Liberty-Eylau rolled to a district championship in 2015, and despite losing several key pieces from last season's state quarterfinalist team, the Leopards appear to be in prime position to repeat as league champs.

District 7-4A Division I sets up nice for Liberty-Eylau, but the Leopards could be challenged by a Paris team that returns several impact performers.

District 7-4A Division I Preview

Liberty-Eylau DL Lagaryonn Carson. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

PLAYMAKERS

  • DL Lagaryonn Carson, Sr., Liberty-Eylau
  • OL/DL Franklin Smith, Sr., Liberty-Eylau
  • LB Dre McKinney, Sr., Paris
  • WR Jalon Pipkins, Sr., Paris
  • DL Dylan Templeman, Sr., Princeton
  • QB Jacob Purdon, Jr., Princeton
  • RB Javon Franklin, Sr., Paris North Lamar
  • LB/DB Ty Waggoner, Sr., Paris North Lamar
  • WR Steven Lee, Sr., Anna
  • ATH Dillon Norris, Sr., Quinlan Ford

 

TOP GAMES

  • Liberty-Eylau at Texas High, Sept. 9
  • Liberty-Eylau at Paris, Oct. 7
  • Paris North Lamar at Anna, Oct. 7

 

1. Liberty-Eylau Leopards

Liberty-Eylau RB Kameron Levingston. (Evan Lewis, ETSN.fm)
  • Coach: Steve Wells
  • 2015 finish: 12-2 (4A Division I quarterfinalist)
  • Returning starters: 5 offensive, 5 defensive

 

Players to watch

  • DL Lagaryonn Carson, Sr., 6-5, 255 (committed to Texas)
  • WR Aaron Bruce, Sr., 6-1, 175
  • RB/LB DeAndre Hoof, Jr., 5-10, 185
  • QB Decorian Phillips, Jr., 6-0, 162
  • OL/DL Franklin Smith, Sr., 6-3, 275
  • QB Isaiah Cross, Soph., 6-0, 147
  • RB Kameron Levingston, Sr., 5-8, 175
  • DL/LB Michael Lindley, Sr., 5-11, 210

 

Offense: It was a banner year for the Liberty-Eylau offense in 2015 as the Leopards put up an average of 45.6 points per game. It may be difficult to duplicate those kind of numbers this season after L-E graduated its three top offensive weapons in quarterback Ke'Mon Freeman (SMU), receiver Thurman Morbley (Texas State), and running back Lamont Byrd. Fortunately for head coach Steve Wells, he will have a few experienced playmakers returning to the field in 2016. Running back Kameron Levingston split carries with Byrd a season ago, and should be ready to take charge of the No. 1 spot. L-E will be breaking in a new QB, and a few new weapons at receiver, including promising senior Aaron Bruce.

Liberty-Eylau LB Michael Lindley. (Evan Lewis, ETSN.fm)

Defense: Despite graduating seven starters off the defense last year, including linebacker Demarcus Pegue and safety Andre Wiley Jr., L-E figures to be just fine on the defensive side of the ball this season. It all starts up front with defensive end and Texas Longhorns commit Lagaryonn Carson, was the state's Defensive Player of the Year in Class 4A in 2015. Backing him up will be hard-hitting linebacker Michael Lindley, and junior linebacker DeAndre Hoof, who might see some work as a running back on offense as well.

Outlook: The Leopards are 6-2 in the playoffs over the last two seasons, but with several impact performers from the previous two years gone, it will be a challenge for Liberty-Eylau to get back to the state quarterfinals for a third consecutive year. But if L-E can find some stability at quarterback, and new playmakers begin to emerge in the receiving corps, the Leopards should have the horses needed to carry them for another long postseason journey.

 

2. Paris Wildcats

  • Coach: Steven Hohenberger
  • 2015 finish: 6-5 (4A Division I bi-district finalist)
  • Returning starters: 7 offensive, 7 defensive

Players to watch

  • LB Dre McKinney, Sr., 6-1, 230
  • RB Ja'Kerion Brown, Sr., 5-7, 162
  • OL Mitchell Cole, Sr., 6-4, 310
  • WR Jalon Pipkins, Sr., 6-2, 162
  • RB Donovan Williams, Soph., 5-10, 185

Outlook: The Wildcats return a lot of firepower from last season's playoff squad, but must find a replacement for the production graduated quarterback Quez Allen generated in 2015. It won't be easy for head coach Steven Hohenberger, but the Wildcats are experienced in developing talented athletes. Running backs Ja'Keron Brown and Donovan Williams combined to rush for more than 1,200 yards a season ago, while receiver Jalon Pipkins is a big-play machine in the passing game. The defense returns quite a few experienced playmakers, including senior linebacker Dre McKinney.

