Welcome to the least predictable district in East Texas -- 11-2A Division I.

Here, you'll find one of the most tradition-laden programs in the state with Alto, an offensive juggernaut a few defenders away from being state-title contenders in San Augustine, and a Carlisle program that's been as about as consistently successful as any 2A team in the region.

Throw in Joaquin and a Shelbyville program that went through a rebuild in 2016, and it goes without saying that anything could happen in this district.

Scroll down to see our district picks, which were almost like drawing teams out of a hat.

District 11-2A Division I Preview

Alto WR/DB Jaqualon Finley. (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)
PLAYMAKERS
  • WR/DB QuenTyvian Borders, Sr., San Augustine
  • QB Tristan Craig, Sr., Carlisle
  • QB/LB Austin Davis, Sr., Cushing
  • RB/DB K.J. Davis, Sr., San Augustine
  • WR/DB Jaqualon Finley, Sr., Alto
  • ATH C.J. Kirkwood, Sr., Shelbyville
  • QB/DB Gavin Murr, Sr., San Augustine
  • WR/DB Jay Price, Jr., Carlisle
  • QB/DL Fred Thacker, Jr., Alto
  • WR/LB Kyle Tindol, Sr., Shelbyville
  • RB/LB Jordan Townsend, Sr., Cushing
  • QB/DB Tray Wilkerson, Sr., Joaquin
  • DL Ra'Dedrick Woodson, Sr., Alto
  • RB/LB Kase Yates, Sr., Joaquin

 

TOP GAMES
  • Sept. 15 -- Alto at Arp
  • Sept. 15 -- San Augustine at Groveton
  • Oct. 20 -- Joaquin at Shelbyville
  • Oct. 27 -- San Augustine at Alto
  • Nov. 10 -- San Augustine at Carlisle
Alto OL/DL Steven Soto (left) and DL Ra'Dedrick Woodson. (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

1. Alto Yellowjackets

  • Coach: Paul Gould
  • 2016 finish: 7-4 (2A Division I bi-district finalist)
  • Returning starters: 8 offensive, 8 defensive

Players to watch

  • QB/DL Fred Thacker, Jr., 6-2, 253 (58 of 102, 949 yards, 11 TDs, 4 INTs; 2,117 rushing yards, 30 TDs)
  • WR/DB Jaqualon Finley, Sr., 5-10, 180 (116 tackles, 34 for loss, 5 sacks, 2 INTs, 8 forced fumbles, 4 recoveries)
  • DL Ra'Dedrick Woodson, Sr., 5-8, 276
  • OL/DL Steven Soto, Sr., 5-11, 270 (94 percent grade, 62 pancakes, 81 knockdowns)
  • WR Jayren Whitaker, Sr., 6-2, 175
  • LB Harmon West, Soph., 6-0, 180
  • DB Chris Jackson, Jr., 6-1, 170
  • DB Skyler Atkins, Jr., 5-9, 175

 

Alto QB/DL Fred Thacker. (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Offense: Despite failing to win a playoff game last year for the first time since 2010, the Alto offense showed glimpses of brilliance, and it was mainly through the play of quarterback Fred Thacker.

While Thacker is most definitely a run-first signal-caller, in the vain of former Alto quarterback and current Tulsa receiver Keenen Johnson, passing could become more of a weapon for the Yellowjackets this year.

Expect to see defensive captain Jaqualon Finley used at the receiver position to compliment to Jayren Whitaker's playmaking abilities.

The offensive line, a strength last season, will once again be anchored by all-stater Steven Soto.

Alto DL Ra'Dedrick Woodson. (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Defense: Alto has always had a reputation of fast and physical defenses, but the production tailed off last season as the 'Jackets surrendered an average of almost 28 points per game.

Thacker and Finley double as stalwarts on the defensive side of the ball, and senior lineman Ra'Dedrick Woodson is hoping to build off a strong junior season and control the line of scrimmage.

The Alto offense should be much improved in 2017 with a year of seasoning under the belts of Thacker and Co. If the 'Jackets want to get to the next level this season, stronger play on defense is a must.

2017 outlook: Alto unexpectedly got off to an 0-2 start in district a season ago with losses to Joaquin and Carlisle, in which the 'Jackets scored a total of 14 points. But Alto rallied to roll in its final three games, averaging 48 points in the process.

