There's certainly star power and bad blood in District 7-3A Division I.

New Boston and Daingerfield are slated to meet for the third time in 13 months, and the Tigers will be looking for a little payback after dominating the Lions in district play and then getting handled in the regional semifinals by the same team.

Jeff Gladney, New Boston's do-it-all athlete and a TCU verbal commitment, should be the star of the show. But he can't do it alone.

Will New Boston prevail once again?

The middle of the district also should be a tight race between Winnsboro, Redwater, Pattonville Prairiland and Mount Vernon.

Let's take a look at all this league has to offer.

District 7-3A Division I Preview

New Boston's Quinn Dedmon runs the ball during the Lions' 41-14 state quarterfinal win vs. Daingerfield on Dec. 7 in Mount Pleasant. (Evan Lewis, ETSN.fm)

PLAYMAKERS

  • Dominique Allen, DL, Jr., Daingerfield
  • Jessie Biles, WR/CB, Sr., Daingerfield
  • Noah Craver, DB, Jr., Mount Vernon
  • Hunter Daily, LB, Sr., Redwater
  • Quinn Dedmon, RB/S, Sr. New Boston
  • Anquavion Evans, DT, Sr., Mount Vernon
  • Jeff Gladney, ATH, Sr., New Boston
  • Corey Jolley, RB/LB, Sr., Redwater
  • Quinton King, ATH, Sr., Winnsboro
  • Dylan Martin, TE/DE, Jr., New Boston
  • Denzel Mims, WR/CB, Sr., Daingerfield
  • Phillip Pyle, FB/DE, Sr., New Boston
  • Chase Reynolds, WR/DB, Sr., Pattonville Prairiland
  • Tedrick Shepard, RB, Sr., Winnsboro
TOP GAMES
  • Oct. 17 -- Redwater at New Boston
  • Oct. 24 -- Winnsboro at Redwater
  • Oct. 31 -- Redwater at Daingerfield
  • Nov. 7 -- Daingerfield at New Boston

 

1. New Boston Lions

New Boston ATH Jeff Gladney. (Courtesy, Texarkana Gazette)

Coach: Jamey Thomas

2013 finish: 13-2 (2A D-I state semifinalist)

Returning starters: 6 offensive, 6 defensive

Players to watch

  • ATH Jeff Gladney, Sr., 6-1, 175 (570 receiving yards, 9 TDs, first-team all-state defensive back; committed to TCU)
  • RB/DB Quinn Dedmon, Sr., 5-11, 180 (1,105 rushing yards, 126 carries, 10 TDs)
  • TE/DE Dylan Martin, Sr., 6-0, 180
  • FB/DE Phillip Pyle, 6-2, 218
  • OT/DT Hunter Lee, Sr., 6-6, 290
  • RB/DB Devontae Wade, Jr., 5-10, 180
  • LB Jamell Henderson, Jr.

 

Offense: Not too many problems for New Boston in this department with the return of TCU commitment Jeff Gladney and running back Quinn Dedmom to the offensive backfield. The dynamic duo helped guide the Lions to a state semifinal berth a season ago and should return bigger, faster and stronger. Dedmon rushed for more than 1,000 yards a season ago while Gladney is a gifted universal fit at any skill position offensively or defensively.

Offensive tackle Hunter Lee is a huge asset for head coach Jamey Thomas. Not many Class 3A programs can boast a 6-6, 290-pound lineman. Some colleges don't even have tackles that big. He should be a matchup problem against any team New Boston sees this season.

There's even more in the depth department. Running back Davontae Wade should see some playing time and sophomore quarterback Phillip Sission is supposed to be an up-and-comer.

Defense: Six returning starters ought to have the Lions in good standing right off the bat. Defensive ends Phillip Pyle and Dylan Martin are a good starting point up front. Both players have a good mix of size and speed. The unit averaged just 15.3 points against last season and held opponents to single digits six times.

2014 outlook: Things are looking good for New Boston entering the season with playmakers across the skill position and big bodies in the trenches. This squad has 12 players back with at least 15 games of experience. District 7-3A Division II isn't the easiest group to play out unscathed, but the Lions' overall talent and experience should put the program over the top.

If healthy, look out once New Boston hits the playoffs. The team is coming off a deep run, should know what it takes and has some top of the line talent its early playoff opponents don't appear to have.

