2014 Football Preview: Jasper Faces Four Other Playoff Teams in District 10-4A D-I
Jasper is, by far, the smallest school in District 10-4A Division I. But things are still looking good for the sole East Texas team in the league.
A great tradition and the town's ability to produce high-end talent time and time again should yield another team capable of winning the district crown.
Chris Spikes and Randy Spikes lead the way offensively, and the Bulldogs have a good one in senior defensive back Daniel Adams.
There are some challenges ahead though. Four other district competitors clinched playoff berths last season and will be competing with Jasper for just four playoff spots. One team will be left out in the cold.
Silsbee has a strong tradition of its own. Little Cypress-Mauriceville's move down from the old Class 4A to the Bulldogs' district makes for an intriguing matchup. Huffman-Hargrave and Cleveland also look like problematic teams.
Let's take a look at where Jasper stands entering district play on Sept. 26.
District 10-4A Division I Preview
- Dan Adams, WR/DB, Sr., Jasper
- Jay Bradford, RB, Sr., Splendora
- Marvis Brown, OL/DL, Sr., Little Cypress-Mauriceville
- Cody Gaitan, QB, Jr., Huffman-Hargrave
- Patrick Hudson, OT, Jr., Silsbee
- Chase Harrell, WR, Sr., Huffman-Hargrave
- Taylor Hulsey, OL/DL, Sr., Little Cypress-Mauriceville
- D.D. Jackson, QB, Jr., Cleveland
- Ryan Kirkendall, RB/DB, Sr., Silsbee
- Richard Marchess, DB, Sr., Huffman-Hargrave
- Jesse Paschal, LB, Sr., Splendora
- Ethan Reed, OL/DL, Sr., Little Cypress-Mauriceville
- Chase Shugart, QB, Sr., Bridge City
- Chris Spikes, WR, Sr., Jasper
- Randy Spikes, ATH, Sr., Jasper
- Alec Williams, DL, Sr., Jasper
- Oct. 17 -- Cleveland at Huffman-Hargrave
- Oct. 24 -- Little Cypress-Mauriceville at Jasper
- Oct. 31 -- Japser at Huffman-Hargrave
- Nov. 7 -- Silsbee at Jasper
1. Jasper Bulldogs
Coach: Darrell Barbay
2013 finish: 8-4 (3A D-I regional semifinalist)
Returning starters: 3 offensive, 6 defensive
Players to watch
- WR/DB Chris Spikes, Sr., 6-3, 175 (84 catches, 926 receiving yards, 14 TDs; Lamar commit offer from Houston)
- ATH Randy Spikes, Sr., 5-10, 165
- WR/DB Daniel Adams, Sr., 6-0, 162 (97 tackles, 4 INTs)
- DL Alec Williams, Sr.
- LB Devonta Hawthorne, Sr.
- ATH Quentin Williams, Jr., 5-7, 157
Offense: Darrell Barbay and the Jasper coaching staff have a little bit of work to do with only three returning starters on the offensive side. Fortunately, the returning players are good enough to compete with anyone in East Texas. Senior receiver Chris Spikes is a Lamar verbal commitment and has an FBS scholarship opportunity with Houston. It will be interesting to see what Spikes chooses to do as the season progresses toward signing day in February. The receiver is very coordinated and tall enough to contest for jump balls a few inches before it falls into play for the opposing defensive back.
Randy Spikes will serve as the team's quarterback for his senior season after a solid junior campaign. He's a guy that thrives with the ball in his hands and possesses good passing skills. Randy Spikes is quick, elusive and can find running lanes when he can't find a target. Receiver Daniel Adams adds more problems for opposing secondaries with sure hands and a nose for where his blockers are setting up. He's dangerous, especially on quick passes.
This is Jasper. A lack of overall experience on the offensive side of the ball is not as big a red flag as it is for other programs. With two highlight reel players and a good sized offensive line for the level and some promise as running back, Jasper's offense should be up to par with the top flight of the league.
Defense: Here lies the Bulldogs' biggest strength entering the season. The group returns six starters from a unit that averaged under 18 points per game last season. Adams leads the group after recording 97 tackles last season. Chris Spikes' catching abilities give him the same defensive advantage he enjoys as a key receiver. His height will usually give him the first shot at the ball against most of the receivers he comes into contact with.
Devonta Hawthorne highlights Jasper's strength within its front seven. The linebacker is undersized, but he's thick and a punishing hitter. He can stand running backs up right in their tracks and is a real threat when the opposing offense is playing in the shadows of its own end zone.
2014 outlook: District 10-4A Division I is no cakewalk with five realistic playoff teams contending for four spots, but the Bulldogs look to be in a position to contend rather than clawing for one of the last postseason berths. Jasper has an impressive group of two-way players and athleticism most schools in its district are going to have to do without. Barring injuries, this team should enjoy a lot of success within the league. Furthermore, West Orange-Stark should help the Bulldogs sharpen up for the district in a bad blood non-district game. West Orange-Stark eliminated Jasper from the playoffs last season.
2. Silsbee Tigers
Coach: Bobby McGallion
2013 finish: 9-3 (3 A D-I regional semifinalist)
Returning starters: 4 offensive, 4 defensive
Players to watch
- OL/DL Patrick Hudson, Jr., 6-5, 315
- WR/DB Ryan Kirkendall, Sr. 5-11, 190
- RB/DB Sedrick Spearman, Jr., 6-0, 170
- RB/DL/LB Roderick Harper, Sr.