The season ultimately came to an end against Centerville, the eventual regional champ, in the opening round of the playoffs.

For Alto to avoid another first-round exit, it must play better in district and avoid another potential meeting with Centerville in bi-district come November.

A brutal non-district schedule featuring games against Winona, Big Sandy, Arp, Garrison, and Rusk should get the 'Jackets prepared for what will be another challenging stretch in 11-2A Division I.

San Augustine RB/DB K.J. Davis. (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

2. San Augustine Wolves

  • Coach: Marty Murr
  • 2016 finish: 8-5 (2A Division I regional semifinalist)
  • Returning starters: 8 offensive, 8 defensive

Players to watch

  • WR/DB QuenTyvian Borders, Sr., 6-2, 180 (56 catches, 1,376 yards, 16 TDs; 93 tackles, 3 INTs, 11 PBUs, 1 forced fumble; committed to Stephen F. Austin)
  • QB/DB Gavin Murr, Sr., 5-11, 180 (175 of 306, 3,007 yards, 32 TDs, 8 INTs; 73 carries, 536 yards, 1 TD; 43 tackles, 3 for loss, 3 PBUs, 1 forced fumble)
  • RB/DB K.J. Davis, Sr., 5-8, 175 (275 carries, 1,878 yards, 24 TDs; 19 catches, 271 yards, 1 TD; 52 tackles, 5 for loss, 1 sack, 1 INT, 2 PBUs, 1 forced fumble)
  • WR/DB Kris Wade, Sr., 6-0, 170
  • WR/LB Quay Johnson, Sr., 5-6, 170 (32 catches, 427 yards, 7 TDs; 16 carries, 59 yards, 1 TD; 33 tackles, 7 for loss, 2 sacks, 3 INTs, 2 PBUs, 1 forced fumble)
  • WR/DB Ced Thomas, Sr., 6-1, 168 (31 catches, 461 yards, 7 TDs; 20 tackles, 1 INT, 2 PBUs, 1 fumble recovery)
  • OL Quen Holman, Jr., 5-5, 250
  • DL Hunter Carpenter, Jr., 5-8, 210

 

San Augustine QB/DB Gavin Murr. (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Offense: Scoring points shouldn't be a problem for San Augustine, which returns eight offensive starters to a unit that averaged almost 35 points in 2016.

Back to pilot the offense is head coach Marty Murr's son, Gavin Murr. Last season, he eclipsed the 3,000-yard mark and had a 4:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

Gavin Murr will have ample weapons to utilize, including senior wideout QuenTyvian Borders, an SFA commit who caught 16 touchdown passes and had more than 1,300 yards receiving.

Add Quay Johnson and Ced Thomas into the mix, and opposing defenses will have a tough time getting all the Wolves covered.

If that weren't enough, 1,800-yard rusher K.J. Davis returns as well.

San Augustine WR/DB Kris Wade. (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Defense: If there is one thing that can keep San Augustine from having a truly memorable season it's its defense. Last season, the Wolves gave up an average of more than 31 points per game.

With eight defensive starters returning, there should be enough experience to at least minimize some of last year's issues.

Borders is a force in the back end at safety, and Kris Wade, a move-in from Nacogdoches, is one of the best cornerbacks in all of East Texas.

The main point of emphasis this season will be with the players up front, where games are often won and lost.

2017 outlook: There's no question San Augustine has the firepower to not only challenge for the district title, but also be in the running for the regional championship.

Few teams at the 2A level can match the Wolves' offensive skill, as evidenced by San Augustine's impressive run at the state 7-on-7 tournament over the summer.

In order for San Augustine to take the next step, it must prove it can win games on the defensive end as well.

