2016 Football Preview: Groveton + West Sabine Hope To Trend Up In 12-2A D-I
District 12-2A Division I has a little bit more of an East Texas flavor thanks to realignment.
West Sabine will join Groveton in the league and should make things that much more difficult for perennial playoff contenders Centerville and Lovelady. This might be the change of scenery the Tigers needed to make some real noise.
The Indians, meanwhile, possess one of the most productive aerial assaults in the state. In the nation, as a matter of fact. Are they ready to take the next step forward in quarterback Glenn Thornton's senior year?
Of course, you can't discount Centerville. It reached the regional semifinals last year and the regional championship game the year before.
Is Centerville the top-ranked team this year? Is it Lovelady? A local team?
Deweyville and Saratoga West Hardin have some work to do. Do we see either of those schools breaking out in 2016?
ETSN.fm's picks for District 12-2A Division I are here.
District 12-2A Division I Preview
- OL/DL Daniel Byrd, Jr., Centerville
- WR Saul Chavez, Jr., Groveton
- OL/DL Collin Chesson, Sr., West Hardin
- WR/DB Dawson Chumley, Sr., Groveton
- OL/DL Nick Harper, Sr., West Sabine
- QB Lee Holsey, Sr., Lovelady
- QB/RB/LB Koy Howle, Sr., Centerville
- QB/DB Caden Hubbard, Jr., Deweyville
- WR/DL Petey Little, Sr., Centerville
- OL Hunter Maloy, Sr., Deweyville
- DL/TE Coleman Robinson, Sr., Centerville
- RB/DB Demarie' Smith, Sr., West Sabine
- QB/DB Glenn Thornton, Sr., Groveton
- West Sabine at Lovelady, Oct. 7
- West Sabine at Centerville, Oct. 14
- Centerville at Lovelady, Oct. 21
- West Sabine at Groveton, Oct. 21
- Groveton at West Sabine, Oct. 21
- Centerville at Groveton, Oct. 28
- West Sabine at Deweyville, Oct. 28
- Groveton at Lovelady, Nov. 4
1. Lovelady Lions
- Coach: Jon Lowrey
- 2015 finish: 14-1 (2A D-I state semifinalist)
- Returning starters: 6 offensive, 5 defensive
Players to watch
- QB Lee Holsey, Sr., 6-0, 150 (1,300 total yards, 27 passing TDs)
- WR/DL Petey Little, Sr., 6-2, 190 (8 TD receptions)
- DB Ethan Campbell, Sr., 5-10, 145
- WR/LB Hunter Murray, Sr., 6-0, 175
2016 outlook: The defending district champs will begin the campaign as a half-and-half team. Eleven starters return, six on offense and five on defense.
Unfortunately, Lovelady will have to replace superstar running back Emanuel Williams. That back ran for 49 touchdowns and helped set up returning quarterback Lee Holsey for about 2,000 passing yards through a 15-game season that ended in the state semifinals.
Holsey has a bit of running ability though, so it's not as if the offense is entirely down without Williams in the fold. Petey Little had a solid 2015 season on the perimeter, eight touchdowns.
Lovelady should be OK immediately along the front seven. Four players are back.
Ethan Campbell is the only holdover in the secondary.
The 2016 season is a great opportunity for new players to make a name.
2. Centerville Tigers
- Coach: Kyle Hardee
- 2015 finish: 6-7 (2A D-I regional semifinalist)
- Returning starters: 5 offensive, 6 defensive
Players to watch
- TE/LB Coleman Robinson, Sr., 6-4, 220 (21 catches, 390 yards, 15 tackles, 55 knockdown blocks)
- QB/RB/LB Koy Howle, Sr., 5-11, 215 (513 rushing yards, 4 TDs)
- OL/DL Daniel Byrd, Jr., 6-2, 225 (48 tackles)
- OL/DL Connor Cox, 6-1, 260
- QB Hunter Free, Jr.
- RB/LB Brandon Madison, Jr.
2016 outlook: Centerville didn't take much of a step back last season off a regional championship game appearance in 2014 despite losing a majority of that team. It reached the regional semifinal round last year.
Can the squad make a similar run in about the same starting spot as last year? They'll be aided by 11 returning starters in total, five on offense and six on defense.
Offensively, not a lot stands out about this team other than senior athlete Coleman Robinson's 18.5 yards per reception at the tight end spot. However, head coach Kyle Hardee is optimistic some of his mid-level performers last season are ready to inherit bigger roles.
Koy Howle is someone to watch in his senior season. He's an athlete capable of playing any backfield spot.
The six returning defenders are part of a unit that averaged 21 points against through five district games last season. Centerville expects to be particularly strong along the front seven with Robinson and Howle back at defensive line and linebacker spots, respectively.
Daniel Byrd and Connor Cox stack the defensive line further as 6-foot tall players at 225 pounds or above.
