A brutal District 16-4A has morphed into an even tougher District 16-5A with the additions of Lufkin and Ennis.

The league championship title race should make the early rounds of the playoffs look like a cakewalk.

Ennis is fresh off a run to the Class 4A Division II state semifinal with a few familiar faces and looked very good in its preseason scrimmage against Longview, a 27-6 win. The sky appears to be the limit in 2014.

But some of East Texas' proudest programs will get a crack at the Ennis Lions this season. John Tyler and Lufkin were recently given a nod of approval by the Associated Press. John Tyler will enter the season ranked as the No. 8 5A team in the state and Lufkin received votes while Ennis ranks No. 2.

Very hungry Lindale, Nacogdoches and Whitehouse teams are also bound to give Ennis everything they have as they attempt to keep pace in the league.

Speaking of those three East Texas teams, where do they stand?

Nacogdoches will try to make it back-to-back years in the playoffs with possibly the nation's best secondary.

Whitehouse has lost some major pieces. Can they rally quickly and remain at the top of the East Texas food chain with some remaining all-star building blocks of their own?

Maybe it's Lindale's time to shine. The team is coming off an impressive summer and the town is full of optimism heading into one of Texas' best districts regardless of classification.

Jacksonville and Corsicana have their work cut out, but the two programs have been at the top before. You can't count them out.

What we do know is District 16-5A features some of the best put together teams in recent memory and at least one outstanding team's season will end on Nov. 7.

Let's take a look at what this fantastic district has to offer.

District 16-5A Preview

Whitehouse safety Justin Dunning made a big splash with a commitment to Texas A&M in November. (Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)
PLAYMAKERS
  • Rodney Bendy, WR, Sr., John Tyler
  • Nate Brooks, CB, Sr., Whitehouse
  • Nick Cain, WR, Sr., John Tyler
  • Stephen Clemmons, LB, Sr., Lindale
  • KeKe Coutee, WR, Sr., Lufkin
  • Trey Cumbie, QB, Sr., Lufkin
  • Justin Dunning, S, Sr., Whitehouse
  • Vincent Dunning, RB, Sr., Whitehouse
  • Tre Elliot, RB, Jr., Ennis
  • Ke'idre Flowers, LB, Sr., Ennis
  • Dominique Hollie, LB/RB, Sr., Whitehouse
  • Dre Hooper, S, Sr., Lufkin
  • Aaron Jackson, RB, Sr., Lindale
  • Brandon Jones, S, Jr., Nacogdoches
  • Braylon Jones, DT, Jr., John Tyler
  • Jaylon Lane, CB, Sr., Nacogdoches
  • James Lockhart, DE, Sr., Ennis
  • Terry Mark, WR, Sr., Lufkin
  • Bronson Massie, LB, Jr., Lufkin
  • Hunter McClellan, QB, Sr., Nacogdoches
  • Geovari McCollister, QB, Sr., John Tyler
  • Carter McCown, QB, Sr., Jacksonville
  • Erik McCoy, OT, Sr., Lufkin
  • Tray Owens, RB, Jr., Corsicana
  • Kolton Pierce, ATH, Sr., Lindale
  • Jassavia Reese, DE, Sr., John Tyler
  • Jaylon Reese, LB, Sr., John Tyler
  • Ken Rogers, WR, Sr., Nacogdoches
  • Devin Smith, QB, Sr. Ennis
  • Shermar Smith, RB, Jr., Whitehouse
  • Steven Sowell, RB, Sr., Lufkin
  • Datavian Thacker, ATH, Jr., Jacksonville
  • Donta Thompson, WR, Sr., Ennis
  • Isaac Warren, CB, Sr., John Tyler
  • Darius Watson, DE, Sr. Corsicana
  • Jeremy Wilson, RB, Sr., John Tyler
  • Deandre Williams, CB/S, Sr., Lindale

 