 

2. Daingerfield Tigers

Daingerfield defensive back Jessie Biles. (Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Coach: Aric Sardinea

2013 finish: 10-4 (2A D-I regional finalist; lost against New Boston)

Returning starters: 5 offensive, 2 defensive

Players to watch

  • WR/CB Jessie Biles, Sr., 5-10, 175 (77 tackles, 3 INTs)
  • DL Dominik Allen, Sr. (83 tackles, 25 TFLs, 7 sacks)
  • WR/DB Denzel Mims, Jr., 6-4, 175 (19 catches, 222 yards, 3 TDs)
  • QB/DB Malik Higgins, Sr., 6-1, 185 (423 yards, 6 TDs)
  • C/DT Darrian Terry, Jr., 6-3, 260
Daingerfield quarterback Malik Higgins. (Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Offense: The Tigers return five players from an offense that averaged 42 points per game last season. The outset of the 2014 season looks a little rough with some inexperienced players getting their feet wet, but head coach Aric Sardinea isn't afraid to take chances in the non-district schedule.

Games against Gladewater and Gilmer should sharpen the offense for its district run. And not all is lost with Denzel Mims ready to make a bigger impact. He averaged 11.6 yards per reception last season. Quarterback Malik Higgins was able to get his feet wet and performed well last season. The same goes for running back Demontrae Neal with 243 rushing yards on limited touches. All these skill players need is time before they form a cohesive unit with the outright newcomers.

Defense: This is the big question mark. Daingerfield returns just two key players to the unit. But they're pretty good athletes and give the Tigers a good outlook against the pass and the run. Defensive back Jessie Biles made 77 tackles last season and intercepted three throws. Defensive lineman Dominique Allen recorded 88 tackles, including 25 tackles for loss and seven sacks.

2014 outlook: You can never count out a Sardinea-coached team. Daingerfield has set a high bar entering the headman's fourth year. The program has reached December in each of Sardinea's first three seasons. Again, the non-district schedule looks challenging with games against Gladewater, Gilmer, Atlanta, Henderson and Malakoff. But that should be the medicine the Tigers need to boost themselves for District 7-3A Division I play.

The regular season finale against New Boston should be a good one. It will be the third time the two teams have met in a 13-month span. The Lions defeated Daingerfield in the playoffs after the Tigers got the best of New Boston in last year's regular season meeting. There's plenty of inspiration for that game, and the district title very well could be in play.

3. Redwater Dragons

Coach: Tommy Graf

2013 finish: 6-6 (2A D-I area finalist)

Returning starters: 6 offensive, 5 defensive

Players to watch

  • LB Hunter Dailey, Sr., 6-0, 210 (145 tackles)
  • RB/LB Corey Jolley, Sr., 5-9, 175 (406 rushing yards, 6 TDs, 57 tackles)
  • OT/DT Ty Read, Jr., 6-3, 240
  • OT/DT John Loftin, Jr., 61-, 240
  • RB/DB Dionte Hudson, Sr., 5-10, 165)

 

Offense: Hunter Jolley and Dionte Hudson should give Redwater a nice one-two punch on the ground. Pair them with the Dragons' big bookends in Ty Read and John Loftin and you've got yourself a good looking group immediately. A majority of starters return but will have to improve on last year's average of 18.4 points per game. That being said, Redwater seemed to connect the dots in the latter part of the 2013 season. After being held to single digit scoring in four of their first six games, the Dragons outscored opponents 166-92 in their final six games. That includes a one-point loss against Pottsboro in the second round of the playoffs.

Defense: This is, by far, the strength of the team despite losing six starters. The five returners are very good. Linebacker Hunter Daily recorded an incredible 145 tackles last season and Jolley had 57 takedowns as a double-dipper at linebacker. Read and Loftin also will play on this side of the ball and should do a good job clogging the middle with their weight.

2014 outlook: Tommy Graf has done a great job at Redwater. He has taken the Dragons to the playoffs in his first two seasons as their head coach. The program has made the postseason four times in its history. You hesitate to call this team a dark horse for the district title with New Boston and Daingerfield running around, but Redwater could give those two teams' high-flying offenses fits and should be able to shut down the bottom end of the league.

