2017 Football Preview: Can Anyone Stop Loaded Tenaha in 11-2A D-II?
With 19 starters back from last season's Class 2A Division II quarterfinalist squad, it's almost a foregone conclusion that Tenaha will repeat as District 11-2A champions.
The Tigers are comprised of a talented nucleus that has been playing together for three years on the varsity level.
But the rest of the district has experience as well.
Last season's district runner-up, Overton, needs to find a new quarterback, but 16 returning starters should ease the transition. Grapeland has its 2,000-yard passer back along with several impact performers from 2016, and Timpson has more than half of its starters returning as well.
Tenaha might blow through the district again, but the race for second place should be an interesting one.
ETSN.fm’s District 11-2A Division II picks are just a scroll away.
District 11-2A Division II Preview
- WR/LB Josh Ackley, Jr., Grapeland
- RB/DB Joe Clark, Sr., Overton
- QB Rick Frauenberger, Jr., Grapeland
- WR/DB Trai Gardner, Sr., Tenaha
- LB Tavoris Giles, Sr., Tenaha
- QB CJ Horn, Sr., Tenaha
- QB/LB Jase Jones, Sr., Mount Enterprise
- OL/DL Ashton King, Sr., Overton
- WR/DB Jay Lloyd, Jr., Tenaha
- RB/DB Jordan Osby, Jr., Timpson
- Sept. 1 -- Joaquin at Tenaha
- Sept. 29 -- Tenaha at West Sabine
- Oct. 13 -- Overton at Grapeland
- Oct. 27 -- Mount Enterprise at Wortham
- Nov. 3 -- Overton at Tenaha
1. Tenaha Tigers
- Coach: Craig Horn
- 2016 finish: 13-1 (2A Division II quarterfinalist)
- Returning starters: 10 offensive, 9 defensive
Players to watch
- WR/DB Trai Gardner, Sr., 6-0, 183 (74 catches, 1,410 yards, 21 TDs; 9 carries, 260 yards, 5 TDs; 35 tackles, 5 for loss, 1 sack, 5 INTs, 8 PBUs, 2 forced fumbles, 3 recoveries)
- LB Tavoris Giles, Sr., 5-10, 175 (150 tackles, 16 for loss, 2 sacks, 1 INT, 2 forced fumbles, 2 recoveries)
- QB CJ Horn, Sr., 6-0, 195 (203 of 277, 3,386 yards, 43 TDs, 4 INTs; 35 carries, 225 yards, 7 TDs)
- WR/DB Jay Lloyd, Jr., 5-11, 170 (52 catches, 929 yards, 9 TDs; 15 carries, 286 yards, 7 TDs; 50 tackles, 2 for loss, 1 INT, 9 PBUs)
- RB Onterio Thompson, Sr., 5-9, 172 (101 carries, 898 yards, 17 TDs; 17 catches, 218 yards, 5 TDs)
- RBLaDarrius Garrett, Sr., 5-9, 160 (87 carries, 761 yards, 7 TDs; 17 catches, 157 yards, 1 TD)
- OL/DL Juarmez Brock, Jr., 6-0, 225 (116 tackles, 17 for loss, 2 sacks, 2 PBUs, 1 forced fumble)
- WR/DB Cody Foshee, Sr., 6-1, 150 (20 catches, 396 yards, 3 TDs; 19 tackles, 7 INTs, 15 PBUs)
Offense: Everywhere you look, there are playmakers. From third-year starting quarterback CJ Horn to do-it-all receiver Trai Gardner, there's a lot to like about the Tigers' offense.
Horn, the son of head coach Craig Horn, has thrown for almost 6,000 yards and more than 70 touchdowns in his first two seasons at quarterback. And with the full compliment of receivers returning, including Gardner and Jay Lloyd who combined for 30 scoring receptions in 2016, expect even greater production this fall.
The running game is on solid footing as well with the return of seniors Onterio Thompson and LaDarrius Garrett, who teamed for more than 1,600 yards and 24 touchdowns on the ground.
Tenaha averaged almost 49 points per game a season ago, and with all but one starter returning, it's pretty much a foregone conclusion that the Tigers will continue to score at will.
Defense: Some of the same members of offense go both ways, and return to a defense that was dominant in 2016. Gardner, Lloyd, and Cody Foshee will headline a secondary after the trio amassed a total of 13 interceptions last year.
Senior linebacker Tavoris Giles is the heart and soul of the unit after he came away with a team-best 150 tackles as a junior. Up front, lineman Juarmez Brock is the key to stopping the run after he finished last season with 17 tackles for loss.
Nine starters return to a defense that limited opponents to just 87 points all year, an average of just 6.2 per game. Tenaha authored eight shutouts a season ago, and the most points it allowed in a game was 31, which came in the Tigers' state quarterfinal loss to eventual state champion Bremond.