TOP GAMES
  • Sept. 26 -- Lufkin at Nacogdoches
  • Oct. 3 -- Whitehouse at Lufkin
  • Oct. 3 -- Jacksonville at Corsicana
  • Oct. 10 -- Lindale at Jacksonville
  • Oct. 10 -- Lufkin at John Tyler
  • Oct. 10 -- Ennis at Whitehouse
  • Oct. 17 -- John Tyler at Ennis
  • Oct. 24 -- Ennis at Lufkin
  • Nov. 7 -- Nacogdoches at John Tyler
  • Nov. 7 -- Lindale at Whitehouse

 

1. Ennis Lions

Ennis enters the season ranked No. 2 in Class 5A by the Associated Press. (Jeff Stapleton, ETSN.fm)

Coach: Jack Alvarez

2013 finish: 14-1 (4A D-I state semifinalist)

Returning starters: 6 offensive, 4 defensive

Players to watch

  • DE James Lockhart, Sr., 6-4, 253 (122 tackles; Texas A&M commitment)
  • QB Devin Smith, Sr., 5-10, 155 (2,100 passing yards, 20 passing TDs, 500 rushing yards, 6 rushing TDs)
  • LB Ke'idre Flowers, 5-10, 190 (155 tackles)
  • WR Donta Thompson, Sr., 5-8, 155 (403 receiving yards, 5 TDs as a receiver)
  • RB Tre Elliot, Jr., 5-11, 195 (362 receiving yards, 5 TDs as a receiver)
  • WR Logan Lipscomb, Jr.
  • S Marqus Monroe, Jr.
  • OT Trendon Rolen, Soph.
  • OT Deven Collins, Soph.

2014 outlook: Ennis is a newcomer to the core of former District 16-4A teams and makes a very difficult district drastically more intimidating for league opponents eyeing the playoffs from the middle of the competitive field. The Lions program has been a staple in the Texas high school football landscape since the early 2000s, and head coach Jack Alvarez got the program back to recent heights last season. Ennis gave eventual 2014 Class 4A Division II state champion Aledo, by far, its closest game of the season in the Lions' run to the state semifinals.

The team did lose a handful of its biggest playmakers, including running back Terence Williams (Baylor) and universal athlete Jah'Shawn Johnson (Texas Tech). However, the program is in great shape with defensive end and Texas A&M verbal commitment James Lockhart and quarterback Devin Smith returning to lead their respective sides of the ball.

Ennis will have to run the East Texas gauntlet though. John Tyler and Lufkin are no joke. Jacksonville, Lindale, Nacogdoches and Whitehouse also offer challenges with their mixes of future college football talent. The Lions started the 2014 season with a waxing of District 15-5A favorite Longview in the team's lone preseason scrimmage.

This team is in very good standing entering the season. It's not a question of whether the Lions make the playoffs but rather where. Ennis is a realistic contender for a Class 5A state championship, most likely bound for the Division II bracket.

 

2. John Tyler Lions

John Tyler cornerback Isaac Warren. (Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Coach: Ricklan Holmes

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

Returning starters: 9 offensive, 7 defensive

Players to watch

  • CB Isaac Warren, Sr., 6-1, 186 (28 tackles, 2 PBUs, 1 FF; Purdue commit)
  • QB Geovarri McCollister, Sr., 6-3, 215 (2,615 passing yards, 22 passing TDs, 852 rushing yards, 10 rushing TDs; Central Arkansas commit)
  • WR Rodney Bendy, Sr., 6-4, 180 (361 yards, 4 TDs; North Texas commit)
  • WR/DB Nick Cain, Sr., 5-10, 165 (884 receiving yards, 7 TDs, 181 rushing yards)
  • DT Braylon Jones, Jr. (61 tackles)
  • LB Jaylon Reese, Sr., 6-0, 224
  • DE Jassavia Reese, Sr., 6-4, 227
  • RB Jeremy Wilson, Sr., 5-6, 152 (4.41 40-yard dash, fastest time at 2014 ETSN.fm Recruiting Combine)
  • OL Ken Holmes, Sr., 6-3, 255
  • WR Duntayviun Gross, Jr., 5-8, 148
  • K/P Luis Duran, Sr., 5-9, 155 (6 touchbacks, 37.5 yard punting average)

