For years, the Kirbyville and Coldspring-Oakhurst programs have enjoyed great success in the southeast portion of Texas.

While both are expected to be strong again in 2016, Woodville is hoping to join the party as well.

The Eagles have 16 starters coming back from a seven-win playoff team, which gives Woodville head coach Ty Robinson and his players a ton of confidence heading into the new season.

District 11-3A Division I Preview

PLAYMAKERS

  • RB Ty Dennis, Sr., Kirbyville
  • LB Austin Reeves, Sr., Kirbyville
  • RB Don Taylor, Sr., Coldspring-Oakhurst
  • DL Michael Unger, Jr., Coldspring-Oakhurst
  • RB Remington Connell, Sr., Buna
  • LB Matthew Martin, Sr., Buna
  • RB Ivan Lockhart, Sr., Woodville
  • WR Nolan Hodge, Jr., Trinity
  • RB Keyshawn Adams, Soph., Kountze
  • ATH Andrew Gordon, Sr., Warren

 

TOP GAMES

  • Kirbyville at Woodville, Sept. 30
  • Woodville at Trinity, Oct. 7
  • Coldspring-Oakhurst at Woodville, Nov. 4

 

1. Kirbyville Wildcats

  • Coach: Greg Neece
  • 2015 finish: 10-2 (3A Division I area finalist)
  • Returning starters: 3 offensive, 4 defensive

 

Players to watch

  • RB Ty Dennis, Sr., 5-9, 170
  • LB Austin Reeves, Sr., 5-9, 210
  • WR Devin Tyler, Sr., 6-3, 193
  • OL/DL Zeke Olavarrita, Jr., 6-4, 215
  • WR/DB Joseph Fentress, Sr., 5-10, 165

 

Outlook: Kirbyville may only have three returning starters on the offensive side of the ball, but two of them are supreme standouts. Senior running back Ty Dennis rushed for more than 1,100 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2015, while senior wideout Devin Tyler eclipsed the 1,000-yard plateau and caught 10 TDs a season ago. The Wildcats will have some work to do on defense as well, but senior linebacker Austin Reeves returns after making more than 111 tackles with 4.5 sacks as a junior.

 

2. Coldspring-Oakhurst Trojans

  • Coach: Mark Byrd
  • 2015 finish: 7-5 (4A Division II area finalist)
  • Returning starters: 5 offensive, 3 defensive

Players to watch

  • QB Trey Higgins, Jr., 6-1, 160
  • RB Don Taylor, Sr., 5-8, 180
  • DL Michael Unger, Jr., 6-5, 265
  • DL Jahmon Henderson, Sr., 6-4, 193
  • ATH Irie Woods, Sr., 6-0, 150

Outlook: Like Kirbyville, Coldspring-Oakhurst reached the area round of the playoffs. But the Trojans are moving down from Class 4A to 3A, which may bode well for them. Coldspring-Oakurst returns five players with starting experience, including quarterback Trey Higgins, who passed for more than 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns a season ago. Senior running back Don Taylor also comes back after a 1,000-yard rushing year with five TDs. Trojans head coach Mark Byrd will need a few newcomers to step up on the defensive side of the ball, but junior defensive lineman Michael Unger is a disruptive force, evidenced by his eight sacks and 17 tackles for loss in 2015.

 

3. Buna Cougars

  • Coach: Bradley Morgan
  • 2015 finish: 5-6 (3A Division I bi-district finalist)
  • Returning starters: 10 offensive, 6 defensive

Players to watch

  • RB Remington Connell, Sr., 5-9, 150
  • LB Matthew Martin, Sr., 5-7, 160
  • DL Ethan Schaeffer, Sr.
  • QB Alex Connell, Soph., 5-10, 165
  • OL Justin Miller, Jr., 6-0, 235

Outlook: Buna averaged more than 30 points per game in 2015, and with 10 returning starters on the offensive side of the ball, the Cougars have the potential to be very explosive this season. Sophomore quarterback Alex Connell is a versatile weapon in the backfield, while senior running back Remington Connell gives the Cougars a dynamic duo on offense. Six starters return on defense, which allowed almost 35 points per game a season ago. Lineman Ethan Schaeffer and linebacker Matthew Martin are a couple of the defensive holdovers.

