The past two seasons, District 8-3A Division II has been the division's absolute best football district -- home of two-time defending state champion Waskom and a handful of other teams that made serious runs toward the state game.

Things have changed within the district and also within Region II of Division II following the University Interscholastic League's biennial realignment process. Region II as a whole is a murkier place, and two teams in this district seem to have a lot of room to make their own runs.

Winona, which survived the District 8-3A Division II gauntlet last season for a playoff appearance, and Harmony from the 3A Division I level effectively joined remnants of District 6-3A Division II under a new name.

The old District 6-3A Division II featured Alba-Golden and Lone Oak as its stars last season and also Edgewood. Those three teams stayed together.

Como-Pickton, a one-win team a season ago, also joined the fold.

The headline should tell you Harmony and battle-hardened Winona are the favorites to take this league. But in what order?

District 8-3A Division II features a lot of returning experience behind those two schools.

Which two teams do we see joining Harmony and Winona in the playoff mix?

ETSN.fm's district picks are here.

Harmony receiver and defensive back Konrad Eichelman is part of a very strong junior core for the Eagles. He will start both ways. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

District 8-3A Division II Preview

PLAYMAKERS

  • LB/FB Chase Boyd, Sr., Winona
  • OL/DL Jeremy Dawson, Sr., Harmony
  • WR/DB Konrad Eichelman, Jr., Harmony
  • QB/DB Trey Erwin, Sr., Edgewood
  • QB/DB Cody Frazier, Sr., Alba-Golden
  • DE Evan Galyean, Sr., Alba-Golden
  • WR Caleb Hart, Sr., Harmony
  • ATH Braxton Kincade, Sr., Winona
  • WR Frederick Reeves, Sr., Alba-Golden
  • DB/WR Damien Rogers, Sr., Lone Oak
  • QB/LB Spencer Seahorn, Jr., Harmony
  • DL/OL Tee Simmons, Sr., Winona
  • RB/LB Dee Wheeler, Sr., Winona

TOP GAMES

  • Harmony at Edgewood, Oct. 7
  • Winona at Lone Oak, Oct. 21
  • Abla-Golden at Edgewood, Oct. 28
  • Winona at Harmony, Oct. 28
  • Harmony at Lone Oak, Nov. 4

1. Winona Wildcats

Senior Winona running back Dee Wheeler just might be the district's most durable player. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)
  • Coach: Keylon Kincade
  • 2015 finish: 7-4 (3A D-II bi-district finalist)
  • Returning starters: 9 offensive, 8 defensive
Players to watch
  • ATH Braxton Kincade, Sr., 6-1, 170
  • RB/LB Dee Wheeler, Sr., 5-10, 210
  • DL/OL Tee Simmons, Sr., 6-1, 320
  • LB/FB Chase Boyd, Sr., 5-10, 170
  • WR/LB Zach Francis, Jr., 6-0, 185
  • ATH K.J. Kincade, Soph., 5-10, 170
WInona athlete K.J. Kincade. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Offense: Winona brings back a very experienced offensive unit that held its own in what easily was the best 3A Division II district in the state last season. Nine players are back from that team.

Braxton Kincade headlines the offense as a fourth-year varsity player. He'll play a lot of quarterback, but he also has the versatility to shift out to receiver or even to run the ball if he needs to. K.J. Kincade -- the head coach's son and Braxton Kincade's cousin -- will start at running back and will shift to quarterback in special situations.

K.J. Kincade adds an electric jolt to the running game, but senior Dee Wheeler will be the team's work horse. Wheeler is very durable at 210 pounds and was a first-team all-district selection last season.

The Wildcats' overall running game will be supplemented by center Kameron Pharis and perhaps last season's district defensive lineman of the year in Tee Simmons.

Winona averaged 23 points per game in 11 contests last year.

Big Tee Simmons is back for another season leading Winona's defensive line. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Defense: Braxton Kincade and K.J. Kincade will have roles in the backfield and should make it tough on the district's most athletic receivers, but the Wildcats will really live and die by what its defensive front can do.

Linebacker Chase Boyd had a great junior season and fellow linebacker Zach Francis was not far off Boyd's mark. At 320 pounds, Tee Simmons returns off of winning Winona's old district's defensive lineman of the year award.

While Winona's offense averaged about 23 points per game, the defense allowed 24.5 points against. With eight returning starters on the defensive side of the ball, it's a safe assumption this year's unit will be more formidable.

