TD)
  • LB Cesar Molina, Jr., 5-9, 185 (46 tackles, 3 for loss, 1 forced fumble, 1 PBU)
  • RB Jacaleb Lewis, Jr., 5-8, 175 (113 carries, 754 yards, 7 TDs; 9 catches, 84 yards, 1 TD)
  • OL Jesus Garcia, Sr., 5-8, 180
  • DB Jakub Lucas, Sr. (40 tackles, 2 for loss, 2 forced fumble, 2 recoveries, 6 PBU)
  • WR Noah Moulton, Sr., 5-9, 160 (13 catches, 104 yards)

 

2014 outlook: Anahuac has a new coach and 14 returning starters from last season's three-win team. Senior quarterback Josh Cooper is a true dual-threat option from behind center, and first-year coach Jason Speights is hopeful he can direct an offense that seems posed to improve upon its scoring average of 24 points per game a season ago. Cooper is not alone, as running back Jacaleb Lewis and receivers Blake Moulton and Noah Moulton give the Panthers a solid returning nucleus on offense. Senior linebacker Chris O'Banion will anchor a defense that is hopeful it can correct the mistakes that led to 2013 opponents averaging 32 points per game.

 

6. Hardin Hornets

Coach: Walter Fortune

2013 finish: 3-6

Returning starters: 8 offensive, 10 defensive

Players to watch

  • OL Corey Nance, Sr., 6-7, 275
  • OL Cory Mettlen, Sr., 6-8, 335
  • DL Hunter Stelly, Jr.
  • DL Merel Bunfill, Jr.
  • LB Zane Drake, Sr., 5-9, 180
  • QB/DB Taylor Thompson, Sr., 5-9, 150
  • RB Josh Lewis, Sr., 5-9, 155 (43 carries, 236 yards, 3 TDs)
  • DB Kameron Wright, Soph.

 

2014 outlook: It was a sub-par season all the way around for Hardin last year, which managed just three wins in 2013. But one thing is for sure: it will be hard for any of the Hornets' opponents to push them around this fall. Corey Nance and Cory Mettlen are massive offensive linemen that will protect returning quarterback Taylor Thompson and open up running lanes for Josh Lewis, who should be play more of a role in the Hardin offense this season. The front of the Hornets' defense, which surrendered an average of 32.2 points per game a year ago, should be in good hands with the return of junior D-linemen Hunter Stelly and Merel Bunfill and senior linebacker Zane Drake. The secondary figures to be led by sophomore Kameron Wright, who's young but shows promising ability.

 

7. Warren Warriors

Coach: Chris Babin

2013 finish: 3-6

Returning starters: 8 offensive, 7 defensive

Players to watch

  • LB Chance McGallion, Jr.
  • DB Garrett Amadore, Jr., 5-9, 160
  • OL Garrett Murray, Sr.
  • OL Chase McEachern, Sr.
  • QB Tate Gore, Sr.
  • WR Connor Fry, Sr.
  • DL Jeremy Kojak, Sr.
  • TE Jimmy Adams, Sr.

 

2014 outlook: Everything started off so well for Warren, which won its first two games of the season last year. Then it all came down crashing down as the Warriors dropped six of their final seven games, outscored by an average of 31 points in the process. But help could be on the way with the return of 15 starters, including eight on offense. Much will be put on the shoulders of quarterback Tate Gore and receiver Connor Fry, who will try to fix an offense that put up just 11.8 points per game a season ago. The defense must show vast improvement as well, but Warren believes it has the right men for the job with the return of linebacker Chance McGallion, defensive back Garrett Amadore and defensive lineman Jeremy Kojak.

 

8. Woodville Eagles

Coach: Mike Waldie

2013 finish: 2-8

Returning starters: 4 offensive, 5 defensive

Players to watch

  • QB Marqui Jackson, Sr.
  • RB Delante Barclay, Jr.
  • DL Chris Castle
  • DB Aaron Mitchell, Sr., 5-8, 150
  • DL Allen Williams, Jr.
  • DL Obie Barclay, Sr.
  • WR Jamal Horn, Sr.

 

Offense: Woodville had troubles moving the ball with any consistency, finishing 2013 with a scoring average of 16.8 points per game. The Eagles had four games last season in which they scored just one touchdown or fewer, and with only four starters back on that side of the ball, it's time for some newcomers to step up and make an immediate impact. Woodville is pinning its hopes on senior quarterback Marqui Jackson, junior running back Delante Barclay and senior receiver Jamal Horn to help turn things around offensively.

Defense: Despite losing eight games, Woodville's defense was not altogether terrible. The Eagles allowed only 25 points per game, and four times they surrendered three touchdowns or less. Woodville has five defensive starters returning, and a handful of them are potential impact players. The D-line should be the Eagles' biggest strength with the return of Chris Castle, Allen Williams and Obie Barclay. Aaron Mitchell is a solid playmaker in the secondary, but Woodville will need a bevy of first-time starters to perform well if the Eagles want to be in the playoff mix down the stretch.

2014 outlook: As so often the case, there is a renewed sense of hope following a head coaching change. Former Jacksonville defensive coordinator Mike Waldie takes over for Steve Fentress, and time will tell what type of stamp he'll have on the program. With a new staff and several new faces on the field this season, it would be a surprise of Woodville crept into the playoff discussion this season.