 

Offense: Extremely dangerous. John Tyler has at least one playmaker in every position group. Quarterback Geovari McCollister may be one of the most undervalued players in East Texas as a pass first, dual-threat prototype. Colleges may eye him at a different position, but he'll hang in the pocket with the best of them looking for a throw. He passed for 2,615 yards and 22 touchdowns last season, and McCollister accounted 192 points and 3,467 yards of offense last season.

John Tyler quarterback Geovari McCollister. (Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)

The receiving corps is in excellent shape with North Texas commitment Rodney Bendy and fellow senior Nick Cain at the wideout spots. The two players accounted for more than 1,000 receiving yards in an offense that has been rich with receiver talent for several years. Bendy is a vertical threat with a 6-4 frame. He should be able to contest with the best defensive backs in this amazingly deep district. Cain is an athlete with explosiveness. He should be able to make plays in the open field, a significant chunk of his 884 yards last season came after the catch. Duntayviun Gross is a junior that adds more than just depth to the front set of receivers with his speed.

John Tyler receiver Nick Cain. (Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)

The Lions' offensive backfield doesn't just feature McCollister. Running back Jeremy Wilson is the fastest player in East Texas. He ran a 4.41 laser-timed 40-yard dash at the ETSN.fm Recruiting Combine in June. John Tyler has several other all-purpose running backs on the depth chart.

With nine starters returning on offense, the offensive line is loaded and versatile.

 

Defense: Once again, there's a key player in each level of the John Tyler defensive unit. Cornerback Isaac Warren takes the headline as yet another major East Texas college football prospect. He had a great offseason and drew attention at two college summer camps. He has college football offers from Arizona State, UTEP and Purdue. Warren recently committed to the Boilermakers. The corner's 2013 numbers are hardly impressive with 28 tackles, two pass breakups and a forced fumble. Bear in mind, however, teams don't throw against Warren very often.

John Tyler defensive tackle Braylon Jones. (Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Braylon Jones, a junior defensive tackle, and senior defensive end Jassavia Reese are defensive linemen who stand at the front of the district alongside Ennis' James Lockhart. Both players could have college football futures. As of today, Jones has offers from Air Force and Navy.

John Tyler's linebacking corps is the biggest question mark entering the season considering the news the other position groups made in the offseason. Even here, Jaylon Reese grades out as one of the best in the region and should be able to 'quarterback' the unit as a returning stater -- one of seven on the defensive side.

2014 outlook: The road back to a deep run in the playoffs is attainable with a top two finish in District 16-5A. It's not going to be an easy road though with Ennis, Lufkin and the rest of the group in the way though. The John Tyler Lions will have a pretty good idea of where they stand by late Oct. 17. They will be past games against Whitehouse, Lufkin and Ennis at that point. Dropping one game in that stretch could be made up against Corsicana and Jacksonville in the following two games. If the Lions lose two games in the district, however, John Tyler might be asking for help entering senior night against a very much improved Nacogdoches program.