2017 outlook: The objective is clear for Tenaha: win it all. With the graduation of record-setting Bremond quarterback Roshauud Paul (Texas A&M signee), who was responsible for two of Tenaha's last three playoff losses, the stage is set for Tenaha to return to the state championship round for the first time since 2012.
Tenaha might get a challenge from Joaquin, which it defeated 14-0 last year, in the season opener. But it doesn't seem likely any team in 11-2A Division II will give the Tigers a serious challenge. While four of the league's five other teams bring back at least half of last season's starters, Tenaha had little trouble with them in 2016. The Tigers outscored their district counterparts, 264-32.
2. Overton Mustangs
- Coach: Richard Strickland
- 2016 finish: 8-3 (2A Division II area finalist)
- Returning starters: 8 offensive, 8 defensive
Players to watch
- RB/DB Joe Clark, Sr., 5-6, 155 (120 carries, 1,108 yards, 10 TDs; 16 catches, 389 yards, 3 TDs; 48 tackles, 2 INTs)
- OL/DL Ashton King, Sr., 5-10, 285
- QB/DB Levi McCasland, Jr., 6-3, 185 (85 tackles, 2 INTs)
- FB/LB Hudson Rogers, Jr., 5-10, 170 (39 carries, 274 yards, 3 TDs; 11 catches, 135 yards; 97 tackles, 2 sacks)
- OL/DL Austin Boehm, Sr., 6-1, 215 (43 tackles, 1 sack)
- OL Brandon Allison, Sr., 5-11, 295
- LB Luke Osburn, Jr., 5-7, 140 (48 tackles)
- TE/LB Shawn Sartors, Sr., 6-4, 165 (9 catches, 99 yards, 2 TDs; 37 tackles, 1 sack)
Offense: Second-year coach Richard Strickland returns eight starters on the offensive side of the ball, but the Mustangs will be inexperienced at quarterback following the graduation of Jacob Marshall, who produced more than 2,400 yards of offense and was responsible for 30 of the team's 58 offensive touchdowns.
Standout safety Levi McCasland, Luke Osburn, and Cole Marshall will each get a shot at the starting job.
The running game should be in good hands with the return of leading rusher Joe Clark, who seems poised to improve on his 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns from 2016. Fullback Hudson Rogers will also contribute out of the backfield.
Perhaps the team's biggest strength is along the offensive line, where Coach Strickland returns Ashton King, Austin Boehm, and Brandon Allison.
Overton averaged almost 36 points per game a season ago, and if the Mustangs are able to find a capable quarterback, it could be another big year for the Overton offense.
Defense: The Mustangs are equally experienced on defense. Clark, McCasland, Rogers, Osburn, and Shawn Sartors will be anchors for Overton's stop unit.
Last season, Overton played well on the defensive side of the ball, limiting opponents to less than 25 points per game. In district, the Mustangs' dominance on "D" was more pronounced, yielding only 21.4.
In a district full of experienced playmakers on offense, Overton's defense must rely on its own seasoning to counteract it.
2017 outlook: Overton was the only team in the district to play Tenaha somewhat competitively. Tenaha's 18-point margin of victory was by far its smallest against league competition.
The district as a whole, including Tenaha, is expected to be even better in 2017, and if Overton can duplicate its regular-season success from a year ago, a longer journey in the playoffs might be possible.
Following an impressive opening-round win over Hull-Daisetta last year, Overton was upended by Bremond in the next round, 48-13.
3. Grapeland Sandies
- Coach: Wayne Mahaffey
- 2016 finish: 5-6 (2A Division II bi-district finalist)
- Returning starters: 7 offensive, 8 defensive
Players to watch
- WR/LB Josh Ackley, Jr., 5-9, 150
- QB Rick Frauenberger, Jr., 6-3, 170
- OL/DL Tanner Keith, Sr., 6-3, 295
- LB James Cameron, Jr., 5-11, 157
- RB Brayden Cheatham, Sr., 5-11, 165
- LB Aaron Davis, Sr., 5-7, 205
- WR/DB Cameron Mixon, Sr., 5-2, 105
- OL/DL Ashton Henry, Sr., 6-1, 205
Offense: Any time you return a quarterback with starting experience, expectations are high. And that's the case with Grapeland and its junior signal-caller Rick Frauenberger.
Last season, Frauenberger eclipsed 2,000 yards through the air, guiding the Sandies to the playoffs despite beginning district play at 0-3.
Receivers Josh Ackley and Cameron Mixon, and running back Brayden Cheatham are part of a returning nucleus that helped Grapeland average more than 30 points per game offensively.
Offensive linemen Tanner Keith and Ashton Henry represent one of the top O-line duos in the entire district.
Defense: If Grapeland had a glaring weakness in 2016 it was on defense, where the Sandies gave up an average of more than 30 points per game.