 

3. Princeton Panthers

  • Coach: Lee Wilkins
  • 2015 finish: 7-4 (4A Division I bi-district finalist)
  • Returning starters: 6 offensive, 5 defensive

Players to watch

  • DL Dylan Templeman, Sr., 6-3, 265
  • DB Regan Wilkins, Sr., 6-0, 200
  • WR Kai Brinkerhoff, Sr., 5-10, 165
  • RB Philip Mayfield, Jr., 5-7, 148
  • QB Jacob Purdon, Jr., 6-2, 190

Outlook: Princeton got off to a hot start in 2015 by winning six of its first seven games, but faded down the stretch with losses in three of its final four. The Panthers are hoping to start and finish strong this season, and with half of their starters returning from last year, they feel like this group can accomplish just that. Princeton has a strong playmaking trio on offense with the return of quarterback Jacob Purdon, running back Philip Mayfield, and receiver Kai Brinkerhoff. The defense appears to be in good shape as well, as the Panthers welcome back lineman Dylan Templeman and defensive back Regan Wilkins.

 

4. Paris North Lamar Panthers

  • Coach: Aaron Emeyabbi
  • 2015 finish: 5-5
  • Returning starters: 8 offensive, 10 defensive

Players to watch

  • RB Javon Franklin, Sr., 5-8, 150
  • WR/DB Menderiz Gray, Sr., 5-11, 185
  • OL Ryder Bryant, Sr., 6-4, 285
  • WR/DB Sam Cowling, Sr., 5-10, 160
  • LB/DB Ty Waggoner, Sr., 5-10, 175

Outlook: North Lamar will try to break through in 2016 after breaking even last season and just missing out on the playoffs. The Panthers have the most returning starters of any team in the district with 18 (eight offensive, 10 defensive). Senior running back Javon Franklin is a game-changer out of North Lamar's backfield, while Menderiz Gray and Sam Cowling are difference-makers downfield in the passing game. The Panthers' experienced defense will be led by LB/DB hybrid Ty Waggoner, one of the district's best all-around defenders.

 

5. Anna Coyotes

  • Coach: Jason Heath
  • 2015 finish: 3-9 (4A Division II area finalist)
  • Returning starters: 7 offensive, 7 defensive

Players to watch

  • WR Steven Lee, Sr., 6-1, 180
  • WR/DB Keelan Crosby, Jr., 6-1, 175
  • RB/LB Daunte Rose, Sr., 6-1, 190
  • LB Antonio Barragan, Sr., 5-9, 165
  • OL Jeran Lewis, Jr., 6-2, 230

Outlook: Anna won only two regular season games in 2015, but it was enough to qualify the Coyotes for the playoffs. Anna even grabbed a postseason win before it was all said and done, but a new year brings new challenges for the Coyotes. Anna makes the move up from 4A Division II to Division I, so getting a shot at the postseason will be a little more challenging. Of the 14 returning starters, senior receiver Steven Lee might be the best after he posted nearly 1,000 yards a season ago. Keelan Crosby and Daunte Rose are offensive standouts as well, while linebacker Antonio Barragan will anchor an experienced defense.

 

6. Quinlan Ford Panthers

  • Coach: Todd Wallace
  • 2015 finish: 1-9
  • Returning starters: 6 offensive, 6 defensive

Players to watch

  • ATH Dillon Norris, Sr., 5-11, 160
  • QB/DB Linus Beierschmitt, Jr., 5-11, 160
  • RB Blane Burch, Sr., 5-7, 150
  • WR/DB Dustin Fulbright, Jr., 5-10, 160
  • LB Kolby McKenzie, Sr., 5-8, 210

Outlook: Not much went right last season for Quinlan Ford, which struggled through a 1-9 campaign. The Panthers averaged just 14.4 points per game, while allowing 46.3 to opposing offenses. Obviously those numbers must improve if Ford hopes to snap its playoff drought. With 12 returning starters at his disposal, head coach Todd Wallace believes he has the players needed to help right the ship. Senior Dillon Norris is a versatile weapon on offense, while running back Blane Burch is a speedster out of the Panthers' backfield.