2015 Football Preview: Powerful Area Teams Aim To Chase Down Dallas Christian In TAPPS Division II, District II
East Texans love to see how their teams stack up against the rest of the state, and TAPPS Division II, District II just might be the region's best gauge.
The results last season in a league featuring four local teams against four Dallas area squads? Very good.
Tyler Grace Community coasted into the fourth and final playoff spot in the final week, an injury riddled Bullard Brook Hill reached the state quarterfinals and Tyler Bishop Gorman got all the way to the state semifinals.
Of course, fellow district mate Dallas Christian reached the Division II title game. Beating the Crusaders in the semifinals on the heels of taking home the district title with one loss to Brook Hill.
It looks like it's going to be a war again this season with at least seven of the league's eight teams returning proven starters on both sides of the ball.
Bishop Gorman, Brook Hill and Dallas Christian appear to have the inside track at playoff berths, but is it All Saints who breaks a playoff drought dating back to the 2012 season?
And where does that leave a lesser experienced Tyler Grace?
Here's a crash course into one of East Texas' most competitive districts.
TAPPS Division II, District II Preview
- Tyler Bate, LB, Sr., Tyler Bishop Gorman
- John Bloom, Sr., Carrollton Prince of Peace
- Judah Bell, WR, Jr., Tyler Bishop Gorman
- K.J. Bickham, OL/DL, Sr., Tyler All Saints
- Seth Brasher, WR, Sr., Bullard Brook Hill
- Jacob Dumesnil, DB, Sr., Bullard Brook Hill
- Chase Eisenmann, RB, Jr., Frisco Legacy
- Michael Goodwin, QB, Sr., Tyler Bishop Gorman
- Martin Guzman, ATH, Sr., Tyler Bishop Gorman
- Luke Lee, LB, Sr., Tyler All Saints
- Chris McCune, DB, Sr., Bullard Brook Hill
- Jordan Morales, DL, Sr., Tyler Bishop Gorman
- Palmer Nix, LB, Soph., Dallas Christian
- Sloan Rodberg, LB/TE, Jr., Dallas Christian
- Josh Spitzer, LB, Jr., Tyler Grace
- Sawyer Stevens, OL/DL, Sr., Dallas Christian
- Sept. 25 -- Dallas Christian at Bullard Brook Hill
- Oct. 9 -- Bullard Brook Hill at Tyler Grace
- Oct. 9 -- Tyler Bishop Gorman at Tyler All Saints
- Oct. 16 -- Tyler Grace at Tyler All Saints
- Oct. 23 -- Tyler Bishop Gorman at Dallas Christian
- Nov. 6 -- Tyler Bishop Gorman at Tyler Grace
- Nov. 6 -- Bullard Brook Hill at Tyler All Saints
1. Dallas Christian Chargers
Coach: Mike Wheeler
2014 finish: 11-3 (TAPPS Division II state finalist)
Returning starters: 9 offensive, 7 defensive
Players to watch
- LB Palmer Nix, Soph., 6-0, 200 (123 tackles, 33 for loss)
- DE/TE Sloan Rodberg, Jr., 6-2, 205 (83 tackles, 11 sacks; all-state selection)
- OL/DE Sawyer Stevens, Sr., 6-2, 240 (all-state selection)
- WR Jacob Yarbrough, Sr., 5-10, 170
- QB Garrett Cody, Soph., 5-10, 165
2015 outlook: There's just no way to discount what Dallas Christian has returning from a team that reached the TAPPS Division II state championship game last season. The Chargers will enjoy the services of 16 returning starters and 35 returning letter winners overall.
That does not mean the team won't be challenged. Bishop Gorman (12 returning starters) took it to overtime in the regular season last year and then fell a touchdown shy in a state semifinal rematch.
Brook Hill (14 starters) defeated Dallas Christian a year ago, a 23-20 game in the Metroplex. The Guard, state quarterfinalists, might be even better this season with the return of receiver Seth Brasher from an ACL injury.
The key for the Chargers' district championship hopes will be surviving the East Texas gauntlet between Week 5 and Week 9.
Brook Hill -- at home -- gets the first crack on Sept. 25. Grace visits Dallas Christian the very next week.
After two probable wins against Frisco Legacy Christian Academy and Dallas Shelton, the Chargers will have to face Bishop Gorman and a much-improved Tyler All Saints team in back-to-back weeks.
2. Tyler Bishop Gorman Crusaders
Coach: Cody Gipson
2014 finish: 10-3 (TAPPS Division II state semifinalists)
Returning starters: 5 offensive, 7 defensive
Players to watch
- QB Michael Goodwin, Sr., 5-10, 185 (3,356 passing yards, 26 TDs, 8 INTs, 1,247 rushing yards, 14 TDs)
- WR Judah Bell, Jr., 6-4, 185 (1,048 receiving yards, 9TDs)
- WR Martin Guzman, Sr., 5-8, 175 (536 receiving yards, 3 TDs)
- LB Tyler Bate, Sr., 6-2, 210 (114 tackles, 2 sacks)
- DL/OL Jordan Morales, Sr., 6-3, 275 (64 tackles, 10 TFL, 6 sacks)
Offense: It's a trip, especially with Michael Goodwin running the show as a senior. The Bishop Gorman quarterback accumulated 4,603 total yards of offense last season, including an East Texas-leading 3,356 passing yards among returning players.