The defensive inefficiencies showed up early in district when Grapeland allowed a total of 114 points in losses to Overton, Timpson, and Tenaha.
The Sandies bring back eight defensive starters, including a talented trio of linebackers in Ackley, James Cameron, and Aaron Davis.
2017 outlook: Grapeland has enough solid experience returning to make a run at Overton for second place in the district. Having Frauenberger back at quarterback could go a long way in determining the final league standings.
The schedule sets up favorably for the Sandies as well.
Grapeland begins district at home against Overton before traveling to Timpson. The first two league games should tell us quite a bit about what kind of season the Sandies will ultimately have.
4. Timpson Bears
- Coach: Kerry Therwhanger
- 2016 finish: 5-5 (2A Division II bi-district finalist)
- Returning starters: 8 offensive, 9 defensive
Players to watch
- RB Jordan Osby, Jr., 5-11, 175
- OL/DL Nictaeo Scourton, Jr., 5-9, 260
- RB/DB Jaden Johnson, Sr., 5-10, 180
- LB Jarrett Page, Soph., 5-6, 165
- QB Jon Grogan, Jr.
- WR Kaeson Gentry, Sr., 5-4, 115
Offense: Despite being extremely young on the offensive side of the ball, the Bears were able to hold their own. Timpson finished by averaging more than 28 points per game.
And with eight offensive starters returning, expect Timpson's numbers on this side of the ball to be even better in 2017.
The keys are the backfield duo of Jordan Osby and Jaden Johnson. If those two can have successful individual seasons, it could be a big years for Timpson. The Bears are still relying on several underclassmen on offense, but the experience gained last season should be beneficial moving forward.
Defense: The defensive side of the ball was a bright spot for Timpson, which allowed a respectable 21.7 points per game in 2016.
Take away district losses to Tenaha and Overton, and the Bears yielded a total of 25 points in their three wins in 11-2A Division II play.
Timpson is even more experienced on defense with nine players back that started a season ago.
2017 outlook: Timpson finished third in the district last year, and there doesn't seem to be much separation between between the Bears, Overton, and Grapeland. So the battle for the second place could be an exciting one.
A tough non-district schedule featuring games against West Sabine, Carlisle, and Lovelady should get Timpson aptly prepared for the grind of 11-2A Division II.
5. Wortham Bulldogs
- Coach: Chris Tobola
- 2016 finish: 4-6
- Returning starters: 5 offensive, 4 defensive
Players to watch
- RB Stephon Ester, Sr., 5-10, 170
- RB/LB Dalton Sandlin, Sr., 5-10, 210
- OL/DL Dylan Martin, Sr., 6-0, 190
- WR/DB Braxton Whaley, Sr., 5-11, 155
2017 outlook: Wortham will enter the season the least experienced of the six teams from the district. And after the Bulldogs won just once in league play a season ago, 2017 could be a challenge for Wortham.
The duo of Stephon Ester and Dalton Sandlin out of the backfield will be counted upon to have monster seasons if Wortham hopes to seriously mount a challenge for one of the four playoff spots.
The good news is that the Bulldogs have home games against both Timpson and Grapeland.
6. Mount Enterprise Wildcats
- Coach: Scott Holzhauer
- 2016 finish: 1-9
- Returning starters: 8 offensive, 8 defensive
Players to watch
- QB Jase Jones, Sr., 6-0, 170
- LB Jacob Oswald, Sr., 6-0, 217
- RB Kendre Miller, Soph., 6-1, 185
- WR Derrick Jackson, Soph., 6-2, 165
- WR Christian Newman, Soph., 5-8, 130
- LB Hugo Mejia, Sr.
Offense: The 2016 season wasn't kind to the Wildcats, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Mount Enterprise managed to score just 12 points per game, and was shut out twice.
Mount Enterprise scored 34 and 36 points in back-to-back games during non-district, but fell on hard times after that. The Wildcats scored a total of just 48 points over their final seven games.
Head coach Scott Holzhauer does, however, bring back an experienced nucleus of players, including quarterback Jase Jones. His senior leadership will be counted upon as he'll be surrounded by a trio of sophomore skill players in receivers Derrick Jackson and Christian Newman, and running back Kendre Miller.
Defense: Things weren't smooth on defense last year either for Mount Enterprise, which allowed more than 47 points per game.
It was worse in district play, when the Wildcats yielded a scoring average of 54.6.
Just like the other side of the ball, Mount Enterprise's defense returns eight starters. Linebackers Jacob Oswald and Hugo Mejia figure to be the Wildcats' most consistent defenders.
2017 outlook: It is true that Mount Enterprise returns the majority of 2016's starters, but it remains to be seen if the offseason has sufficiently closed the gap enough for the Wildcats to compete with the rest of the district.
Mount Enterprise was outscored by 45 points per game in league play a season ago, so the Wildcats will obviously have to improve quite a bit to become a serious threat to reach the postseason this year.