The Colmesneil Bulldogs finished fourth in District 12-2A Division II in 2014, missing the playoffs by just one game. With more returning starters than any of their league counterparts, can the Bulldogs challenge for a postseason berth this fall?

The UIL added a fourth playoff team from each 2A district, so the job becomes easier.

Defending district champion Iola and league runner-up Normangee are well-experienced after each team enjoyed long runs in the playoffs a season ago. And Evadale, which grabbed 12-2A Division II's final postseason slot a year ago, appears to have the pieces in place to make another run at the playoffs.

District 12-2A Division II Preview

PLAYMAKERS

  • RB Bryson Cornish, Sr., Normangee
  • DL Ryan Renick, Sr., Iola
  • WR Tyler Dykes, Soph., Iola
  • WR Austin Aguirre, Sr., Normangee
  • RB Kaleb Lindsey, Sr., Colmesneil
  • QB Tyler Torres, Soph., Evadale
  • LB Colton Renick, Soph., Iola
  • DB Dalton Davis, Sr., Colmesneil

 

TOP GAMES

  • Normangee at Colmesneil, Oct. 9
  • Colmesneil at Evadale, Oct. 16
  • Iola at Normangee, Nov. 6

 

1. Normangee Panthers

  • Coach: Nelson Kortis
  • 2014 finish: 8-5 (2A D-II regional semifinalist)
  • Returning starters: 5 offensive, 5 defensive
Players to watch
  • RB Bryson Cornish, Sr., 6-0, 225
  • WR Austin Aguirre, Sr., 5-7, 150
  • LB Alex Noey, Sr., 5-11, 170
  • QB Cameron Ranton, Soph., 6-1, 150
  • RB Ty Jordan, Jr., 5-10, 200

 

2015 outlook: Normangee recovered from an 0-3 start to not only make the playoffs but advance three rounds deep. Running back Bryson Cornish, who returns for his senior season, had a big hand in the Panthers' fortunes in 2014. The big, bruising back rushed for more than 500 yards and eight touchdowns, often used in short-yardage and goal-line situations. The passing game figures to receive a boost with the return of quarterback Cameron Ranton, who performed well as a freshman last season, and receiver Alex Aguirre, who also enjoyed some big moments a season ago. The defense could use some improvement for the Panthers to take the next step. Normangee allowed 24.5 points per game in 2014, but in its five losses, it surrendered an average of 41.6. The Panthers have a tough couple of opponents to open the season -- Jewett Leon and Mart -- but should see smooth sailing until their showdown with defending district champion Iola in the regular-season finale.

 

2. Iola Bulldogs

  • Coach: Pete Martinez
  • 2014 finish: 11-1 (2A D-II state quarterfinalist)
  • Returning starters: 7 offensive, 10 defensive
Players to watch
  • DL Ryan Renick, Sr., 6-4, 220
  • WR Tyler Dukes, Soph., 5-11, 170
  • LB Colton Renick, Soph., 5-11, 175
  • OL/DL Tyler Stabler, Jr., 6-1, 220
  • LB Ryan Bennett, Jr., 6-0, 180

 

2015 outlook: Few people saw Iola's run to the state quarterfinals coming in 2014. After al, the Bulldogs were coming off an average 5-5 season, and were fielding a young and inexperienced team a season ago. But thanks to an explosive offense and suffocating defense, Iola rolled through the regular season undefeated and saw its season extend beyond the Thanksgiving holiday, a benchmark for Texas high school teams everywhere. Iola did not allow an opponent to score more than two touchdowns in a game until the playoffs, while the Bulldogs' offense averaged a robust 51.9 points per game last season. Iola's season was ultimately ended by perennial state power Tenaha, 35-28, in the quarters, but there is reason to once again be optimistic in Iola. The Bulldogs bring back 17 starters -- 10 on the defensive side -- and should once again be a force once the postseason rolls around. The defensive foursome of Ryan Renick, Colton Renick, Tyler Stabler, and Ryan Bennett provides the glue for a unit that allowed just 11 points per game a season ago.

 

3. Evadale Rebels

  • Coach: Mark Williams
  • 2014 finish: 7-4 (2A D-II bi-district finalist)
  • Returning starters: 6 offensive, 6 defensive
Players to watch
  • QB Taylor Torres, Soph., 5-10, 170
  • OL Casey Black, Jr., 6-1, 255
  • RB Ty Frasier, Jr., 5-5, 165
  • DL Morgan Black, Sr.
  • DB Coy Williams, Soph.

 

2015 outlook: Evadale broke a string of consecutive losing seasons with a seven-win campaign in 2014. The Rebels finished third in the district last year, losing decidedly to the league frontrunners Iola and Normangee, but dominating the rest of 12-2A Division II. Evadale dropped its two district games by a combined score of 92-28, but recovered by outscoring Colmesneil, Burkeville, and Sabine Pass by an average of 49-21. The Rebels have 12 starters returning -- six on each side of the ball -- and seem to be in good position to challenge for the postseason for a seventh consecutive year. Quarterback Taylor Torres will only get better after enjoying breakout success as a freshman, while running back Ty Frasier and lineman Casey Black figure to give Evadale a chance to improve on its scoring average of 35 points per game from 2014. Head coach Mark Williams is hoping another year of seasoning for his defense will pay dividends. Last season, Evadale struggled to contain opposing offenses at times, allowing 45.5 points per game in its four losses.

