Tyler Lee caught a tough break as the only school in East Texas to move into the UIL's new Class 6A format, the largest classification in the state of Texas, while potential district mate Longview moved down in enrollment to the new Class 5A with a group of local former 4A programs.

Head coach Darrell Piske's group fell into a district centered around Garland. The Dallas suburb has seen great high school ball in the past, but its booming population has the Garland school district operating seven high schools in its jurisdiction. To say Garland's talent pool has been diluted is an understatement.

There are a few power players in District 11-6A to contend with though.

Rockwall has enjoyed a growing population and the services of blue chip running back Chris Warren III. Sachse, a Garland school, has built itself into a power under the guidance of head coach Mark Behrens. Garland High School itself has its tradition to work with.

Lee, however, has a nice mix of East Texas talent and a solid tradition of its own to build upon.

Let's take a look at District 11-6A and where the Red Raiders fit.

District 11-6A Division I Preview

Tyler Lee linebacker and Louisiana Tech commitment Brandon Durman. (Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)
PLAYMAKERS
  • Logan Bonner, QB, Jr., Rowlett
  • Xavier Castille, WR/DB, Sr., Rockwall
  • Nathan Coleman, ATH, Sr. North Garland
  • Brandon Durman, LB, Sr., Tyler Lee
  • Devin Duvernay, WR, Jr., Sachse
  • Trent Edwards, QB, Sr., Lakeview Centennial
  • Jaylon Hadnot, WR, Sr., Garland
  • Zach Hall, QB, Sr., Tyler Lee
  • Chase Harris, WR, Sr., Naaman Forest
  • Luther Kirk, QB, Sr., Garland
  • Justin Leimer, OL, Sr., Garland
  • Nick McLaughlin, WR, Sr., Lakeview Centennial
  • Markeith Miller, RB/LB, Sr., Garland
  • Michael Nelson, RB, Sr., Naaman Forest
  • Charles Omenihu, DE, Sr., Rowlett
  • Devine Ozigbo, RB, Sr., Sachse
  • Ty Thomas, LB, Sr., Rockwall
  • Caleb Valentine, WR/CB, Sr., Naaman Forest
  • Jalen Veasley, DT, Sr., Rockwall
  • Chris Warren III, RB, Sr., Rockwall
  • Matthew Weeks, OT, Sr., Tyler Lee
  • Tavon Wesley, RB, Jr., Tyler Lee
  • Justin Willoughby, OT, Sr., Tyler Lee

 

TOP GAMES
  • Sept. 19 -- Sachse at Tyler Lee
  • Sept. 26 -- Tyler Lee at Rowlett
  • Oct. 16 -- Rockwall at Sachse
  • Oct. 17 -- Garland at Tyler Lee
  • Oct. 31 -- Rockwall at Tyler Lee
  • Nov. 7 -- Tyler Lee at Naaman Forest
  • Nov. 7 -- Rowlett at Sachse
  • Nov. 7 -- Garland at Rockwall

 

1. Rockwall Yellowjackets

Coach: Rodney Webb

2013 finish: 6-6 (5A D-II area finalist)

Returning starters: 7 offensive, 8 defensive

Players to watch

  • RB Chris Warren III, Sr., 6-2, 232 (747 yards, 11 TDs in five games; 14 major FBS offers, returning from torn ACL)
  • WR/S Xavier Castille, Sr., 5-11, 200 (1,215 yards, 13 TDs, 3 INTs)
  • LB Ty Thomas, Sr., 6-1, 205 (112 tackles)
  • DT Jaylen Veasley, Sr., 6-2, 268
  • WR Jay Galloway, Sr., 6-2, 174
  • OT Holden Harper, Sr., 6-5, 280
  • CB Caleb Broach, Jr., 5-7, 173
  • CB John Wright, Sr.

 

2014 outlook: The Yellowjackets look like they have a team with a district-best 15 starters returning. Chris Warren III is a national blue chip running back recruit who has been on the scene since 2012. His offer list includes Baylor, SMU, Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Alabama and Auburn. He is the son of former NFL running back Chris Warren Jr., a 10-year veteran with a stint on the Dallas Cowboys roster from 1998 to 2000. Chris Warren III rushed for 11 touchdowns and 747 yards before tearing his ACL in the fifth game of Rockwall's 2013 season.

Even without Chris Warren III, the Yellowjackets were a competitive group. They limped into the playoffs with a 5-5 record and reached the second round behind receiver Xavier Castillo's 1,215 yards and 13 touchdowns and linebacker Ty Thomas' 112 tackles in a tough district featuring Tyler Lee, Longview, Mesquite Horn and Rockwall-Heath.

Rockwall performed very well against current district opponents. It defeated the Red Raiders, Rowlett and won a playoff game against Naaman Forest after falling to the Rangers in the 2013 season-opener.