 

2016 outlook: Winona was a big winner in realignment. Not only did it not have to continue playing Arp, Waskom and West Rusk -- all of which reached at least the third round of the Division II playoffs last season -- the team won't face any of those potential opponents until the state championship game because those competing programs got moved to Region III while it stayed in Region II.

Netwon is another team in Region III predicted to make a strong run toward a championship.

With 17 starters returning and no clear front runner in Region II, things are aligning very well for a deep playoff run.

2. Harmony Eagles

Harmoyn quarterback Spencer Seahorn helps highlight a very deep junior group for head coach Tim Russell. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)
  • Coach: Tim Russell
  • 2015 finish: 7-5 (3A D-I area finalist)
  • Returning starters: 10 offensive, 6 defensive
Players to watch
  • WR/DB Konrad Eichelman, Jr., 6-1, 175
  • QB/LB Spencer Seahorn, Jr., 6-0, 200
  • OL/DL Jeremy Dawson, Sr., Sr., 6-1, 285
  • WR/DB Caleb Hart, Sr., 6-1, 165
  • OL/DL Waymon Lay, Sr., 6-4, 206
  • OL/DL Jeremy Dawson, Sr., Sr., 6-1, 285
  • RB/DB Mike Edmonson, Sr., 5-10, 160
  • WR/DB Jacob Kimmen, Sr., 6-2, 170
Eagles offensive lineman Waymon Lay. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Offense: Harmony loves to run the ball, but it is expected to open up the playbook this season with all but one starter from last season's team back in the fold. Junior quarterback Spencer Seahorn and receiver receiver Konrad Eichelman have started since their freshmen years and own head coach Tim Russell's trust.

The Eagles' depth on offense runs very deep.

There are at least six receivers that can be placed in the rotation. The offensive line is almost fully intact. Running back Mike Edmonson is back.

Harmony has virtually no question marks on offense and possesses a unit that averaged exactly 25 points per game last season.

Caleb Hart will be part of a deep defensive back rotation. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Defense: The Eagles are in good standing on this side of the ball as well with six players back and plenty of athleticism to supplement the back seven spots.

Defensive line is the point of most concern, but head coach Tim Russell is optimistic about the group. Some offensive linemen might be asked to go both ways, but a good 2015 junior varsity team might hold all the answers.

The further back Harmony's defense goes, the stronger it gets.

Konrad Eichelman and Caleb Hart are back in the secondary. Jacob Kimmen and Mike Edmonson also can be a part of that rotation of players.

The unit surrendered 22.5 points against per game in 12 contests.

 

2016 outlook: Harmony joins the all-new district as a serious contender for the league crown and much more.

Like Winona, the University Interscholastic League did the Eagles a favor in realignment by dropping them down from 3A Division I -- where the team faced state semifinalist Mineola as well as White Oak in district play.

Not that Tim Russell's squad couldn't compete with those two teams, especially with another year of experience under its belt, but Harmony will draw much fairer fights on the Division II level.

And, like for Winona, there is no clear favorite to win Region II.

 

3. Lone Oak Buffaloes

  • Coach: Luke Goode
  • 2015 finish: 5-7 (3A D-II area finalist)
  • Returning starters: 8 offensive, 5 defensive
Players to watch
  • DB Damion Rogers, Sr., 6-0, 175
  • LB/RB Ethan Hunt, Jr., 6-1, 205
  • OL/DL Fili Rincon, Sr., 6-2, 260
  • QB Dylan Bagerhuff, Jr., 5-7, 150

2016 outlook: Lone Oak is in a good starting position, in terms of returning staters with 13. The 2015 season was a mild disappointment off a nine-win campaign the year beforehand.

An immediate issue facing the squad is replacing decorated quarterback Jacob Williams. Dylan Bagerhuff, a junior, is the front runner to win the position as fall camp continues.

Damion Rogers makes a good case to win the district's most valuable player award. As a junior last season, Rogers recorded 85 tackles and three picks as a defensive back and about 400 yards at receiver.

Unfortunately, Lone Oak was a loser in realignment.

District 8-3A Division II is much tougher at the top than District 6-3A Division II was last season. An experienced Winona team has been battle hardened by participating in the state's best Division II district the past two years, and Harmony had similar experiences at the Division I level.