 

4. Colmesneil Bulldogs

  • Coach: Edd Trotter
  • 2014 finish: 2-8
  • Returning starters: 9 offensive, 9 defensive
Players to watch
  • RB Kaleb Lindsey, Sr., 5-6, 145
  • DB Dalton Davis, Sr., 5-11, 175
  • QB Cole Johnson, Sr., 5-5, 135
  • RB Harrison Brown, Sr., 5-10, 175
  • DL Mason Williams, Jr.
  • WR Kameron Lindsey, Soph.
  • OL/DL Seth Cashat, Soph., 6-4, 280
  • OL Tristan Rigsby, Sr., 5-9, 230

 

Offense: It was a struggle to score consistently for Colmesneil in 2014 as the Bulldogs managed just 20.3 points per game. Head coach Edd Trotter is banking on his experience on that side of the ball -- nine returning starters -- to make a big difference this season. The one-two combination of Kaleb Lindsey and Harrison Brown at running back look to make significant strides after the duo teamed for nearly 1,000 yards last year. Quarterback Cole Johnson, while small in stature, will be counted on for senior leadership and mistake-free football from behind center. The offensive line has plenty of size to counteract opposing defenses with the return of super sophomore Seth Cashat and senior Tristan Rigsby. Time will tell if Colmesneil's experienced offense will make a big enough leap for the Bulldogs to become legitimate playoff contenders, but the pieces are in place.

Defense: An underperforming offense wasn't the only reason for Colmesneil's 2-8 mark last season. The Bulldogs allowed an average of 42.5 points per game, including 54.3 in their losses to the district's three playoff representatives -- Iola, Normangee, and Evadale. But just like the offense, nine returning starters will be welcomed back on the defensive side of the ball. Chief among them is free safety Dalton Davis, who averaged more than 12 tackles per game in 2014, but was forced to miss most of the season with injury. If Davis returns healthy and plays up to his potential, the Colmesneil defense could be in for a big turnaround this fall. Junior Mason Williams will anchor the defensive front for the Bulldogs, while Cashat's duties will also include stuffing the run on the interior of the D-line.

2015 outlook: No team in the district brings back more starters than Colmesneil, but will it be enough for the Bulldogs to challenge for a postseason berth? Colmesneil is only two years removed from a 10-win campaign, and the general line of thinking was that the Bulldogs were in rebuilding mode last season after graduating a large senior class. With so many experienced players returning to the fold, it is not entirely unreasonable to expect Colmesneil to return to the postseason for the fourth time in seven years.

 

5. Burkeville Mustangs

  • Coach: Kenneth Thomas
  • 2014 finish: 1-9
  • Returning starters: 8 offensive, 7 defensive
Players to watch
  • QB Donovan Wysinger, Sr., 6-2, 185
  • DB J.D. Spikes, Jr., 5-10, 160
  • LB Reggie Marsh, Sr., 5-11, 190
  • WR Jerry Hartsfield, Sr., 6-3, 170
  • RB/LB Kenterian Adams, Jr., 5-9, 170

 

2015 outlook: Burkeville has just two wins to its credit in the last three years, but there could be some hope on the horizon in 2015 as the Mustangs return the bulk of last season's starters. Donovan Wysinger is an impressive athlete at the quarterback position, and with a big season for the signal-caller this fall, Burkeville could be getting a shot in the arm moving forward. It was a rough year for the Mustangs' offense a season ago, as Burkeville mustered just 15.9 points per game. Head coach Kenneth Thomas is hoping that, along with Wysinger, the return of receiver Jerry Hartsfield and running back Kenterian Adams can inject some life into the Mustangs' scoring attack. The defense has room to improve as well after it surrendered an average of more than 44 points per game last season. Defensive back J.D. Spikes and linebackers Adams and Reggie Marsh are just a few of the players whose expectations are much higher in 2015.

 

6. Sabine Pass Sharks

  • Coach: Jason Thibodeaux
  • 2014 finish: 1-9
  • Returning starters: 6 offensive, 8 defensive
Players to watch
  • DL Rafael Figueroa, Sr., 6-3, 250
  • OL Leonard Ifield, Sr.
  • QB Dahlton Gonzales, Jr., 5-8, 165
  • DL Jamal Dorsey, Jr.
  • OL Dominic Gillette, Sr., 6-4, 225

 

2015 outlook: Very little went right for Sabine Pass a season ago. The Sharks' offense was on the losing end of eight shutouts in 2014. Sabine Pass scored 23 points in its only win of the year (Houston Lutheran North) and eight points in its regular-season finale against Evadale, and that's it. Obviously, the offensive numbers must improve if the Sharks carry realistic thoughts of morphing into a playoff contender in 2015. With few proven offensive impact players at his disposal, head coach Jason Thibodeaux will be entrusting most of his team's offensive hopes to junior quarterback Dahlton Gonzales, who has his work cut out. Defensively, Sabine Pass allowed opponents an average of 48.3 points per game in 2014, but help could be on the way with eight returning starters, including defensive lineman Rafael Figueroa and Jamal Dorsey.