(© Geoff McKay, ETSN.fm)

3. Carlisle Indians

  • Coach: Rocky Baker
  • 2016 finish: 12-2 (2A Division I quarterfinalist)
  • Returning starters: 5 offensive, 5 defensive

Players to watch

  • QB Tristan Craig, Sr., 6-2, 175 (1,760 passing yards, 17 TDs; 723 rushing yards, 14 TDs)
  • WR/DB Jay Price, Jr., 6-1, 170 (650 receiving yards, 4 TDs)
  • WR/LB Max Jackson, Sr., 5-7, 150 (141 tackles, 22 for loss, 4 sacks, 4 INTs, 6 PBUs, 3 forced fumbles, 4 recoveries)
  • RB/LB Mason Pendleton, Sr., 5-8, 185
  • WR/DB Gerald Turner, Jr., 5-11, 150
  • RB/LB Luis Adame, Jr., 5-10, 170 (108 tackles, 5 sacks)
  • OL/LB Walker Adams, Jr., 5-10, 170
  • OL/DL Madison Taliaferro, Jr., 6-0, 215
Carlisle QB Tristan Craig. (© Geoff McKay, ETSN.fm)

Offense: Alto and San Augustine may get most of the preseason attention this year, but it was Carlisle that advanced the farthest in the playoffs last season.

The Indians' offense was dynamic last season, averaging more than 37 points per game.

Senior quarterback Tristan Craig, who was responsible for nearly 2,500 yards of offense last season, is back to help Carlisle overcome the loss of six offensive starters to graduation.

Jay Price, one of Craig's favorite targets in 2016, is an elite playmaker.

Holes in the backfield and along the offensive line must be filled in order for Carlisle to pick up where it left off a season ago.

Defense: The Indians were stingy on the defensive side of the ball last season, holding opponents to an average of 13.9 points per game.

Carlisle allowed a total of 21 points in its 4-0 start to district last year, and after giving up 42 in a regular-season ending loss to San Augustine, the Indians turned around three weeks later and limited the Wolves to 14 in their playoff rematch.

Several playmakers on defense graduated, but head coach Rocky Baker is fortunate to have linebacker Max Jackson back in the fold after his breakout junior campaign.

2017 outlook: While less experienced coming in than both Alto and San Augustine, no one is discounting Carlisle's chances of making a run at a district title this season.

Carlisle has been too good for far too long to be ignored.

Since 2011, the Indians have posted a record of 57-15 and played for regional championships twice over that span, including last year.

Joaquin's Alexis Retamar (left), Tray Wilkerson center) and Kase Yates. (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

4. Joaquin Rams

  • Coach: Wade Lawson
  • 2016 finish: 7-4 (2A Division I bi-district finalist)
  • Returning starters: 6 offensive, 6 defensive

Players to watch

  • RB/LB Kase Yates, Sr., 5-10, 180 (107 carries, 1,111 yards, 16 TDs; 80 tackles, 2 for loss, 1 INT, 1 fumble recovery)
  • QB/DB Tray Wilkerson, Sr., 6-0, 150 (14 of 29, 344 yards, 2 TDs, 3 INTs; 98 carries, 732 yards, 9 TDs)
  • RB/DB Connor Bragg, Soph., 5-10, 150 (19 carries, 103 yards, 1 TD; 72 tackles)
  • OL/DL Brock Hughes, Sr.
  • OL/DL Matt Silvey, Sr., 6-4, 215
  • DL Keith Johnson, Sr., 6-2, 175
  • FB/LB Joseph Tarver, Jr., 5-4, 132 (62 carries, 664 yards, 5 TDs)
  • OL/DL Zach Bell, Sr., 5-8, 280
Joaquin RB/LB Kase Yates. (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Offense: The good news is that Joaquin returns its three leading rushers from a season ago. The bad news: graduation took its toll along the offensive line.

Running back Kase Yates, fullback Joseph Tarver, and quarterback Tray Wilkerson combined to rush for more than 2,500 yards in 2016. And with all three back, the Rams' ground game should be in store for similar production.

Last season the Rams averaged a little more than 32 points per game. That number might need to increase if Joaquin is to entertain ideas of challenging Alto, San Augustine, and Carlisle for district supremacy.

In its four losses a season ago, Joaquin averaged just 16 points per game.

Joaquin OL/DL Matt Silvey. (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Defense: Without question the defense was Joaquin's primary team strength in 2016. The Rams limited foes to a healthy points-against average of 17.5.

With six returning starters on the defensive side of the ball, including Yates at linebacker and defensive back Cooper Bragg, the Rams should have enough quality playmakers to build around again this fall.

2017 outlook: In most other districts, Joaquin may have been celebrating a league title last season. The Rams tied Carlisle for the top spot in 11-2A D-I a year ago, but had a tough draw in the first round of the playoffs.

Lovelady took out Joaquin, 33-16, in the bi-district round of the playoffs.