The Crusaders were only held below 21 points three times last year. Two of those games came against Dallas Christian. The third was against Terry Pirtle's Houston Second Baptist team in a 21-17 playoff win for Bishop Gorman.
No doubt the team is going to miss Connor Hobbs, now a member of the San Diego State football team, and his 1,390 yards on 95 receptions. However, Hobbs' departure has opened the door for receivers Judah Bell and Martin Guzman to make bigger names for themselves. Bell broke the 1,000-yard barrier last season. Guzman recorded 536 yards.
There are worse places to begin overhauling an offense. Bishop Gorman returns five offensive starters in total.
Defense: Lost in the headlines surrounding the Crusaders' team last season, Gipson's squad performed very well on the defensive side of the ball at 17.3 points against per game. A remarkable feat considering the league's productive offenses.
Bishop Gorman returns seven defensive starters this season. Among them are linebacker Tyler Bate and defensive lineman Jordan Morales.
Bate led the team with 114 tackles. Morales helped bog down the opposition up front with six sacks and 10 tackles for loss as part of 64 total takedowns.
2015 outlook: It's a promising season. Not many schools boast a quarterback with the numbers Goodwin managed as a junior, and the athleticism around him should be sufficient to replace Hobbs' solo contribution from last season.
The school's defense also is at the top of the charts within the district.
There's plenty of confidence around the program as well. It now knows what it takes to make a deep run in the playoffs.
3. Bullard Brook Hill Guard
Coach: Bobby Brasher
2014 finish: 8-3 (TAPPS Division II regional finalist)
Returning starters: 7 offensive, 7 defensive
Players to watch
- WR Seth Brasher, Sr., 6-2, 183 (868 yards and 15 TDs in only seven games)
- DB Jacob Dumesnil, Sr., 5-10, 180
- DB Chris McCune, 6-1, 175
- LB Jordon McGowen, Jr., 6-2, 215
- OL/DL Bryant Robinson, Sr., 6-0, 265
- WR Ryan Cox, Sr.
Offense: It's been way worse. Injuries derailed a promising Brook Hill season last year, most notably key receiver Seth Brasher's season-ending ACL tear midway through the campaign. He had 868 yards and 15 touchdowns in seven games.
The Guard still found ways to remain competitive with Grant Hanks at quarterback though. Unfortunately, Hanks wrapped up his career last year with more than 2,500 passing yards and nearly 2,000 rushing yards.
Brasher and the rest of the offense will need to transition quickly to a new quarterback, most likely McCray Fletcher.
That seems likely though. A credit to coaching, Brook Hill has a history of great play at the position.
Senior Chris McCune can give the Guard a nice one-two punch. He performed well last season in relief of starting tailback Gabe Lucio missing time with a leg injury.
Defense: It's looking pretty good. Brook Hill returns seven starters from a defense that averaged about 28 points given up per game.
The Guard's defense wasn't the best in the league last season, but 28 points is a good starting point for a mostly experienced unit and a historically excellent offense in support.
Don't be surprised to see head coach Bobby Brasher's squad become more opportunistic up top. Defensive backs Jacob Dumesnil and Chris McCune are two of the best in the entire league.
2015 outlook: It's all out in front of Brook Hill.
Dallas Christian will enter the season as the team to beat off of its state championship game appearance while Bishop Gorman is right there as well after making it to the state semifinals, but a healthy Guard team should contest for the district title all the way through the final week.
4. Tyler All Saints Trojans
Coach: Mike Hall
2014 finish: 5-5
Returning starters: 9 offensive, 10 defensive
Players to watch
- DL K.J. Bickham, Sr., 6-3, 250
- LB Luke Lee, Sr., 6-3, 205
- QB/LB Chet Wynne, Sr., 5-10, 165
- WR Logan Bradford, Sr., 6-1, 180
- RB Jace Evans, Jr, 5-10, 184
Offense: All Saints should be an improved offense with nine returning starters from a team that could scrap its way into competitive games last season.
The squad averaged 16.8 points per game last season, but it did enough to scrape by the three teams below its own fifth-place finish last year. With experience and another offseason, it's safe to assume the unit will be more competitive this season.
The Trojans appear to have what they need to remain relevant for a playoff spot this season, especially considering the supporting defense.
Defense: All Saints performed very well defensively, especially considering the offensive struggles last season. It averaged about 28 points against per game and far less against the teams that finished below it in the standings.
With 10 returning starters on this side of the ball, Mike Hall's program should make more strides this season. Retaining defensive lineman K.J. Bickham and linebacker Luke Lee certainly does not hurt.
