2015 Football Preview: Longview Once Again Favored in 15-5A, But Marshall Hopes to Close the Gap
The rivalry between Longview and Marshall is the oldest in the state of Texas, but it's been rather one-sided in recent years in Longview's favor. But for the first time in more than a decade, Marshall believes it has the horses to make a legitimate run at the Lobos in District 15-5A.
It won't be easy.
Longview has won district championships in 10 of the last 11 years, while Marshall has lost 14 consecutive games to its most bitter rival.
The rest of the district features an always-dangerous Texas High squad riding a 14-year streak of playoff appearances, consistent postseason contenders Sulphur Springs and Hallsville, a rejuvenated Greenville program, and two schools in the midst of rebuilding in Pine Tree and Mount Pleasant.
District 15-5A Preview
- DB Traveion Webster, Jr., Longview
- RB Tylan Miller, Sr., Longview
- OL Tim Clay, Sr., Longview
- QB/ATH Cam Haller, Jr., Marshall
- DL Antonio Washington, Sr., Marshall
- LB/DB Micahh Smith, Sr., Marshall
- QB Cade Pearson, Jr., Texas High
- DB Chaz Davis, Sr., Texas High
- OL Matthew Davis, Sr., Texas High
- RB Jaylon Hawkins, Jr., Sulphur Springs
- DL Derrick Weeks, Sr., Sulphur Springs
- OL Parker Braun, Sr., Hallsville
- QB Daniel Bonamy, Sr., Pine Tree
- RB Carandal Hale, Sr., Greenville
- RB Tre Holloman, Jr., Mount Pleasant
- Lufkin at Longview, Aug 28
- Texas High at Whitehouse, Aug. 28
- Rockwall-Heath at Sulphur Springs, Aug. 28
- Texas High at Arkansas High, Sept. 4
- Longview at John Tyler, Sept. 5
- Longview at Marshall, Oct. 9
- Sulphur Springs at Hallsville, Oct. 16
- Marshall at Texas High, Oct. 23
1. Longview Lobos
- Coach: John King
- 2014 finish: 9-3 (5A Division I area finalist)
- Returning starters: 5 offensive, 4 defensive
Players to watch
- DB Traveion Webster, Jr., 6-0, 195
- RB Tylan Miller, Sr., 5-8, 195
- OL Tim Clay, Sr., 6-6, 385
- DL Kybrian Sheridan, Sr., 5-11, 210
- QB Michael Ross, Sr., 5-10, 175
- DB Keenan Madden, Sr., 6-1, 200
- OL Kendall Starling, Jr., 6-2, 325
- DB Ameron Dean, Sr., 5-10, 170
- WR Jon Sorey, Sr., 5-11, 170
- RB Austin Moore, Sr., 5-9, 235
Offense: Longview's patented running game was in fine form in 2014, despite an injury to projected starter and Baylor signee JaMycal Hasty. The Lobos managed more than 42 points per game a season ago, and that came after a tough first three weeks in which Longview put up 19.3 on average. Tylan Miller came into his own as the featured back, and the bruising and deceptively-fast senior finished last season with more than 1,400 rushing yards. Longview does lose quarterback Dezmond Chumley, a three-year starter, along with leading receiver Antonio Carter and offensive lineman Broderick Washington, who signed with Texas Tech. Michael Ross takes over the reins at quarterback, a job he held at Class 3A Harmony as a sophomore before joining the Lobos last offseason. Ross will provide Longview's offense an explosive element from the QB spot with his ability to extend plays and pick up big chunks on the ground if plays breaks down. Senior Austin Moore figures to slide into the fullback slot, while senior Jon Sorey is expected to become the Lobos' primary option at receiver. The offensive line has the potential to be dominant with the return of guards Tim Clay and Kendall Starling.
