District 9-2A Division I is a new name for all teams involved, but it's a league inheriting four opponents familiar with each other in Bogata Rivercrest, Honey Grove, Quinlan Boles and Wolfe City from District 6-2A Division I.

It's also the new football home for Linden-Kildare and Simms Bowie.

There was not a better place for the Tigers, who descended from Class 3A Division II, to land. This district is full of teams trying to establish something positive. Wolfe City led the four-pack in terms of an overall regular season record of 5-5, no team went more than a round deep in the playoffs, and Simms Bowie went winless.

But it's not going to be a cakewalk for Linden-Kildare. There are quite a few experienced players in the district, particularly at Rivercrest and Boles.

Furthermore, the Tigers program has to endure its second new coach in two years. Derek Simmons, the school's offensive coordinator from 2009 to 2011, has returned to replace Gary Shultz -- the new coach at Honey Grove -- after one season in Linden.

All things considered, is Linden-Kildare ranked above Rivercrest and Boles? Do we foresee the Tigers reaching the playoffs at all?

ETSN.fm's District 9-2A Division I picks are here.

Linden-Kildare running back Marcus Jones broke 1,000 yards as a junior last season and is back for more. (Evan Lewis, ETSN.fm)

District 9-2A Division I Preview

PLAYMAKERS

  • RB Devonte Brown, Jr., Wolfe City
  • RB/DB Triston Cain, Jr., Rivercrest
  • RB/DB Kyle Green, Soph., Boles
  • RB/DB Micah Harrison, Sr., Linden-Kildare
  • RB/DL Marcus Jones, Sr., Linden-Kildare
  • DL/OL Ethan Price, Sr., Honey Grove
  • RB/DB Ja'kevian Rose, Jr., Linden-Kildare
  • WR/DB Terry Swinney, Sr., Wolfe City
  • RB/DB Morgan Tabb, Sr., Rivercrest
  • QB T.K. Williams, Sr., Honey Grove
  • LB/RB Josiah Wilson, Sr., Boles

TOP GAMES

  • Linden-Kildare at Honey Grove, Oct. 7
  • Linden-Kildare at Rivercrest, Oct. 14
  • Honey Grove at Wolfe City, Oct. 14
  • Rivercest at Boles, Oct. 28
  • Boles at Linden-Kildare, Nov. 4
  • Simms Bowie at Honey Grove, Nov. 4

1. Bogata Rivercrest Rebels

  • Coach: Lance Connott
  • 2015 finish: 4-7 (2A D-I bi-district finalist)
  • Returning starters: 9 offensive, 8 defensive
Players to watch
  • RB/DB Triston Cain, Jr., 5-11, 180
  • RB/DB Morgan Tabb, Sr.
  • QB Lucah Strickland, Jr., 6-2, 185
  • DL/OL Garrett Simmons, Sr., 6-2, 245
  • OL/DL Chance Graham, Sr., 6-2, 240

2016 outlook: Rivercrest brings back 17 starters from its playoff team a season ago. None are bigger than the running back tandem of Triston Cain and Morgan Tabb -- they combined for 1,000 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns as underclassmen.

Quarterback Lucah Strickland is back as well and should give the whole offensive unit continuity.

Rivercrest has a handful of big players in the trenches and could be the most physical team of the district. Seniors Garrett Simmons and Chance Graham have the ability to play both ways, with Graham headlining the offensive line and Simmons the defensive line. Both players are 6-foot-2 and at about 240 pounds.

Cain and Tabb have athleticism to add to the secondary if they need to.

Seventeen starters off a relatively successful team last season is a great starting point. The squad's non-district schedule is winnable, so Rivercrest should have a lot of confidence heading into an important district-opening game against Quinlan Boles.

A high finish in District 9-2A Division I is important. The adjacent District 10-2A Division I is much deeper at its middle and lower levels. But if Rivercrest follows through on its predicted ranking, it might be in decent position to reach at least the area round.

2. Quinlan Boles Hornets

  • Coach: Kim Kanaman
  • 2015 finish: 4-7 (2A D-I bi-district finalist)
  • Returning starters: 5 offensive, 6 defensive
Players to watch
  • LB/RB Josiah Williams, Jr., 5-11, 160
  • RB/DB Kyle Green, Soph., 5-7, 160
  • OL/DL Keaton Kanaman, Jr., 6-3, 265

2016 outlook: Boles is another team starting 2016 in OK shape as far as experience. The squad also has star power in athletes Josiah Williams and Kyle Green.

Williams made 100 tackles as a sophomore linebacker last year and additionally rushed for 750 yards.

Green put up decent numbers on both sides of the ball as a freshman.

Offensive lineman Keaton Kanaman, head coach Kim Kanaman's son, won all-district honors as a sophomore.

Not only was Boles young last season, it was relatively successful. It finished the regular 4-6 with a 4-1 district record and reached the first round of the 2A Division I playoffs.

The collective stats didn't pop out last year, but that could change with 11 returning starters.