 

3. Lufkin Panthers

Lufkin receiver KeKe Coutee. (Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Coach: Todd Quick

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

Returning starters: 6 offensive, 6 defensive

Players to watch

  • WR KeKe Coutee, Sr., 5-10, 165 (1,034 yards, 9 TDs, 77 catches; 5 major FBS offers)
  • RB Steven Sowell, Sr. (1,242 rushing yards, 10 TDs, 21 catches, 295 receiving yards, 3 receiving TDs)
  • WR Terry Mark, Sr., 6-1, 190 (758 yards, 6 TDs; Houston commitment)
  • QB Trey Cumbie, Sr., 6-2, 200 (2,738 passing yards, 27 passing TDs, 441 rushing yards, 6 rushing TDs)
  • OT Erik McCoy, Sr., 6-4, 285
  • S Dre Hooper, Sr., 5-11, 180
  • DE Bronson Massie, Jr., 6-0, 205
  • DB Myster Colloway, Jr.
  • DT Tyrique Spencer, Sr.
Lufkin quarterback Trey Cumbie. (Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Offense: Yet another incredibly strong offense in the district, Lufkin is looking good entering the season. Quarterback Trey Cumbie could have a college football future if he chooses to play the game on the next level. Cumbie is also a standout baseball player with an offer to the well-respected Rice program. The signal caller's 2,738 passing yards were impressive, but 22 touchdown throws really stand out considering the competition in Lufkin's North Houston-centric district last season.

KeKe Coutee and Terry Mark had a lot to say in Cumbie's numbers. Coutee, who caught for nine touchdowns and more than 1,000 yards last season, has football scholarship offers from Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Louisville and Tulsa to start out his senior campaign. Mark is slated to join Houston after graduation.

No problems with the ground game, barring injuries. Big offensive tackle Erik McCoy should be able to blaze a trail for running back Steven Sowell once again. The lineman has scholarship opportunities with North Texas, Houston, Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas State and Kansas. Sowell rushed for 1,241 yards in the state's highest classification.

 

Lufkin safety DeAndre "Dre" Hooper. (Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Defense: Six starters return from Lufkin's playoff team a year ago, so the Panthers should have a defense that clicks early this season. They'll need it in Friday's rivalry game against Longview before entering District 16-5A play. There's known skill and strength within the unit.

Safeties DeAndre "Dre" Hooper and Mysta Colloway are welcomed sites as Lufkin's final line of defense. Both safeties are big, quick and should help Todd Quick's secondary contend with other elite defensive backfields in the league.

Defensive end Bronson Massie and defensive tackle Tyrique Spencer will be a good test for the district's best offensive lines. Both players are athletic and on the bigger side of the scale as far as high school defensive linemen are concerned.

2014 outlook: Lufkin is finally back where it belongs in East Texas and will resume some classic rivalries, including taking on a strong Nacogdoches team with playoff spots on the line. Panthers fans will undoubtedly enjoy the story lines, but realignment was not overly kind by placing the team in with Ennis, John Tyler and company.

The program is technically moving down from the old Class 5A to the new 5A alignment whereas the majority of its former district foes moved to the new Class 6A. Lufkin and John Tyler are the only schools in the district with student populations of more than 2,000. As the largest school in District 16-5A, Lufkin is probably looking at a rematch with Longview in the bi-district round of the Class 5A Division I playoffs. Texas High is another realistic first-round playoff opponent. The road obviously doesn't get much easier out of the league in the Panthers' case.

Regardless, Lufkin has a fantastic winning tradition and should be tested over and over in the league. The team will be looking to prove last season's 5-6 record, its first losing season since 1995, was a once every two decades kind of deal. The Panthers have the numbers, talent and tradition to do some damage in their new league.

 

4. Nacogdoches Dragons

Nacogdoches safety Brandon Jones. (Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Coach: Bobby Reyes

2013 finish: 7-4 (4A D-I area finalist)

Returning starters: 7 offensive, 4* defensive

Players to watch

  • S Brandon Jones, Jr. 6-0, 185 (95 tackles, 5 INTs; 28 FBS offers, East Texas' Class of 2016 scholarship leader)
  • CB Jaylon Lane, Sr., 6-2, 180 (4 INTS; transfer from San Angelo Central, Oklahoma State commit, East Texas' Class of 2015 scholarship leader with 38 offers)
  • S Corey Lane, Jr., 5-11, 185 (Transfer from San Angelo Central)
  • QB Hunter McClellan, Sr., 6-2, 175 (1,014 passing yards, 15 TDs, 1 INT; injury-shortened season)
  • WR Sam Morgan, Sr., 5-11, 175
  • CB Latavion "Tay" Forest, Sr., 5-10, 180
  • WR Ken Rogers, Sr., 5-11, 167
  • RB Coronado Tolbert, Sr.
  • K Rudy Fuentes, Sr. (5/6 FG, 42/43 PATs)