Defense: Longview was solid on the defensive side of the ball in 2014, holding opposing offenses to an average of 22.5 points per game. The Lobos were especially stingy in district play, holding teams to less than 14 points on average. Longview brings back just four starters on defense, but there are several potential impact defenders. Typically, Longview's defensive strength is its secondary, and it will be no different in 2015. The four-man rotation at safety in the Lobos' 4-2-5 alignment figures to be anchored by junior Traveion Webster, who is switching positions after playing fullback a season ago. Webster has looked great in the preseason, reminding some of former Lobos great Travin Howard, who is entering his sophomore year at TCU. With Webster and the other safeties -- Keenan Madden, Josh Johnson, and De'Keithon Ingram -- Longview's "D" could make life difficult on opposing offenses this fall. The defensive line is another potential strength, especially if senior end Kybrian Sheridan follows up his breakout 2014 campaign.
2015 outlook: Longview has become one of the state's most consistent programs in the last decade-plus, having compiled a 120-28 record (.811) in head coach John King's 11 seasons with the Lobos. Longview has also won 10 of the last 11 district championships, making the rest of the league a chase for second place. Despite only nine starters returning in 2015, Longview is firmly entrenched as the preseason favorite in 15-5A, especially considering the Lobos outscored their district foes by an average of almost 40 points per game a season ago. However, the Lobos failed to advance beyond the second round of the playoffs in 2014 for the first time 2006. The biggest keys to another successful year beyond the regular season will be the development of Ross at quarterback and his compliment of receivers. The Longview ground game should be in good shape with Miller running behind a large and experienced offensive line.
2. Marshall Mavericks
- Coach: Clint Harper
- 2014 finish: 7-5 (5A Division II area finalist)
- Returning starters: 10 offensive, 6 defensive
Players to watch
- QB/ATH Cam Haller, Jr., 5-10, 200
- DL Antonio Washington, Sr., 6-2, 280
- LB/DB Micahh Smith, Sr., 6-1, 195
- RB Chavis Mills, Sr., 5-7, 180
- RB/LB Deondre Osborne, Sr., 5-9, 215
- WR Trel Patton, Sr., 5-9, 160
- QB Justin Hart, Sr., 6-0, 160
- OL Kendrell Booty, Jr., 5-11, 275
- DB Brandon Jernigan, Sr., 6-0, 160
- DB Corteze Hurd, Soph., 6-1, 170
Offense: Marshall's offense continued to thrive in year No. 2 under head coach Clint Harper. The Mavericks averaged more than 38 points per game in 2014, and got contributions from a multitude of weapons, most of whom are returning this season. In all, Marshall returns 10 starters on offense; the only departure being offensive lineman and North Texas signee Chett Munden. Senior Justin Hart is entering his third year as the Mavs' starting quarterback, and he'll likely share snaps with junior ATH Cam Haller, who ran for more than 1,000 yards and 20 touchdowns as a sophomore. Senior running back Chavis Mills enjoyed breakout success a season ago, and appears poised for an even bigger campaign in the coming months. The Marshall receiving corps is explosive as well with the return of seniors Trel Patton and Jaquavian Dabbs, who are both game-changing downfield threats. Senior Deondre Osborne will spend most of his time at linebacker, but don't be surprised to see him as a ball carrier in short-yardage and red-zone situations.
Defense: In order for Marshall to take the next step as a program, better play on the defensive side of the ball is required. Last season, the Mavs allowed opposing offenses an average of more than 31 points per game. Most of the time, Marshall was able to overcome its defensive deficiencies by outscoring teams, but against the Mavs' toughest competition, that wasn't the case. In Marshall's five losses in 2014, it yielded an average of 43.6 points per game. Harper is hoping that with six returning starters on defense, including a handful of standouts, the Mavs will begin to show significant progress. Marshall's defense all begins up front with senior lineman Antonio Washington, whose combination of strength and speed causes major problems for opposing offensive linemen. At linebacker, Osborne and senior Micahh Smith will be counted upon to keep plays from reaching their defenses's third level. Both defenders are fast and physical enough to accomplish that goal. Senior Brandon Jernigan will anchor Marshall's secondary, which could also receive a boost from sophomore playmaker Corteze Hurd.
2015 outlook: Marshall, quite possibly, represents the biggest threat to Longview's quest for another district title. The Mavs are entering the third year under Coach Harper, and with 16 returning starters back on the field, Marshall has the pieces to potentially give the Lobos a run for their money. The Mavericks' seven wins last season were the most they achieved in a year since 2009, and many are expecting that number to rise this fall. However, Marshall was outscored by both Longview and Texas High by a combined 70 points in 2014, so the Mavs have a sizable gap to narrow in 2015.