- OL Devonthia Alfred, Sr.
- WR/CB Troy Gore, Sr.
2014 outlook: Silsbee is a program that can rival Jasper's tradition and stands in a similar circumstance entering the 2014 season. The Tigers return eight starters overall, four on both sides of the ball. Offensive tackle Patrick Hudson is a major matchup problem as a 6-5, 215 pound lineman. The trench play should be strong altogether and the school has the pieces in place to be strong at its skill positions. The Week 11 game between Jasper and Silsbee at the Bulldogs' place could be a district championship game.
3. Little Cypress-Mauriceville Bears
Coach: Randy Crouch
2013 finish: 5-5 (4A D-II bi-district finalist)
Returning starters: 7 offensive, 5 defensive
Players to watch
- OL/DL Ethan Reed, Sr., 6-4, 270
- OL/DL Marvis Brown, Sr., 6-5, 322 (first-team all-district selection)
- OL/DL Taylor Hulsey, Sr. (first-team all-district selection)
- WR Coby Roddy, Sr. (215 receiving yards on 20 catches, 2 TDs)
- QB Jake Sonnier, Sr.
- WR Trey Chandler, Sr., 5-7, 160
2014 outlook: Little Cypress-Mauriceville didn't need the UIL to save it from futility on the old Class 4A level. It made the bi-district round of the Class 4A Division II bracket with a 5-2 district record last season. But the Bears will take the technical move down to the new 4A. LCM is about twice the size of Jasper with 1,056 students. The team returns seven defensive starters and five on the defensive side. Fortunately for Jasper, the Bears will have to work in some new players at its skill positions.
4. Huffman-Hargrave Falcons
Coach: Mike McEachern
2013 finish: 6-4 (3A D-I bi-district finalist)
Returning starters: 9 offensive, 9 defensive
Players to watch
- QB Cody Gaitan, Jr. (2,461 passing yards, 27 passing TDs)
- WR Chase Harrell, Sr., 6-5, 205 (19 TDs in 2012)
- WR/DB Richard Marches, Sr., 5-10, 175 (4 INTs)
- DL Jake Harding, Sr., 6-3, 200
- OL/DL Aaron Cunningham, Sr., 6-2, 250
- OL/DL Kaleb Johnson, Sr.
2014 outlook: Huffman-Hargrave is the real dark horse of the district with a 2014 squad very much intact from a bi-district appearance last season in the Class 3A Division I bracket. Junior quarterback Cody Gaitan passed for 2,461 yards and 27 touchdowns last season as a sophomore. He'll be looking for senior receiver Chase Harrell who caught 19 scores two seasons ago. Harrell is 6-5 and 210 pounds. He will be an excellent test for Jasper's Chris Spikes and the rest of the Bulldogs defense. As it is, the Falcons are looking good for a playoff spot.
5. Cleveland Indians
Coach: Clayton Maple
2013 finish: 7-3 (3A D-I bi-district)
Returning starters: 7 offensive, 9 defensive
Players to watch
- QB/DB D.D. Jackson, Sr., 6-0, 180
- DL Justin Thigpen, Sr., 6-4, 195
- LB Eric Shedd, Sr., 6-2, 205
2014 outlook: Cleveland is another team rich in returning starters with seven players returning on the offense and nine on the defensive side, including several two-way players. The Indians finished the 2013 season 7-3 with a bi-district appearance in the Class 3A Division I bracket. Cleveland is short on experienced depth, however, with 11 returning lettermen to 24 lost to graduation.
6. Bridge City Cardinals
Coach: Cris Stump
2013 finish: 2-8
Returning starters: 4 offensive, 3 defensive
Players to watch
- QB Chase Shugart, Sr. (1,290 passing yards, 9 TDs, 361 rushing yards)
- DB Byron Trahan, Soph. (second-team all-district)
- RB/LB Derrick Dearing, Jr., 5-8, 185
2014 outlook: The Cardinals obviously have an uphill battle to fight in 10-4A Division II with Cleveland rounding out a group of teams that have playoff experience. Senior quarterback Chase Shugart is a productive player and a very talented baseball draft prospect. He threw for 1,209 yards last season and recorded nine touchdown passes in addition to 361 yards of work on the ground. Bridge City did give Jasper and Silsbee a few tough moments last season in losses. The 2014 team could pull off an upset or two, but the top end appears stacked against the Cardinals.
7. Splendora Wildcats
Coach: Marcus Schulz (first year)
2013 finish: 2-7
Returning starters: 8 offensive, 8 defensive
Players to watch
- RB Jay Bradford, Sr., 5-10, 195 (1,500 yards, 11 TDs)
- LB Jesse Paschal, Sr. (92 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 INT)
- LB Kaleb Ray, Sr., 5-10, 215
- DB Toby Clark, Jr., 6-2, 160
2014 outlook: New head coach Marcus Schulz inherits a team that has fallen on rough times. Fortunately for the Wildcats, there are 26 returning lettermen to work with and 16 starters available from last season's 2-8 team. A Week 2 non-district game against San Augustine could be a real test and the regular season finale against Bridge City could help set a tone for next season.