 

 

Nacogdoches quarterback Hunter McClellan. (Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Offense: Hunter McClellan is a spectacular high school player. Not only did he throw for more than 1,000 yards in just five games, he's right at the top of his senior class. He's the kind of guy head coach Bobby Reyes wants to hand the keys to.

Nacogdoches' most advertised strength is its defense, but McClellan threw 15 touchdowns to one interception in just four complete games. He was injured in the fifth game of the season. Ken Rogers and Sam Morgan will be nice targets to have with their size and speed combination.

Coronado Tolbert will headline a ground game that has been forged through fire. The Dragons might perform the most physical practices in the entire district. With a big frame and proven durability, Tolbert should be able to grind it out behind an athletic looking offensive line.

Defense: Nacogdoches boasts the best overall secondary in all of East Texas. With more than 60 FBS scholarship offers between safety Brandon Jones and cornerback Jaylon Lane, a scholarship from Louisiana Tech out for safety Corey Lane and FCS interest in cornerback Tay Forest, this group makes a case for the best rounded secondary in the nation. Forest should get a lot of attention because opposing quarterbacks won't be looking to throw against Jones and Jaylon Lane to start out the year.

Nacogdoches cornerback Tay Forest. (Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Jaylon and Corey Lane are not technically returning starters for the Dragons. The two brothers spent the past two seasons at San Angelo Central in West Texas and flourished against weaker competition. The league will be a test for these guys, but college staffs obviously like what they see.

Linebacker Jessie Graham and defensive linemen Colton Pool and Kamron Yarbrough headline a gritty front seven for the Dragons.

2014 outlook: Bobby Reyes is known for turning middle of the road football programs around, and the window of opportunity has opened for Nacogdoches. The Dragons know what it's like to go through the grind with games last season against John Tyler, Whitehouse, Lindale, Jacksonville and a non-district game against Lufkin.

The back end of the defense is very strong while McCllelan and company have already shown they can compete in this district.

Nacogdoches will have the gift of knowing where they stand in the district at all times. They'll open league play at home against Lufkin and then face Ennis the following week. One win would put the Dragons on good pace. Corsicana, Jacksonville and Lindale in consecutive weeks should put the team in striking distance of the league title if it can split Lufkin and Ennis. But a pivotal game against Whitehouse on Halloween night could make or break the season. If Nacogdoches loses that game, they'll need help from other district members and need a good performance at John Tyler on the last night of the regular season.

5. Whitehouse Wildcats

Nate Brooks has gained some good weight this offseason and returns to cornerback for his senior season. (Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Coach: Adam Cook

2013 finish: 12-1 (4A D-II regional semifinalist)

Returning starters: 4 offensive, 3 defensive

Players to watch

  • S Justin Dunning, Sr., 6-3, 200 (Returning from torn ACL; Texas A&M commit)
  • CB Nate Brooks, Sr., 6-0, 160 (62 tackles, 4 INTs; North Texas commit)
  • RB Shemar Smith, Jr., 5-8, 162 (544 rushing yards, 5 rushing TDs, 422 receiving yards, 4 receiving TDs)
  • RB Vincent Dunning, Sr., 6-0, 203 (7 games, 417 yards, 9 TDs)
  • LB/RB Dominique Hollie, Sr., 6-1, 250
  • QB Jackson Allen, Sr., 6-3, 195
  • WR Eric Munoz, Sr.
Whitehouse quarterback Jackson Allen guided the Wildcats to the state 7-on-7 Division I championship game in July. (Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Offense: The program obviously will miss the services of current Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes and electric receiver Jake Parker on top of big parts of its 2013 core, a group that could have met Ennis had it not lost an offensive shootout against Mesquite Poteet in the third round of the Class 4A Division II bracket. That being said, new quarterback Jackson Allen and his overhauled supporting cast had a fantastic summer.