The 2014 defense helped All Saints get within a win of making the playoffs last season. The lineup this season just might be enough to allow the team to trip up high-powered offenses at Dallas Christian, Bishop Gorman and Brook Hill. A win against one of those teams changes the entire dynamic of the district.
2015 outlook: It's probably going to come down to the final game for All Saints, but it is in good position for a playoff berth for the first time since 2011.
Turnover to graduation across the district -- especially at Grace -- can put the Trojans in position to succeed. Grace claimed the final spot last year, but it has its work cut out for it with just two returning offensive starters and a district-low eight returning starters in total.
Meanwhile, the teams All Saints defeated last season just aren't as complete.
This is the best setup the Trojans could have asked for within the ultra competitive league. If the team handles Carrollton Prince of Peace and Frisco Legacy Christian in the first two weeks of district, its game against Grace on Oct. 16 is enormous.
5. Tyler Grace Community Cougars
Coach: Mike Maddox
2014 finish: 7-4 (TAPPS Division II bi-district finalist)
Returning starters: 2 offensive, 6 defensive
Players to watch
- LB Josh Spitzer, Jr., 5-10, 200 (112 tackles)
- OL Ronnie Baker, Jr., 6-1, 270
- LB/TE Andrew Cotten, 6-0, 204
- QB Christopher Wilhelmi, Jr., 5-10, 155
- DL Austin Warren, Sr.
Offense: Definitely a new day for the Cougars' offense. The team returns just two starters from its 7-4, bi-district finalist team last season.
It looks like junior quarterback Walter Wilhemi is going to get the keys to head coach Mike Maddox's offense. He has some big shoes to fill. Former signal caller Chandler Nutt seemed to get it done with both his arm and his feet when Grace needed it most under his tenure.
The thing that stands out most about Wilhelmi prior to his first varsity start at the lead position, he has seemingly worked for the chance his whole life. He won the friendship of former Texas Tech and Green Bay Packers quarterback Graham Harrell in the process.
With nine new starters on this side of the ball, however, it probably will be an up-and-down season for the Cougars on the offensive side. The good news is the team should have one of the league's stronger defenses to support it during the tougher times.
Defense: Grace returns six starters from a unit that really came together down the stretch against last season's bottom-half teams in the district. Hey, that certainly helps a team finish in the top four within the league and earn a playoff spot.
If the Cougars take the next step this season, they'll really help out the emerging offense. There's reason to believe they will.
Linebacker Josh Spitzer returns from a breakout sophomore season. He recorded 112 tackles last season. Andrew Cotten and Austin Warren are welcomed returners to the front seven as well.
2015 outlook: Considering the turnover from graduation, it's going to be a challenge for Grace to make it out of District II.
But the Cougars do have tradition in their favor. The team returns 12 lettermen in total, and they do have the experience of clawing for a playoff spot late in the season. Grace finished fourth in the league last season, losing a tiebreaker to Bishop Gorman yet two games ahead of All Saints in fifth place.
The meeting with All Saints on Oct. 16 could have big consequences for both teams.
6. Frisco Legacy Christian Eagles
Coach: Andrew Embry
2014 finish: 4-6
Returning starters: 7 offensive, 6 defensive
Players to watch
- RB Chase Eisenmann, Jr., 5-11, 185 (1,899 rushing yards, 16 TDs)
- OL/DL Ryan Yasilli, 5-10, 260
- OL/DL Steven Wallace, Sr., 5-11, 270
- OL/LB Josh Norris, Sr., 6-0, 210
This is a team built to pound the rock with running back Chase Eisenmann. The junior carried the load last season for nearly 1,900 yards and 16 touchdowns behind a big offensive line that returns significant bulk and power.
The 2014 squad played competitively in almost every game, losing two tight ones against All Saints and Carrollton Prince of Peace by a combined seven points.
7. Carrollton Prince of Peace Eagles
Coach: Larry Thexton
2014 record: 3-7
Returning starters: N/A, 22 returning lettermen
Players to watch
- LB/RB John Bloom, Sr., 6-0, 210
- QB Alex Cantu, Sr., 5-10, 140
- RB Sean Peterson, Jr.
2015 Outlook: Carrolton Prince of Peace struggled in District II last season, but it brings back an excellent two-way player in senior John Bloom. The Eagles will be hoping to improve on a 1-6 district schedule last year highlighted by a 36-13 win against Dallas Shelton.
8. Dallas Shelton Chargers
Coach: George Teague
2014 record: 0-10
Returning starters: 8 offensive, 8 defensive
Players to watch
- WR Kobe Boyce, Jr., 6-0, 165
- QB Kole Reeves, Soph., 6-2, 200
- RB Taylor O'Neal-Givens, Sr., 5-10, 182
- OL/LB Ben Wilson, Sr., 5-10, 220
2015 outlook: Dallas Shelton will begin the campaign with the goal of breaking a winless streak dating back to the 2012 season. The good news is the team is still mostly young and very experienced with 16 total returning starters.
Watch out in future seasons.