The Dragons topped Pattonville Prairiland and Mount Vernon by considerable margins last season and held New Boston to its lowest regular season scoring total of 2013, 28 points. The junior varsity went 9-0 last season and should fill depth concerns entering the season. That record also raises expectations for a serious run next year.

4. Winnsboro Red Raiders

Coach: Steve Pinnell

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

Returning starters: 5 offensive, 7 defensive

Players to watch

  • RB/LB Tedrick Shepard, Sr., 5-7, 170 (700 rushing yards, 5 TDs, 88 tackles)
  • ATH Quinton King, Sr., 6-0, 180 (14 catches, 300 yards, 5 TDs)
  • QB Lucas Pinnell, Jr.
  • OL/DT Tyson Gearner, Sr.
  • DB Ethan Rakich, Sr.

 

Offense: Winnsboro certainly has its share of explosive playmakers. Running back Tedrick Shepard leads the team all the way around as a two-way starter. He rushed for 700 yards and five touchdowns as a junior and should improve on those numbers this year. Quinton King will line up as a fullback and tight end and has considerable size. He'll be especially problematic against smaller sized defenses. Lucas Pinnell is a coach's kid and should have extensive knowledge about the game as he enters his first year as the Red Raiders' starter.

Defense: Winnsboro returns a majority of its starters on defense. The group helped the squad squeak out a 15-14 win against Mount Vernon last season and averaged 30.6 points against per game. The group should improve between experience and another year of offseason training. Shepherd leads the group into battle after recording 88 tackles last season.

2014 outlook: The Red Raiders have entered a much more challenging district. Previously aligned with Quitman, Grand Saline, Eustace, Malakoff and Kemp, the team now has to face the front end of District 7-3A Division I. Redwater defeated Winnsboro in the first round of last year's postseason. A playoff run is still definitely fathomable though. Getting wins against Mount Vernon and Prairiland should put the team in good standing and a win against Redwater would be icing on the cake for multiple reasons. The league seems wide open beyond the top two teams.

5. Pattonville Prairiland Patriots

Coach: Alex Ritchers

2013 finish: 3-7

Returning starters: 7 offensive, 7 defensive

Players to watch

  • QB/DB Zac Pointer, Sr., 6-2, 185 (831 total yards, 4TDs)
  • WR/DB Chase Reynolds, Sr., 6-0, 153 (4 INTs)
  • OT/DL Haskell Walker, Sr., 6-0, 234 (39 tackles)

 

2014 outlook: Prairiland is fairly rich in returning faces with 14 total, but the group struggled against New Boston, Daingerfield, Redwater and Mount Vernon last season on the way to an 0-5 district record. Competing with the top level teams is going to be tough, but the non-district schedule is a nice mix of potential confidence builders and respectable opponents. It wouldn't be surprising to see the Patriots push for the last playoff spot, but it will be an uphill battle with the other teams bringing back similar numbers and postseason experience.

 

6. Mount Vernon Tigers

Coach: Mike Alexander

2013 finish: 5-5

Returning starters: 4 offensive, 4 defensive

Players to watch

  • DL Aquavion Evans, Sr., 6-0, 250 (14 sacks, 26 TFLs)
  • DB Noah Craver, Sr. (5 INTs)
  • DE Austin Decker, Jr., 6-1, 235
  • RB Tyler Cheeves, Jr.

 

Offense: Mount Vernon had a tough time scoring against district opponents last season. Daingerfield shut the offense out, Redwater won by 36 points, New Boston held it to 14 points and Winnsboro held it to 12 points in a 15-12 non-district win last season.

The only way to go is up. There are quite a few questions about the group this season, but junior running back Tyler Cheeves could be the spark the Tigers need to get going.

Defense: Definitely the stronger side of the ball last season, this group returns four starters. Mount Vernon should have a very good pass rush with Aquavion Evans and Austin Decker on its defensive line. Defensive back Noah Craver recorded five interceptions last season. The Tigers return just eight lettermen total, so last year's junior varsity better be ready to go.

2014 outlook: Mount Vernon is a solid program with a great coach in Mike Alexander. Graduation was not kind to the Tigers, however. New Boston, Daingerfield, Redwater and Winnsboro all topped the squad last season and have more experience returning. It would be a surprise, albeit a minor one, if Mount Vernon makes the playoffs this season. Games against White Oak and Pittsburg surely will help this team grow.