3. Texas High Tigers
- Coach: Barry Norton
- 2014 finish: 7-4 (5A Division I bi-district finalist)
- Returning starters: 6 offensive, 5 defensive
Players to watch
- QB Cade Pearson, Jr., 6-2, 195
- DB Chaz Davis, Sr., 5-11, 160
- OL Matthew Davis, Sr., 6-0, 265
- RB J'Kardi Witcher, Sr., 5-7, 170
- WR Quan Hampton, Jr., 5-8, 150
- WR Jaylen Rhone, Sr., 5-10, 160
- LB Mitchell Butler, Sr., 5-7, 175
- DB Jacorien Walker, Sr., 5-9, 165
- DB Dee Jones, Sr., 5-10, 170
- TE/DL Jacoryon Larry, Sr., 6-3, 240
Offense: It was an up-and-down 2014 season for Texas High, which finished with an average of more than 27 points per game. The Tigers relied heavily on its running game, which was highlighted by senior and Tulsa signee Javon Thomas, and that will likely be Texas High's offensive approach once again this year. Replacing a running back like Thomas will be difficult, but senior J'Kardi Witcher will get his shot as the Tigers' featured back. He'll be running behind a solid offensive line, which will be anchored by senior and three-year starter Matthew Davis. While the running game will still be the focal point of Texas High's offense, the Tigers' passing attack could become a much bigger part of the plan. Cade Pearson returns at quarterback after stepping into the role as a sophomore, and performing at a very high level. Texas High graduated leading receiver Jarion Anderson, also a Tulsa signee, but returns a nice collection of pass-catchers, including senior Jaylen Rhone and junior Quan Hampton.
Defense: Historically, Texas High has been among the best defenses in all of East Texas. And that was the case, for the most part, in 2014. For the season, Texas High allowed opposing offenses an average of more than 24 points per game. Most of the Tigers' points allowed came in losses to Whitehouse (38-35), Longview (38-20), and John Tyler (58-23). Texas High brings back five defensive starters, but will have to replace three standouts in lineman William Brown, linebacker K.J. Reid, and defensive back Dale Williamson. Longtime head coach Barry Norton will have a handful of solid contributors from 2014 to build around this season. Senior Jacoryon Larry is a disrupter on the defensive line, and senior linebacker Mitchell Butler makes up for his lack of size with blinding speed and surprising physicality. The secondary will be athletic as always, highlighted by seniors Chaz Davis, Jacorien Walker, and Dee Jones.
2015 outlook: In Norton's 16 season as Texas High coach, the Tigers have reached the playoffs in 15 of them. From 2002-06, Texas High was at the peak of its powers, compiling a 58-8 record (.879), which included a state championship. But since the '07 season, the Tigers are 58-29-1 (.665) with just two total playoff wins in those eight seasons. Texas High has been able to regularly dominate its district, but has had trouble extending that success any further. Will that change moving forward? Texas High brings back 11 starters, but Longview and Marshall appear to be in a better position to challenge for the district title in 2015. However, if Pearson continues to develop at quarterback and the defense remains one of the best in East Texas, it would be a mistake to completely count out Texas High in its quest for league supremacy.