4. Edgewood Bulldogs

Edgewood quarterback Trey Erwin's career is off to a great start. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)
  • Coach: Ryan Simmons
  • 2015 finish: 4-7 (3A D-II bi-district finalist)
  • Returning starters: 8 offensive, 7 defensive
Players to watch
  • QB/DB Trey Erwin, Jr., 6-2, 175
  • RB/LB Tye Elie, Sr., 6-1, 225
  • WR/DB Trey King, Sr., 5-6, 150
  • RB/DB Turner Bannister, Jr., 5-10, 155
Bulldogs running back Tye Elie. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Offense: The Bulldogs have a very promising quarterback in Trey Erwin. As a sophomore, he threw for 1,740 yards and 14 scores and will get to work alongside seven other returning starters.

Running back Tye Elie is a big problem for opposing defenses at 6-foot-1 and 225 pounds. He will probably take the next step after a junior year where he ran for 440 yards and five touchdowns.

Egewood also has some quick, athletic receivers on the perimeter.

The best thing for the offense? Its offensive line is almost completely intact and should help the aforementioned guys hit bigger numbers.

Head coach Ryan Simmons' offense averaged about three touchdowns per game last season.

Edgewood defensive back and receiver Trey King. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Defense: Edgewood is another district team in good defensive standing, in terms of experience.

The unit will have to improve on the 29 points it averaged against in 11 games last season, but seven returning starters makes that seem a likely feat.

Tye Elie at linebacker and Trey King plus Turner Bannister available at defensive back spots are the names to know ahead of the season.

2016 outlook: Edgewood has an inside lane for a postseason spot in 2016 despite new hurdles being thrown into the mix.

A balanced non-district schedule highlighted by Clarksville, Commerce and Grand Saline should have the team feeling good ahead of a district-opening clash with Harmony.

 

5. Alba-Golden Panthers

  • Coach: Ron Callahan
  • 2015 finish: 8-3 (3A D-II bi-district finalist)
  • Returning starters: 3 offensive, 3 defensive
Players to watch
  • DL Evan Galyean, Sr., 6-0, 195
  • DB Cody Frazier, Sr., 6-1, 172
  • WR Frederick Reeves, Sr., 5-8, 145

Offense: Head coach Ron Callahan has been tasked with rebuilding an offense that averaged 23.1 points per game last season. Just three players are back from that unit.

Frederick Revves leads the three returners. He won a first-team all-district selection last season.

Thomas Mitchell has been tabbed as the new quarterback. The junior has good size at 6-feet and 185 pounds, and he could be a three-year solution.

Defense: Experience is scarce on the Panthers' defensive side as well, but there are some great players for the younger defenders to lean on.

Defensive lineman Evan Galyean and defensive back Cody Frazier won all-district selections last season. Frazier, in particular, has great size at 6-feet and 185 pounds at a safety spot.

Alba-Golden's newcomers have a high bar to try to reach. Last year's defense only averaged 12 points against per game.

2016 outlook: Obviously, head coach Ron Callahan's team lacks experience. Most teams in the league don't face that issue this season.

If the Panthers can take a game from Como-Pickton and steal two from Winona, Harmony, Lone Oak or Edgewood, they're going to be in good position to sneak into the playoffs.

6. Como-Pickton Eagles

  • Coach: Charles Swann
  • 2015 finish: 1-9
  • Returning starters: 8 offensive, 7 defensive
Players to watch
  • RB Colton Clark, Jr., 5-10, 180
  • LB/OL Heston Wilburn, Soph., 5-7, 160

Offense: Como-Pickton is banking on experience to make the offense more formidable this season.

Running back Colton Clark had a promising sophomore year. He ran for 812 yards a season ago. Fellow running backs Dantae Hall and Javard McGill make the position perhaps the deepest on the Eagles' entire team.

Of course when you're bringing back eight starters it means there's some experience on the offensive line. Heston Wilburn is a very small offensive lineman at 5-foot-7 and 165 pounds, but he'll headline a unit that is expected to be much better under second-year head coach Charles Swann.

The Eagles averaged 14.8 points per game last season.

Defense: Seven starters are back from a defensive unit that averaged about 38 points against per game last season.

Heston Wilburn had good numbers at linebacker last season and will anchor the unit.

It's a good bet Como-Pickton can lower its defensive totals this season with the seven returners.

2016 outlook: There is potential for head coach Charles Swann's second year in Como to go more smoothly than his first with 15 starters back and familiar with his systems.

Fair non-district games against Detroit and Hawkins will be a good gauge of Como-Pickton's potential ahead of running through the District 8-3A Division II schedule.