If you liked watching District 12-3A Division I football last year, you're going to love how the league looks this season.

Woodville's district will average about 14 returning starters for each team while the Eagles themselves bring back 17 players that fell just short of the final playoff spot last season. Is this the year the program gets back into the postseason mix?

Kirbyville and Winnie East Chambers are practically interchangeable to lead the pack. Both teams reached the Class 3A Division I regional semifinals and each brings back at least 16 players.

Buna brings back a relatively meager nine starters back from a playoff team. But those nine reached the postseason last year.

When it comes to football, Kountze was a laughing stock with a 66-year playoff drought. Not anymore. The Lions aren't just a basketball school anymore.

Tod Stark jumped to Hardin after a very successful run at West Sabine. Can the Hornets make the jump as early as this season?

Woodville has its work cut out for it, but a playoff appearance certainly isn't out of the question.

District 12-3A Division I Preview

PLAYMAKERS

  • QB/DB Grayland Arnold, Sr., Kountze
  • FB/LB Dylan Battestin, Sr., Hardin
  • RB Patrick Beaty, Sr., Kirbyville
  • WR/DB Jaydon Cunigan, Sr., Kountze
  • QB Jackson Gore, Sr., Kirbyville
  • RB Justin Kennedy, Sr., Buna
  • RB/LB Kevin Mayfield, Sr., Hardin
  • OL Hunter McGallion, Sr., Warren
  • WR/LB Cesar Molina, Sr., Anahuac
  • DL Rhett Phelps, Sr., Winnie East Chambers
  • RB/WR Dylan Silcox, Sr., Winnie East Chambers
  • RB/LB Kris Taylor, Jr., Woodville
  • QB David Whitehead, Soph., Woodville

 

TOP GAMES

  • Kirbyville at Kountze, Sept. 25
  • Buna at Woodville, Oct. 2
  • Woodville at Anahuac, Oct. 16
  • Kountze at Woodville, Oct. 23
  • Woodville at Winnie East Chambers, Oct. 30
  • Kirbyville at Winnie East Chambers, Nov. 6

 

1. Kirbyville Wildcats

  • Coach: Greg Neece
  • 2014 finish: 11-2 (3A D-I regional semifinalst)
  • Returning starters: 9 offensive, 7 defensive
Players to watch
  • RB Patrick Beaty, Sr., 5-10, 170
  • QB Jackson Gore, Sr., 6-0, 182
  • OL Tyandre Cooper, Sr., 6-3, 290
  • OL Trent Smith, Sr., 6-1, 305
  • OL Tyler Martin, Sr., 6-0, 250
  • FB/LB Austin Reeves, Jr., 5-9, 195

 

2015 outlook: Between experience and proven success with said experience, Kirbyville is the front runner for the District 12-3A Division I title and in the running for even more. The squad brings back 16 starters from a Class 3A Division I regional semifinalist team. Offense is going to be a strength with nine starters and excellent size along the line. Running back Patrick Beaty and quarterback Jackson Gore deliver a one-two punch in the backfield. The district as a whole improved, however, with better projected ceilings for the league's middle-tier teams. The Wildcats will have to bring it all the way to the final night of the season when they square off with Winnie East Chambers. Kirbyville has an outstanding non-district game against Orangefield, which is sandwiched by winnable matches against Bridge City and Deweyville, to get ready.

2. Winnie East Chambers Buccaneers

  • Coach: Ross Sutherland
  • 2014 finish: 11-2 (3A D-I regional semifinalist)
  • Returning starters: 10 offensive, 9 defensive
Players to watch
  • RB/WR Dylan Silcox, Sr., 6-0, 190 (committed to Rice)
  • DL Rhett Phelps, Sr.
  • QB Austin Sutherland, Sr., 5-11, 170
  • WR Aaron Sutherland, Sr., 5-10, 160
  • FB/LB LB Kyle Williams, Sr., 5-11, 190

 

2015 outlook: East Chambers is in as strong position to win the league as Kirbyville with a major number of returners and a trip to the Class 3A Division I semifinals. Since both teams are so well intact, the tiebreaker goes to Kirbyville which won last season's head-to-head game 34-31. That being said, look out. The Buccaneers have supreme athleticism, headlined by senior running back Dylan Silcox 1,300 total yards and 19 touchdowns last season. Silcox is verbally committed to Rice. In total, East Chambers will enjoy the services 19 starters back from last year's team, 10 on the offensive side and nine on defense. The Buccaneers round out the top tier.

3. Kountze Lions

  • Coach: Duane Joubert
  • 2014 finish: 4-7 (3A D-I bi-district finalist)
  • Returning starters: 9 offensive, 9 defensive
Players to watch
  • QB/DB Grayland Arnold, Sr., 5-10, 175
  • WR/DB Jaydon Cunigan, Sr.,6-0, 165
  • WR/LB Kyler Bumstead, 5-11, 170

 

2015 outlook: Kountze, famous for its outstanding basketball teams, broke a playoff drought that had lasted since 1948 with head basketball coach Duane Joubert taking over football duties as well last season. This year, there's promise the Lions can get back a second time. The team has 18 returning starters, including a lethal passing combination of quarterback Grayland Arnold and receiver Jaydon Cunigan. Arnold threw for 1,600 yards last season. Cunigan caught nine touchdowns. While the sheer number of starters returning is outstanding, Joubert is concerned about the interior players. There's just not a lot of size to be had on the offensive and defensive lines. But winning is winning. Kountze did enough to get to the postseason last year and brings back virtually the exact same team.