4. Sulphur Springs Wildcats
- Coach: Greg Owens
- 2014 finish: 5-6 (5A Division II bi-district finalist)
- Returning starters: 1 offensive, 5 defensive
Players to watch
- RB Jaylon Hawkins, Jr., 5-8, 185
- DL Derrick Weeks, Sr., 6-2, 220
- DB Keylon "Bubba" Hall, Sr., 6-2, 175
- TE/DL Cain Cody, Sr., 6-4, 240
- OL Spencer Bramlett, Sr., 6-4, 240
- QB Tanner Ramirez, Sr., 5-11, 165
- DL Dakota Stalcup, Sr., 6-3, 200
- LB Cole Cooper, Sr., 5-10, 180
- LB Coby Hutchings, Sr., 5-11, 180
- LB J'alynn Mitchell, Sr., 6-2, 185
Offense: Despite lower offensive production than Sulphur Springs' high-octane attack is accustomed to, the Wildcats still managed to average more than 36 points per game in 2014. Sulphur Springs relied on an experienced offensive line, and an explosive athlete at quarterback in Larry Pryor to remain among East Texas' most elite offenses. With only one returning starter back on the offensive side, the Wildcats will face their biggest challenge in recent years. Fortunately for longtime coach Greg Owens, Sulphur Springs will have at least one player to build around on offense this season. Junior running back Jaylon Hawkins enjoyed a breakout sophomore campaign with almost 800 rushing yards and four touchdowns. The talented ball carrier averaged less than 12 carries per game in 2014, and that number figures to rise significantly this year. Senior Tanner Ramirez will take over at quarterback, and he'll have some big shoes to fill with the departure of Pryor, a Texas A&M signee last February. With a new signal-caller and a rebuilt receiving corps, Hawkins may have to shoulder most of the offensive load early in the season.
Defense: While defense has never been a particular strength of Sulphur Springs teams over the years, the Wildcats will need a strong effort on that side of the ball if they hope to extend their streak of consecutive playoff appearances to nine. Sulphur Springs surrendered more than 36 points per game a season ago, and it would seem as if that number would have to come down in a big way considering how inexperienced the offense will be in 2015. The defensive line can be a real strength with players like Derrick Weeks, Cain Cody, and Dakota Stalcup returning to the lineup. Weeks and Cody are pass-rushing specialists, having combined for eight sacks a season ago. The linebacking corps appears to be solid as well with the return of seniors Cole Cooper, Coby Hutchings, and J'alynn Mitchell. Big plays were a problem for Sulphur Springs' defense in 2014, but with senior Keylon "Bubba" Hall returning to the fold, the Wildcats hope to be much better in that department this fall.
2015 outlook: Sulphur Springs has quietly gone about its business over the previous decade, putting together eight consecutive trips to the playoffs, which included a state championship in 2008. For the first time in a good while, the Wildcats' postseason streak could be in serious jeopardy. With only six total returning starters from a five-win team, Sulphur Springs will need a bevy of newcomers to step in and immediately contribute if it wishes to fend off challenges from the likes of Hallsville and Greenville for the district's final playoff spot. If Ramirez performs well at quarterback, and the revamped offensive line comes together quickly, Sulphur Springs has an excellent chance of remaining in the playoff hunt all the way through the season.
5. Hallsville Bobcats
- Coach: David Plunk
- 2014 finish: 6-4
- Returning starters: 5 offensive, 5 defensive
Players to watch
- OL Parker Braun, Sr., 6-3, 275
- DB Lance Hardman, Sr., 6-0, 190
- TE Coleton Lasseter, Sr., 6-7, 255
- DL Jonathan Mitchell, Sr., 6-3, 220
- QB Roger McCuller, Sr., 6-0, 185
- WR Andrew Southard, Sr., 6-2, 180
- LB Blair Fernandez, Jr., 5-9, 185
- WR Ty Meissner, Jr., 5-9, 170
- RB Josh Taylor, Soph., 5-9, 175
- DL Braylon Smith, Sr., 6-0, 225
Offense: Hallsville's offense was remarkably consistent in 2014, averaging right at 34 points per game. Even in their four losses, the Bobcats were able to find the end zone with regularity, posting an average of almost 31 points per game. With five returning starters on offense, including a couple of potential stars, Hallsville has the opportunity to improve upon its performance from a season ago. Senior quarterback Roger McCuller gained some valuable playing time in 2014, and his ability to make plays with both his arm and legs make him a tough challenge for opposing defenses. The Bobcats' receiving corps is buoyed by the return of senior Andrew Southard and junior Ty Meissner, which could equate into a much more pass-friendly offense in 2015. Hallsville will need to find a replacement for standout running back Kha'lil Sneed, who eclipsed the 1,000-yard plateau as a senior a year ago. Whoever takes over as the lead back will have a potentially solid offensive line to run behind. The Bobcats received a boost this offseason when senior Parker Braun, who holds dozens of Division I FBS offers, transferred in from Florida.