Allen helped lead Whitehouse to the state 7-on-7 Division I championship game. He'll be aided by the return of running backs Vincent Dunning, Shemar Smith and big Dominique Hollie. Eric Munoz and a good group of supporting receivers in the Wildcats' complex spread offense should help Whitehouse contend in the new district despite the losses.

Defense: Justing Dunning and Nate Brooks help make up another fantastic looking District 16-5A secondary. Dunning, a celebrated Texas A&M commit, is coming back from a torn ACL suffered in the second game of last season. His sophomore numbers were fantastic though and he was nearly 100 percent on the first day of fall camp. Brooks was the big hero on defense last year. A natural cornerback, he moved to serve as a safety last season after Justin Dunning's injury and recorded 62 sacks during the successful 2013 campaign.

 

Hollie has been an undervalued all-purpose prospect. He's hoping for a college football scholarship through his play this season and could get there by anchoring a front seven full of new faces.

 

2014 outlook: Whitehouse will have to play at a high level right off the bat in the overhauled league with Lufkin and Ennis joining the group. It got the worst early district schedule of the lot with John Tyler, Lufkin and Ennis in the first three weeks of league play and might not be in good standing for a playoff spot after Week 7 of the season. Barring injuries, however, Whitehouse should have the opportunity to rally up to a huge Halloween game against Nacogdoches at Dragon Stadium.

The Nacogdoches game should make or break the Wildcats' playoff chances. An improved Lindale team will serve as Whitehouse's regular season finale. That's not an easy game.

6. Lindale Eagles

Lindale defensive back Deandre Williams won defensive MVP honors at the 2014 ETSN.fm Football Recruiting Combine in June. (Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Coach: Mike Meador

2013 finish: 3-8 (4A D-I bi-district finalist)

Returning starters: 5 offensive, 6 defensive

Players to watch

  • Deandre Williams, Sr., 5-10, 175 (4 INTs; 2014 ETSN.fm Football Recruiting Combine  Defensive MVP)
  • RB Aaron Jackson, Sr., 5-10, 170 (1,000 yards, 12 TDs)
  • ATH Kolton Pierce, Sr., 6-1, 183 (Sustained broken leg in second game of 2013)
  • LB Stephen Clemmons, Sr. (116 tackles)
  • LB De Jackson, Sr., 6-0, 195
  • ATH Tayton Williams, Jr., 5-7, 160 (648 receiving yards, 5 TDs)
  • OL Colton Moore, Sr.

 

Lindale athlete Kolton Pierce and receiver Tayton Williams. (Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Offense: Kolton Pierce returns from a broken leg that hampered his 4.48 40-yard dash time and killed his chances of getting recruited as a junior. He's been training hard this offseason and is nearing a 4.5 40 time. Pierce will be used in multiple roles and should be able to aid the team as a receiver or even under center as one of the Eagles' best athletes.

The known commodities are running back Aaron Jackson and receiver Tayton Williams. Both players had successful 2013 seasons with Jackson rushing for about 1,000 yards as and Williams catching for more than 600 yards as just a sophomore.

Lindale's offense as a whole faces immense challenges from the front end of the district and its caliber of defenses, but the Eagles should be able to keep it close with a stellar defense backing it up.

Defense: All-purpose defensive back Deandre Williams adds a lot to the Eagles defense. He recorded four interceptions last season in addition to stellar special teams performances as one of East Texas' fastest players. He's still looking for a college football home, and that could change with more of the same.