The key for the Rams this season is to position itself in the district standings as to avoid a similar opening-round matchup.

Non-district contests against Tenaha and Lovelady should help get Joaquin ready for another rigorous test in league play. Road games at Alto and San Augustine could make or break the Rams' chances at a district title.

 

5. Shelbyville Dragons

  • Coach: Charles Tindol
  • 2016 finish: 2-8
  • Returning starters: 8 offensive, 8 defensive

Players to watch

  • ATH C.J. Kirkwood, Sr., 5-11, 160 (853 rushing yards, 180 passing yards, 7 TDs; 43 tackles)
  • WR/LB Kyle Tindol, Sr., 5-10, 165 (375 rushing yards, 2 TDs; 91 tackles)
  • OL/DL Kawon McCowin, Sr., 6-1, 260
  • OL/LB Logan Jefferson, Sr., 5-9, 210 (92 percent grade; 76 tackles)
  • TE/DL Reece Stroud, Sr., 6-1, 200
  • WR/DB Tre Sims, Sr., 6-2, 175
  • OL/DL Sawyer Hendricks, Sr., 5-10, 205
  • RB/DB Jacobi Jackson, Sr., 5-10, 170

 

Offense: First-year head coach Charles Tindol welcomes back plenty of potential weapons on the offensive side of the ball.

C.J. Kirkwood, who can be used in a variety of roles, will have the ball in his hands plenty. Meanwhile, offensive linemen Kawon McCowin, Logan Jefferson, and Sawyer Hendricks should give Shelbyville an advantage against most teams up front.

The biggest key will be how quickly the new schemes become absorbed by the players.

Last season, the Dragons averaged less than 20 points per game. And in a district with potent offenses like Alto, San Augustine, and Carlisle, that number must drastically tick upward.

Defense: As is often the case, whenever an offense struggles to convert first downs and score, the defense will experiences its fair share of difficulties as well.

In 2016, Shelbyville yielding an average of more than 37 points per game.

But with eight returning defensive starters, the production could improve if the Dragons' offense can make strides in the right direction.

2017 outlook: It might be unfair to expect Shelbyville to turn things around in one year, but with a new coach and 16 total returning starters, the Dragons are certainly positioned to show improvement.

It only takes two district wins to get in the playoffs, which is just one more than Shelbyville got last season.

If Shelbyville can defeat last year's last-place team Cushing again, the Dragons will have that opportunity. Their best chance might be against Joaquin, which only defeated Shelbyville by 11 points in 2016.

 

6. Cushing Bearkats

  • Coach: Thomas Emerson
  • 2016 finish: 2-8
  • Returning starters: 8 offensive, 8 defensive

Players to watch

  • QB/LB Austin Davis, Sr., 6-3, 165 (49 of 108, 501 yards, 2 TDs, 13 INTs; 79 carries, 171 yards, 7 TDs; 30 tackles, 2 for loss, 2 sacks, 1 fumble recovery)
  • RB/LB Jordan Townsend, Sr., 5-10, 182 (149 carries, 962 yards, 3 TDs; 68 tackles, 2 forced fumbles)
  • OL/DL Michael Rohlf, Jr., 5-11, 245 (34 tackles, 1 INT, 2 fumble recoveries)
  • RB/LB Thomas Wallace, Soph., 5-10, 170 (25 tackles)
  • TE/DL Marlin Reeves
  • WR/DB Duece Garrett
  • RB/LB Cade Willis

 

Offense: Cushing won two of its first three games last season, which seemed to signal the dawning of a new era for the Bearkats.

Unfortunately, Cushing dropped its final seven games of the year, extending its district losing streak to 27 games in the process.

The offense never got on track, finishing the season with a scoring average of just 11.9 points per game.

Among the eight returning offensive starters is running back Jordan Townsend, who finished just shy of 1,000 yards as a junior.

Defense: It was just as tough sledding on the defensive side of the ball for Cushing, which surrendered an average of almost 40 points per game in 2016.

Many of the problems could've been attributed to youth, and with eight defensive starters back, inexperience should no longer be an issue.

2017 outlook: The Bearkats haven't celebrated a district victory since 2011, so expectations for this season shouldn't be too lofty.

To break out of the funk, Cushing must focus on fixing its mistakes from a season ago, and fully embrace changing the losing culture.