Defense: Hallsville's defense played well for most of the 2014 season, allowing a little more than 23 points per game. The Bobcats were hit for more than 40 points in losses to Longview and Sulphur Springs last year, but they were able to hold an explosive Marshall offense to just 19 points in the district opener. Just like the offense, Hallsville brings back five starters on the defensive side of the ball. Up front, the Bobcats' defense will be anchored by senior linemen Jonathan Mitchell and Braylon Smith. Linebacker Blair Fernandez returns as well after enjoying breakout success as a sophomore. The strength of Hallsville's defense could be the secondary, which welcomes back senior playmaker Lance Hardman at free safety.
2015 outlook: Hallsville certainly played well enough to reach the playoffs last season. The Bobcats finished the year at 6-4, but three of those losses (Nacogdoches, Texas High, Sulphur Springs) came by a combined 15 points. Hallsville defeated the district's second runner-up Marshall, and played league champion Longview to within 14 points -- closer than any other 15-5A squad. So, it would not require a huge leap for Hallsville to jump right back into the playoff discussion in 2015.
6. Greenville Lions
- Coach: Marvin Sedberry
- 2014 finish: 4-6
- Returning starters: 6 offensive, 9 defensive
Players to watch
- RB Carandal Hale, Sr., 5-10, 200
- QB Treveon Heard, Sr., 6-3, 190
- WR Marquise Mapps, Sr., 5-5, 150
- DB Jemetric Allen, Sr.
- LB Kerrian Goree, Sr., 5-8, 220
2015 outlook: Greenville's 40-game losing streak had to come to an end at some point, and the Lions' 2014 season may have provided a glimpse into a much brighter future. Greenville unexpectedly won three of its first four games a year ago, including its District 15-5A opener. The Lions dropped five of their final six, but Greenville will certainly take a 4-6 record over four consecutive winless campaigns. Head coach Marvin Sedberry, Jr., believes his team is on the right track, and with 15 returning starters, Greenville is hoping it can take the next step by competing for a playoff berth -- something that's eluded the Lions' program for more than a decade. The Lions, who averaged a modest 21.7 points per game last year, could be much more explosive on the offensive side of the ball in 2015 with the return of standout senior running back Carandal Hale and dynamic ATH Treveon Heard, whose dual-threat skills will be put to the test at quarterback. With nine starters returning on defense, Greenville hopes to improve on last season's opponents' points-per-game average of 32.7.
7. Pine Tree Pirates
- Coach: David Collins
- 2014 finish: 1-9
- Returning starters: 6 offensive, 9 defensive
Players to watch
- QB Daniel Bonamy, Sr., 6-2, 170
- DL Alex Kuitko, Sr., 6-1, 245
- DB J'Kevian Evans, Sr., 6-1, 180
- LB Alex Baker, Sr., 6-0, 220
- DB Dillon Lightfoot, Sr., 6-2, 185
- RB/DB Maliq Owens, Jr., 5-10, 150
- OL Mose Jeffrey, Soph., 6-3, 290
- DL Jakorey Sherow, Sr., 6-0, 230
- DB Trey Tolleson, Sr., 5-10, 175
- WR Shaffer Russell, Jr., 5-11, 190
Offense: It was anything but smooth sailing for Pine Tree's offense under first-year head coach David Collins in 2014. The Pirates averaged right at 21 points per game a season ago, and that simply won't be good enough if Pine Tree hopes to put a more competitive product on the field this fall. Fortunately, everyone in the system should feel much more comfortable with a full 10-game schedule and offseason program under their belts. Pine Tree graduated its top offensive performer from 2014 in Mason Hays, but with six players with staring experience on offense returning, the Pirates have the potential to at least be more productive as a unit. Daniel Bonamy will begin the season as the starting quarterback, and Collins' fast-paced, uptempo spread attack will all be funneled through him. Pine Tree may be short on experienced weapons in the passing game, but the Pirates should have the ability to establish a fairly consistent rushing attack. If Pine Tree can remain healthy and limit the amount of costly mistakes it suffered from in 2014, the Pirates' offense could begin to show signs of progress.