Considering the top-end talent and overall experienced depth, the Yellowjackets are in great position to win District 11-6A.

 

 

2. Sachse Mustangs

Coach: Mark Behrens

2013 finish: 11-1 (5A D-I area finalist)

Returning starters: 5 offensive, 3 defensive

Players to watch

  • RB Devine Ozigbo, Sr., 5-11, 220 (802 rushing yards, 12 rushing TDs, 232 receiving yards, 3 receiving TDs)
  • WR Devin Duvernay, Jr. 5-11, 185 (738 yards, 13 TDs)
  • QB Brett Cox, Sr., 6-4, 200
  • OG Ben Moye, Sr., 6-3, 285
  • LB Kevin O'Neil, Sr., 6-2, 205
  • CB Javon Collins, 5-10, 170

 

2014 outlook: Head coach Mark Behrens has built a perennial district contender in Sachse, the 2013 District 11-5A champion over the Garland-centric 11-6A core. The Mustangs program has only been around since the school's establishment in 2002 and already contributes to the Metroplex's strength. Sachse has a nice one-two offensive punch with running back Devine Ozigbo and receiver Devin Duvernay. The two players accounted for 1,772 yards and 28 touchdowns last season. Behrens' only issue is implementing new players in a hurry. The squad has eight returning starters. A middle-of-the-road non-district schedule of Wylie, Plano West and Bishop Lynch should have the Mustangs feeling good entering a big game at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium to open the league schedule. The Red Raiders' non-district competition is much tougher though.

 

3. Tyler Lee Red Raiders

Tyler Lee offensive tackle Matthew Weeks. (Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Coach: Darrell Piske

2013 finish: 4-6

Returning starters: 6 offensive, 6 defensive

Players to watch

  • QB Zach Hall, Jr. 5-11, 170 (1,129 passing yards, 9 TDs)
  • RB Tavon Wesley, Jr., (718 yards, 9 TDs)
  • LB Brandon Durman, Sr., 6-2, 230 (70 tackles, 15 TFLs; committed to Louisiana Tech)
  • OT Matthew Weeks, Sr., 6-6, 274 (offer from SMU)
  • OT Justin Willoughby, Sr., 6-3, 285
  • LB Michael Dorsey, Jr., 5-9, 175
  • S Patrick Udophia, Sr., 5-10, 165
  • WR/S Isjuwan Barker, Sr., 6-3, 186
  • DE John Samples III, Jr. 6-2, 245
  • C Bryston Parker, Sr., 6-1, 250
  • LB Teddy Matlock, Sr.

 

Tyler Lee offensive tackle Justin Willoughby. (Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Offense: The Red Raiders' top two playmakers are juniors with experience. That's great news for the immediate future and next season. Quarterback Zach Hall is an electric dual-threat quarterback with 1,129 passing yards and nine passing touchdowns under his belt. All he has to do is work on his interception numbers. He threw nine picks last season. Hall had a good scrimmage against Marshall on Friday, and he guided Lee to a berth in the state 7-on-7 tournament during the summer.

Tavon Wesley rushed for 718 yards and nine touchdowns as a sophomore. He's a long-term solution at the running back position with nice size and a natural ability for quick, lateral movements. His latest 40-yard dash time was recorded at about 4.6 seconds, and he has plenty of time for further development.

The best part about this offense is the line. Matthew Weeks, a college football prospect, and Justin Willoughby are two of East Texas' best offensive tackles. Both players have nice frames and are a good size for the Class 6A level. Center Bryston Parker is an ideal fit for the position at 6-1 and 250 pounds.

With the line out in front, expect Hall and Wesley to up their numbers significantly as juniors. Isjuwan Barker provides a deep threat at 6-3 and 186 pounds.

 

Tyler Lee safety Patrick Udofia. (Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Defense: Not many issues here, especially up front with an excellent linebackers group. Matthew Weeks, a Louisiana Tech commit, makes a case for the best linebacker in the region. Teddy Matlock and Michael Dorsey round out a group that should have success in the Red Raiders' new district.

There's experience at every level of the defense with six returning staters. The secondary and defensive line have the size and speed to compete at the 6A level. However, Lee will have to work on its issues from last season. Most notably, allowing 40 points per game down the stretch.

2014 outlook: The Red Raiders have a team that should be able to push for relevancy in the district the whole way. Snapping the three-year playoff drought is the most pressing goal.

Lee has an edge over the other middle pack District 11-6A schools with non-district games against Keller Fossil Ridge, Lufkin and John Tyler. The latter two teams are among the best teams in all of East Texas. Only Garland has a comparable non-district schedule with Irving MacArthur, Mesquite and Rockwall-Heath.

The Red Raiders have enough high-end talent to compete with the very best in the district. The emergence of more skill players would be a welcomed sight for head coach Darrell Piske, but the core of the team alone should make Lee a very competitive team.