 

4. Woodville Eagles

  • Coach: Ty Robinson
  • 2015 finish: 7-4 (3A Division I bi-district finalist)
  • Returning starters: 8 offensive, 8 defensive

Players to watch

  • RB Ivan Lockhart, Sr., 6-0, 172
  • WR/DB Christian Williams, Jr., 6-3, 170
  • OL Seth Cashat, Sr., 6-4, 315
  • QB David Whitehead, Jr., 6-0, 175
  • WR Julius Midkiff, Sr., 5-9, 165
  • OL Cade Bass, Jr., 6-2, 300
  • DL Chris Castle, Sr., 6-0, 205
  • LB Kris Taylor, Sr.

Offense: The Woodville offense averaged 28 points per game in 2015, which was good enough to land the Eagles a playoff spot. With eight starters returning on the offensive side of the ball, the expectations for the Eagles are much higher in 2016. A big part of the puzzle will be senior running back Ivan Lockhart, who'll run behind an experienced offensive line, which includes 300-pounders Seth Cashat and Cade Bass. Quarterback David Whitehead returns to the lead offense after showing flashes of his potential as a sophomore. Receivers Christian Williams and Julius Midkiff are back as well, which could turn Woodville into one of the district's most complete offenses.

Defense: The Eagles' defense shined during stretches of the 2015 season, but poor performances in key games kept Woodville from taking its game to the next level. In their four losses last season, the Eagles allowed opposing offenses an average of 51.5 points per game. In the other seven games, Woodville limited teams to 20 points on average. With eight defenders returning with starting experience, expect Woodville's defense to be much improved moving forward. Senior lineman Chris Castle and senior linebacker Kris Taylor are two of the district's top players on the defensive side of the ball.

Outlook: With a total of 16 starters returning from a seven-win playoff team, Woodville expects big things in 2016. There doesn't appear to be much separation among the top half of the district, meaning Woodville could very well challenge for a league title. Head coach Ty Robinson will need his experienced offense and defense to both make positive strides if Woodville is to seriously challenge Kirbyville or Coldspring-Oakhurst for the top spot in 11-3A Division I.

 

5. Trinity Tigers

  • Coach: Eric Droddy
  • 2015 finish: 7-4 (3A Division II bi-district finalist)
  • Returning starters: N/A

Players to watch

  • OL Anthony Eaton, Jr.
  • OL Brandon Phillips, Jr., 6-0, 275
  • WR Nolan Hodge, Jr., 6-4, 153
  • WR D'Ante Thomas, Soph., 5-7, 150
  • LB Marquinn Goodall, Jr., 5-10, 185

Outlook: Trinity makes the jump up to 3A Division I after reaching the bi-district round of the playoffs in Division II a season ago. The Tigers' strength on offense will be a line that includes a couple of standout juniors in Anthony Eaton and Brandon Phillips. Trinity's receiving corps should be in good shape as well with junior Nolan Hodge and sophomore D'Ante Thomas expected to contribute once again. First-year head coach Eric Droddy will have a few defensive veterans to build around, including junior linebacker Marquinn Goodall.

 

6. Kountze Lions

  • Coach: Duane Joubert
  • 2015 finish: 2-8
  • Returning starters: 5 offensive, 5 defensive

Players to watch

  • RB Keyshawn Adams, Soph., 5-6, 165
  • ATH Dallion Edwards, Jr., 6-1, 155
  • DL Brad Barry, Jr., 5-11, 185
  • WR/LB Jeremiah Barker, Jr., 6-2, 193
  • QB/DB Brayden Voightman, Jr.

Outlook: It was a rough 2015 season for Kountze, which came away with just two victories. Head coach Duane Joubert is hoping that his 10 returning starters can help transform the Lions into playoff contenders this season. The offense will rely on running back Keyshawn Adams, who rushed for more than 600 yards as a freshman, and Dallion Edwards, a versatile athlete that passed for 500 yards a season ago. Kountze could field a much better defense in 2016 with the return of junior lineman Brad Barry, junior linebacker Jeremiah Barker, and junior defensive back Brayden Voightman.

 

7. Warren Warriors

  • Coach: Jay Buckner
  • 2015 finish: 2-8
  • Returning starters: 4 offensive, 4 defensive

Players to watch

  • ATH Andrew Gordon, Sr.
  • OL Bronson Foxworth, Sr.
  • OL/LB Shawn Fortenberry, Sr.
  • RB/DB Jairus Williams, Sr., 5-7, 185
  • WR/DB Bowen Christy, Soph.

Outlook: Not much went right for Warren a season ago, and with only eight returning starters to work with, head coach Jay Buckner will need several newcomers to step into impact roles in 2016. Hopes are high for senior Andrew Gordon, who could serve a variety of roles on the offensive side of the ball for the Warriors. Defensively, senior linebacker Shawn Fortenberry will lead the way for Warren.