Defense: No matter how much improvement is shown on offense, Pine Tree must be better on defense. In 2014, the Pirates yielded opposing offense an average of 47.5 points per game. Teams scored at least 60 points against Pine Tree on three separate occasions, which made life difficult on a Pirates offense still learning the principles of Collins' new system. The good news for Pine Tree is that it has the vast majority of its starting defenders returning to the field. Among the nine starters back is the defensive line combination of senior Alex Kuitko and Jakorey Sherow, who will both be counted on to slow opposing ground games and apply a heavy rush on obvious passing downs. Senior Alex Baker will anchor a seasoned linebacking corps, while the defensive backfield may develop into a serious strength. The Pirates welcome back seniors J'Kevian Evans and Trey Tolleson, who will most likely play a significant role in how much Pine Tree's defense improves in 2015.
2015 outlook: No one expected Collins to work miracles his first year on the job, and his debut season on the Pine Tree sideline was predictably a difficult one. The Pirates have not enjoyed a winning season since 2002, or made the playoffs since 2001, and last year's 1-9 mark was their sixth one-win finish in the last 11 years. While most everyone outside the program will dismiss Pine Tree's chances of ending that stretch of futility anytime soon, Collins expects to see marked improvement this fall. With 15 returning starters, the Pirates are positioned to at least play a more competitive brand of football in the coming months. The road won't be easy with non-district clashes against Jacksonville, Gilmer, and Kilgore, followed by a 15-5A slate full of proven winners.
8. Mount Pleasant Tigers
- Coach: Corey Homer
- 2014 finish: 0-10
- Returning starters: 4 offensive, 5 defensive
Players to watch
- RB Tre Holloman, Jr., 5-7, 160
- DB J.K. Lee, Jr., 5-9, 175
- QB LaDarius Patterson, Sr., 5-11, 180
- OL Mitchell Parra, Sr.
- DL Zach Dean, Sr., 5-7, 175
- WR Demoarro Thomas, Soph., 6-3, 175
- DL Ty Neal, Sr., 5-10, 240
- DL Jakavian Epps, Jr., 5-10, 150
- OL Nate Doss, Jr.
Offense: Nothing went right for Mount Pleasant during its winless 2014 campaign, and the Tigers' offense was a big part of the problem. Mount Pleasant managed to average just 16.9 points per game a year ago, which was a far cry from the Tigers' previous two teams, which averaged a cumulative 40 points each week. Of course, those Mount Pleasant offenses featured blue-chip recruit and current Baylor wide receiver K.D. Cannon, and he was surrounded by a much more skilled collection of players. Once again, Mount Pleasant must contend with heavy graduation losses, which resulted in the Tigers bringing back just four starters from the offensive side of the ball in 2015. On a positive note, this season will be the second under head coach Corey Homer, which should provide the Tigers with much more continuity moving forward. Junior running back Tre Holloman should receive the bulk of the carries when Mount Pleasant decides to run the ball, while LaDarius Patterson will step into the starting quarterback role this season.
Defense: With Mount Pleasant's offense struggling to sustain drives, the Tigers' defense predictably suffered a season ago. Opposing offenses averaged more than 41 points per game in 2014, a number Homer and his staff hopes comes down this year. The Tigers bring back five defensive starters from a season ago, including standout junior defensive back J.K. Lee, who showed signs of becoming a true force as a sophomore. The line play also has the opportunity to improve with the return of seniors Zach Dean and Ty Neal, along with junior Jakevian Epps. If those players continue to develop and a few of the newcomers are able to make immediate impacts, Mount Pleasant should at least be more difficult to defeat on a weekly basis.
2015 outlook: There were many who forecasted a down season for Mount Pleasant before last year, but it's unlikely any of them expected the Tigers' level of play to drop as far as it did in 2014. Last year's 0-10 season was the first for Mount Pleasant since 1967, which speaks to how unexpected the Tigers' woes became. If there was a silver lining, it's that there were a few games on the schedule a season ago that were winnable. The Tigers' non-district loss to Jacksonville came by just two points, while Mount Pleasant was competitive a few times in 15-5A. In MP's league losses to Greenville, Hallsville, and Pine Tree, the Tigers were outscored by a combined 15 points. It would be extremely unlikely to see Mount Pleasant in the playoffs come November, but it will be interesting to see how much more competitive the Tigers are week to week.