3. Groveton Indians
- Coach: Brandon Craus
- 2014 finish: 3-8 (2A D-II bi-district finalist)
- Returning starters: 9 offensive, 6 defensive
Players to watch
- QB Glenn Thornton, Sr.,6-1, 175 (4,191 yards, 35 TDs, 15 INTs)
- WR/DB Dawson Chumley, Sr., 6-2, 160 (81 catches, 1,451 yards, 10 TDs)
- WR/DB, Saul Chavez, Jr., 5-6, 160 (80 catches, 1,242 yards, 12 TDs)
- OL/DL Cody Fairchild, Sr., 6-2, 210
- RB/DL Ethan Cathey, Sr., 5-10, 230
Offense: This is absolutely the strength of the Indians' team. This is probably the single best unit on either side of the ball on any district team.
Quarterback Glenn Thornton might be East Texas' best kept secret. At the ETSN.fm + APEC Football Recruiting Combine in May, the signal caller ran a 4.6-second, laser-timed 40-yard dash and threw the ball 47 yards from his knees.
Admittedly, Thornton's wild passing numbers are influenced on Groveton's extraordinarily heavy lean on its passing game, but he makes a strong early case for the district's Most Valuable Player award.
Of course, Thornton would be nothing without receivers Dawson Chumley and Saul Chavez.
Chumley led the team last season with 1,451 yards, which was the best average of any East Texas player last season by miles. And he only played in eight games.
Chavez added 1,242 yards in the Indians' 11-game campaign.
Defense: Returning six defensive starters from the 2015 team is pleasant, but Groveton has a lot to work on. It averaged 40 points against through its 11 ballgames and wasted two games where the offense scored 45 or more points.
Dawson Chumley and Saul Chavez, cornerbacks, add athleticism to the backfield.
Cody Fairchild and Ethan Cathey give the defensive line a bite. Both are above 200 pounds.
2016 outlook: Groveton has the ability to score. Will it have the ability to stop the district's best teams?
That's the big question entering league play Oct. 7 at Deweyville.
If the Indians pull it all together, you cannot rule them out of the district championship race.
4. West Sabine Tigers
- Coach: Jonathan Jones
- 2015 finish: 5-6 (2A D-I bi-district finalist)
- Returning starters: N/A
Players to watch
- QB/DB Demarie' Smith, Sr., 5-7, 145 (1,600 rushing yards, 23 rushing TDs, 400 passing yards, 6 TDs)
- OL/DL Nick Harper, Sr., 6-2, 225
- FB/DL Mark White, Sr., 5-8, 185
- LB/TE Hunter Brown, Jr.
Offense: Demarie' Smith can fly and will be utilized at multiple positions this season. The shifty backfield player rushed for about 1,600 yards last year and was the Tigers' leading scorer with 29 total touchdowns.
Running back Zack Franklin and fullback Mark White, both seniors, might be ready to help diversify the Tigers' running game.
The West Sabine offensive line is a little undersized, but Smith's numbers speak volumes for what the unit can do.
West Sabine averaged 27.2 points per district game last season against a different set of teams. The number went up to 34 points per game when factoring in five non-district games and a five-point, bi-district playoff loss to Harleton.
Defense: West Sabine has some work to do defensively. For the 34 points points the team averaged offensively last season, the defensive unit gave up 29.7 points in 11 games.
The Tigers lost two of their three one-possession games, including the playoff loss to Harleton.
West Sabine's front seven is its strength. Linebacker Hunter Brown made 52 tackles and defensive lineman Mark White recorded five sacks.
Demarie' Smtih can add some athleticism to the backfield if he needs to.
2016 outlook: The Tigers need to diversify their offense and become more stingy on defense. Even with some experience, neither issue is an automatic fix.
Maybe the change of district scenery will help West Sabine. Record wise, it was markedly better than the two teams still to come in the preview as well as Groveton and brings back its most valuable player -- the District Most Valuable Plater of District 10-2A Division I last season -- in Demarie' Smith.
5. Deweyville Pirates
- Coach: Lance Dale
- 2015 finish: 3-7
- Returning starters: 3 offensive, 5 defensive
Players to watch
- OL/DL Hunter Maloy, Sr., 6-3, 255
- QB Caden Hubbard, Sr., 6-1, 187
- RB Jordan Gray, Sr.
2016 outlook: Deweyville is tasked with replacing 14 starters from its 3-7 team last year, many of them counting as both offensive and defensive starters.
The good news is it lost a relatively small senior class. Fourteen of 23 players from the past season's roster will be back for another round of games.
Both sides of the ball have room for improvement. In five district games last season, Deweyville averaged just about 12 points and gave up 40.6 points.
6. Saratoga West Hardin Oilers
- Coach: Cody Day
- 2014 finish: 2-8
- Returning starters: 7 offensive, 7 defensive
Players to watch
- OL/DL Collin Chesson, Sr., 5-11, 260
- TE/LB Tyler Snead, Sr., 5-11, 175
2016 outlook: West Hardin was not competitive in the district a year ago. Bringing back seven starters on both sides of the ball is the most positive sign.
The program welcomed new head coach Cody Day into the fold during the offseason.
West Hardin needs to improve dramatically on offense. The team was outscored 242-34 in five district games last season.