 

4. Garland Owls

Coach: Jeff Jordan

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

Returning starters: 5 offensive, 7 defensive

Players to watch

  • QB Luther Kirk, Sr., 6-0, 175 (702 passing yards, 8 passing TDs, 801 rushing yards, 7 rushing TDs)
  • WR Jaylan Hadnot, 6-1, 183
  • OG Justin Leimer, Sr., 6-2, 290
  • C Jose Alvidrez, Jr., 6-1, 242
  • OT/DT Lane Scott, Jr. 6-3, 260
  • DE/FB Jalen Reynolds, 5-11, 223
  • DE O.J. Oloruntimilehin, Sr.

2014 outlook: Garland has a fantastic group of trench players, but it will have to find skill players before running into Sachse on Sept. 26 in its second district game. The Owls do hold an advantage over Lee with an open week before traveling to Tyler on Oct. 17. This suburban Dallas program has been a power in the past. Unfortunately, the town's population has exploded and its talent pool has been dispersed over six other high schools. Garland's 12 total returning starters and 35 lettermen do have some playoff experience though. The group made it to the bi-district round of the 5A Division I bracket before running into Mesquite Horn for a 42-14 loss.

 

5. Rowlett Eagles

Coach: Doug Stephens

2013 finish: 4-7 (5A D-II bi-district finalist)

Returning starters: 2 offensive, 7 defensive

Players to watch

  • DE Charles Omenihu, Sr., 6-5, 235 (Texas commit)
  • QB Logan Bonner, Jr., 6-1, 195 (2,403 yards, 22 TDs, 15 INTs)
  • LB McNeese Egbim, Sr., 6-0, 195
  • LB Tra Relford, Sr., 6-0, 192
  • LB Avery Wright, Sr., 6-1, 185

2014 outlook: Rowlett has a few things going for it and can't be ruled out of a playoff spot. Defensive end Charles Omenihu's 12 college football scholarship opportunities speak volumes. Quarterback Logan Bonner is a prolific passer, but he will have to cut down on the interceptions in his second year as the Eagles' starter. The linebacking corps is excellent with three players at nearly the exact same size, all over 6 feet tall and about 190 pounds. In Lee's case, however, there's not much offensive skill play to account for when facing the Eagles. The Red Raiders' offensive line will get a test, but Lee's offense should be up for the task after going through the non-district gauntlet and dealing with Sachse the week prior.

6. Naaman Forest Rangers

Coach: Marvin Sedberry (first year)

2013 finish: 5-6 (5A Division II bi-district finalist)

Returning starters: 6 offensive, 1 defensive

Players to watch

  • RB Michael Nelson, Sr., 6-0, 210 (1,828 yards, District 11-5A offensive MVP)
  • WR Chase Harris, Sr., 6-1, 175
  • WR/CB Caleb Valentine, WR, 5-9, 170
  • QB Juwan Saddler, Sr., 5-6, 160

 

2014 outlook: The Rangers are dealing with a coaching transition and virtually a brand new defense which could make for a rough season. The defensive unit averaged 28 points against in district play last season. Michael Nelson rivals Chris Warren III as the best running back in the district with 1,828 yards in 11 games last season, and Chase Harris has great size as a receiver. If opponents can contain Nelson, they're going to be in a good position to win.

 

7. Lakeview Centennial Patriots

Coach: Kendall Miller

2013 finish: 3-6

Returning starters: 4 offensive, 6 defensive

Players to watch

  • WR Nick McLaughlin, Sr., 6-2, 182 (926 yards, 5 TDs)
  • QB Trent Edwards, Sr., 6-0, 175 (612 yards, 4 TDs, 4 starts)
  • DE Zach Foster, Sr., 6-2, 220

 

2014 outlook: The connection between quarterback Trent Edwards and Nick McLaughlin should be impressive. Unfortunately, there aren't any more offensive standouts for Lakeview Centennial entering the season. The Patriots graduated 45 players from last year's team and return 15 lettermen in total. Games against Naaman Forest and North Garland are huge for the Patriots in establishing momentum for next season.

 

8. North Garland Raiders

Coach: Joe Castillo

2013 record: 0-10

Returning starters: 1 offensive, 3 defensive

Players to watch

  • ATH Nathan Coleman, Sr., 5-7, 155
  • DE Salvador Romero, Jr., 6-1, 215
  • DT/OL Jonathan Smith, Sr.

 

2014 outlook: North Garland's biggest issue isn't the play of its athletes. To the contrary, 2013 group played hard through 10 games. There's just no depth to speak of. Only 32 players suited out for the Class 6A program last season. Nine lettermen return and four players were starters in 2013. The biggest challenge for head coach Joe Castillo is creating more interest in the program at the middle school and freshman levels.