4. Buna Cougars

  • Coach: Bradley Morgan
  • 2014 finish: 10-2 (3A D-I area finalist)
  • Returning starters: 3 offensive, 6 defensive
Players to watch
  • RB Justin Kennedy, Sr., 5-11, 195
  • QB/DB Kobe Elder, Sr., 5-7, 165
  • WR/DB Tobias Golden, Sr.
  • TE/LB Matthew Martin, Jr.

 

2015 outlook: Compared to the other teams in District 12-3A Division I, Buna's nine returning starters is a pretty meager number. However, the team brings back critical pieces on both sides of the ball. Justin Kennedy headlines the experience as the primary back in the Cougars' Slot-T offense. The team is in very good standing defensively with six of the nine starters, and might have the leaue's best secondary with Kobe Elder and Tobias Golden in the mix. The unit averaged 24 points against per game and should improve this season. Buna has an ambitious non-district schedule. It will take on Orangefield, Center and Hamshire-Fannett before opening the league slate with Warren. Orangefield and Hamshire-Fannett made it to the postseason last year. Center is a considerably larger school.

5. Woodville Eagles

  • Coach: Mike Waldie
  • 2014 finish: 6-4
  • Returning starters: 8 offensive, 9 defensive
Players to watch
  • RB/LB Kris Taylor, Jr., 5-9. 180
  • QB David Whitehead, Soph.
  • WR/DL Chris Castle, Jr., 6-0, 170
  • OL/DL Trey Dear, Sr., 6-5, 320

 

Offense: Four returning linemen and eight offensive starters back in total bodes really well for Woodville's playoff changes. The big question is whether or not the skill guys are ready to make a real push. They're still underclassmen. Kris Taylor is projected to be the team's top athlete this season. Expectations are also very high for sophomore quarterback David Whitehead. Head coach Mike Waldie believes the signal caller, who started five games last season, could emerge as a college prospect as early as this season. The Eagles pretty much bring back everything from a unit that averaged 19.3 points per game last year, a number that must improve to help a defense that performed considerably better than it.

Defense: Mike Waldie's squad brings back nine starters, essentially the same unit which allowed 25.7 points per game through the 10-game season. However, Woodville was hammered by Kirbyville, Kountze and Buna last season and its district average fell to 31.2 points against per game. Kris Taylor, Chris Castle and Trey Dear help make up what should be a formidable front seven and experience should have the defense on a different level this year.

2015 outlook: The difference between making the playoffs and sitting at home last season was a 56-6 loss to Kountze. Woodville performed very well against lesser teams Anahuac, Warren and Hardin. Kirbyville and Winnie East Chambers seem locks for the first two spots, leaving six teams with two playoff spots to work with. Kountze and Buna appear to be difficult opponents once again, but taking one of those two games in October would certainly keep the Eagles in the playoff chase through the final weeks. Anything can happen from there with help from other teams. Non-district games against New Waverley and Joaquin plus a scrimmage against San Augustine are really going to help Woodville get ready.

6. Anahuac Panthers

  • Coach: Jason Speights
  • 2014 finish: 3-7
  • Returning starters: 9 offensive, 9 defensive
Players to watch
  • WR/LB Cesar Molina, Sr., 5-9, 185
  • QB Jason Martin, Jr., 6-1, 150
  • WR/DB Coley Adams, Jr., 6-3, 172

 

2015 outlook: Anahuac will try to get over the hump after back-to-back 3-7 seasons. The program is in good standing to do that with 18 returning starters, nine on both sides of the ball. Cesar Molina leads a defense which averaged 25 points against as a four-year starting linebacker. Offensively, quarterback Jason Martin is expected to have a breakout year while receiver Coley Adams is a matchup problem at 6-foot-3. After a highly winnable game against Liberty, the Panthers will get battle-hardened by Hamshire-Fannett and Cleveland Tarkington before jumping into district action.

7. Hardin Hornets

  • Coach: Tod Stark
  • 2014 finish: 3-7
  • Returning starters: 3 offensive, 3 defensive
Players to watch
  • RB/LB Kevin Mayfield, Sr., 5-11, 175
  • FB/LB Dylan Battestin, Sr.

 

2015 outlook: Head coach Tod Stark jumped from West Sabine to Hardin during the offseason to great fanfare. He's a proven winner, but there's some work to be done after a 3-7 campaign last season, a 1-6 district mark and just six starters back. The Hornets should be strong in the running game department with running back Kevin Mayfield and fullback Dylan Battestin as a part of the lineup. Both players were all-district selections in 2014.

8. Warren Warriors

  • Coach: Jay Buckner
  • 2014 finish: 1-9
  • Returning starters: 5 offensive, 9 defensive
Players to watch
  • OL Hunter McGallion, Sr., 6-0, 260
  • LB Chance McGallion, Sr.

 

2015 outlook: Warren's battle to get over a 1-9 record last season will incorporate first-year head coach Jay Buckner from Santa Fe High School. The program isn't broken though. It most recently reached the playoffs in 2013. Senior offensive lineman Hunter McGallion and senior linebacker Chance McGallion are great players to build something on. Both have been key contributors since they were sophomores.