3. Linden-Kildare Eagles

Marcus Jones (left) and Ja'kevian Rose are expected to be a strong tandem in the Tigers' backfield. (Evan Lewis, ETSN.fm)
  • Coach: Derek Simmons
  • 2015 finish: 3-7
  • Returning starters: 1 offensive, 0 defensive
Players to watch
  • RB/DE Marcus Jones, Sr., 5-11, 170 (1,109 yards, 15 TDs)
  • RB/DB Ja'kevian Rose, Jr., 5-10, 161
  • ATH Micah Harrison, Sr., 5-9, 165
  • OL/DL Dre'Shawn Williams, Jr., 5-10, 260
Dre'Shawn Williams adds good size to Linden-Kildare in the trenches. (Evan Lewis, ETSN.fm)

Offense: Linden-Kildare will be working with an all-new unit, at least in terms of returning starters. The Tigers have only one true returning starter after losing 16 of 22 letter winners from last season.

However, there are a handful of proven players that have been waiting for the depth above them to graduate. The backfield is in particularly good standing with three running backs in the fold -- 1,000-yard rusher Marcus Jones plus Ja'kevian Rose and Micah Harrison.

Harrison could evolve into a universal athlete. He has great speed, so don't be surprised if he gets shifted out to the perimeter to get the ball in open space.

Obviously, inexperience is an issue. The six returners to the varsity team this season had opportunities to play in lopsided wins against Harleton and Hughes Springs in addition to blowout losses against Shelbyville and the much larger Pleasant Grove.

Defense: A new defense has the responsibility of improving a unit that averaged 32.4 points against per game.

Micah Harrison, capable of playing either linebacker or defensive back, could prove very valuable on this side of the ball as well as on offense.

Defensive end Marcus Jones, a running back offensively, can bring speed off the edge.

Dre'Shawn Williams should be another positive addition on the defensive line at 260 pounds.

 

2016 outlook: Linden-Kildare was a big winner in the biennial realignment. One of the smallest Class 3A Division II schools a year ago, it joins the Class 2A Division I level and is the largest school in the district by 19 students.

Not only that, the Tigers got thrown into what is easily the weakest overall district of Region III, so there is potential for them to be league contenders right off the bat despite a lack of overall experience.

Just because the program dropped classifications doesn't mean every game is favorable. Bogata Rivercrest and Quinlan Boles have big edges in experience plus a little bit of a playoff experience.

Overall, this league is a big improvement for the program. A lot of the teams are struggling to build competitive programs, and Linden-Kildare has numbers to throw at them.

4. Wolfe City Wolves

  • Coach: Darren Anderson
  • 2015 finish: 5-6 (2A D-I bi-district finalist)
  • Returning starters: N/A
Players to watch
  • RB Devonte Brown, Jr., 5-8, 145
  • RB/DB Terry Swiney, Sr., 6-0, 150
  • QB Jason Henderson, Jr.

2016 outlook: Wolfe city has to reload if it wants to hit last year's 5-5 regular season mark. In district games, the team went 2-3.

Running back Devonte Brown gives fans of his side a reason to be excited. He won the league's Newcomer of the Year honor a season ago -- as voted by the head coaches of Boles, Honey Grove and Wolfe City as well as departed members Clarksville and Como-Pickton.

Terry Swiney, a senior, might be Wolfe City's most valuable player. He'll compliment Brown offensively and also should start at a defensive back spot.

Wolfe City was mostly competitive against the still-present members of the district, but it got outscored 140-135 against the collective district.

Brining back junior quarterback Jason Henderson is a big deal for the offense. A promising sophomore season for Henderson was derailed by a season-ending injury in Week 3.

 

5. Honey Grove Warriors

  • Coach: Gary Schultz
  • 2015 finish: 3-7
  • Returning starters: 8 offensive, 9 defensive
Players to watch
  • DL/OL Ethan Price, Sr., 6-3, 320
  • QB/DB T.K. Williams, Sr., 6-1, 175
  • FB Ty Bateman, Jr., 5-11, 205

2016 outlook: Honey Grove has struggled mightily since reaching the postseason in 2012, never winning more than three games in a season.

This year, the program is right on the cusp of a playoff berth with former Linden-Kildare head coach Gary Schultz. Schultz lasted one season with the Tigers after six seasons with Alba-Golden and three earlier seasons at Bogata Rivercrest.

Honey Grove brings back 17 starters, but it needs to improve offensively after averaging 18.8 points per game in district play a season ago against three of the five teams it will face this year in the league. Receiver-turned-quarterback T.K. Williams might be the answer.

Williams certainly has the athleticism to make things happen on the ground.

Honey Grove's nine returning starters on defense played well. They averaged 23.6 points against per game as a group.

6. Simms Bowie Pirates

  • Coach: Charles Hudgeons
  • 2015 finish: 0-9
  • Returning starters: 11 offensive, 11 defensive
Players to watch
  • QB/DB Bailey Obenoskey, Jr., 6-1, 164
  • RB/LB Cody Roberson, Sr., 5-10, 190
  • DL Lucas Stephenson, Soph., 5-9, 260

2016 outlook: Bowie's best asset is its experience. All 22 starters are back and only two letter winners from last season's team graduated.

That being said, there's a lot of work to do. The team was outscored 371-36 last season in nine games and was shut out five times.