Stephen Clemmons recorded 116 tackles last season and should make opposing offenses second guess running up the middle.

2014 outlook: There's a lot of optimism in Lindale entering the year. This team does have a chance to surprise with excellent skill players. The key will be getting 11 new starters to join in on the act from the start. The Eagles could do something big this season if they can catch an early break.

Lindale has a tough non-district schedule to season it, featuring Chapel Hill, Carthage and Van. The Corsicana game sets up well for the Eagles. The challenges get much steeper though with a succession of John Tyler, Jacksonville, Lufkin, Nacogdoches, Ennis and Whitehouse to wrap up the year. Fortunately, the Eagles get Lufkin and Ennis at home. It's possible.

 

7. Jacksonville Indians

Jacksonville quarterback Carter McCown. (Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Coach: Chris Taber

2013 record: 0-10

Returning starters: 5 offensive, 3 defensive

Players to watch

  • QB Carter McCown, Sr., 6-3, 173 (2,289 yards, 17 TDs)
  • RB Braylon Parish, Sr., 5-10, 175 (437 yards, 5 TDs)
  • ATH Datavion Thacker, Jr., 5-9, 180 (191 receiving yards, 2 TDs)
  • TE Curtis Landon, 6-3, 210
  • LB Dedrick Tatum, Jr., 5-8, 160
  • OL Franklin Torres, Sr.
Jacksonville running back Braylon Parish. (Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Offense: Jacksonville is led by one of the best in senior quarterback Carter McCown. The signal caller won the 2014 ETSN.fm Football Recruiting Combine offensive MVP award and is a safe bet to enjoy a college football career if he wishes. McCown has great size and works very hard at his craft. He passed for 2,289 yards and 17 touchdowns last season and will eclipse 4,000 total passing yards early this season.

Datavion Thacker should play both ways. Offensively, he caught for 191 yards and two touchdowns as a junior. Braylon Parish gives the Indians a good ground option with 437 yards and five touchdowns last year.

Jacksonville's offense performed well enough to win some games last season. It averaged 27.4 points against opponents in the old district.

Defense: Maybe the best thing for the Indians was phasing out the majority of a defense that averaged 50.2 points against district opponents last season. The unit returns just three starters while simultaneously bringing back 15 total underclassmen. Jacksonville certainly has some players that could play both ways. That improves the defensive outlook this season.

2014 Outlook: The only direction is up for Jacksonville. Non-district games against Pine Tree, Palestine and Mount Pleasant are great challenges but decent opportunities to create something positive. Things do not get off the a great start in district play. Ennis visits on Sept. 26. The Indians will play a pivotal game at Corsicana the next week and battle Lindale in Week 7. The brunt of the district opponents follow. Expect this proud program to put up some good fights under the sure hand of McCown and company considering the experiences the squad already went through in a similarly tough district last season.

 

8. Corsicana Tigers

Coach: Steve Hoffman

2013 record: 2-7

Returning starters: 6 offensive, 4 defensive

Players to watch

  • RB Tray Ownes, Jr., 5-10, 185 (1,189 yards, 8 TDs, four games)
  • DE Darius Watson, Sr., 6-2, 215 (70 tackles, 6 sacks)
  • WR/RB Tygarius Sheffield, Sr., 5-9, 165 (277 receiving yards)
  • QB/SS Kishawn Kelley, Soph., 6-2, 202
  • OT Jonathan Seaton, Sr., 6-4, 260

2014 outlook: Corsicana has 10 returning starters and 28 lettermen who could bring a lot to the table. The team is fairly young. District 16-5A will test the players by fire, especially quarterback Kishawn Kelley and running back Tray Owens. Kelley is a 6-2, 202-pound sophomore who should become a recognizable name around East Texas by the time his career ends. Owens could contest for first-team all-district honors after rushing for more than 1,000 yards in just four games. His sophomore season was cut short with an injury.