Groveton and West Sabine both made the playoffs last season, but it was Centerville that made the most of its extra weeks en route to a state semifinal berth.

With a small majority of starters back, Centerville is looking pretty good here in the preseason.

Centerville's semifinal appearance was the second time in two seasons a district team made the second-to-last round, indicating this league is one of Class 2A Division I's best. Especially at the top.

Are either Groveton or West Sabine in the top half? Does either team have the potential to surprise?

West Sabine brings back a district-best 14 starters and might be able to fix its defensive woes with the sheer experience.

Groveton, meanwhile, returns many of its key pieces from what was the league's best offense a year ago. The Indians might have had the best offense in the region for that matter.

Deweyville showed signs of progress last season as well. Is this the year it breaks through with a postseason appearance?

Our District 12-2A Division I picks are here.

District 12-2A Division I Preview

Groveton QB Haden Terry. (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

PLAYMAKERS

  • OL/DL Daniel Byrd, Sr., Centerville
  • RB/DL Ethan Cathey, Sr., Groveton
  • WR/DB Saul Chavez, Sr., Groveton
  • RB/DB Roland Davis, Jr., Centerville
  • LB Trevez Galloway, Sr., West Sabine
  • OL/DL Jose Hernandez, Sr., Centerville
  • WR/DB Jay Hughes, Sr., West Hardin
  • RB Tim Johnson, Jr., Lovelady
  • OL/LB Justin Lilyquist, Sr., Deweyville
  • RB Brandon Madison, Sr., Centerville
  • WR/DB Jay Thomas Robinson, Jr., Lovelady
  • ATH Dailon Smith, Jr., West Sabine
  • QB Hayden Terry, Sr., Groveton

TOP GAMES

  • Lovelady at West Sabine, Oct. 13
  • Lovelady at Centerville, Oct. 27
  • Groveton at Centerville, Nov. 3
  • Deweyville at West Sabine, Nov. 3
  • West Sabine at Groveton, Nov. 10

1. Centerville Tigers

  • Coach: Kyle Hardee
  • 2016 finish: 11-4 (2A D-I state semifinalist)
  • Returning starters: 6 offensive, 6 defensive
Players to watch
  • RB Brandon Madison, Sr., 5-10, 200 (2,253 yards, 28 TDs)
  • RB/DB Roland Davis, Jr., 5-9, 160 (90 tackles, 9 PBUs, 6 fumble recoveries)
  • OL/DL Jose Hernandez, Sr., 6-0, 200 (82 knockdowns; 39 tackles, 2 sacks)
  • OL/DL Daniel Byrd, Sr., 6-2, 225
  • OL/DL Connor Cox, Sr., 6-0, 240
  • DB Cade Pate, Sr., 5-11, 160 (76 tackles, 10 PBUs, 4 INTs)

2017 outlook: The Tigers are a half-and-half team as far as experience, but the program definitely retained its most valuable players on both sides of the ball. That makes Centerville a likely candidate to win the district crown and perhaps a second consecutive Region III title.

Lead back Brandon Madison broke 2,000 yards in 2016. He's still on the roster.

Centerville also brings back a lot of experience along the offensive line. Jose Hernandez, Daniel Byrd and Connor Cox all played last season, and they should be available for double duty. Hernandez made nearly 40 tackles while recording 82 knockdowns on offense.

The Tigers' defensive backfield also is in good standing with Roland Davis and Cade Pate back in the fold. Those two players combined for 10 takeaways on their own through a 15-game campaign.

Centerville's early non-district schedule isn't anything to write home about, but it will face two 10-win teams in Mart and Thrall just before district play commences.

2. Lovelady Lions

  • Coach: Jon Lowery
  • 2016 finish: 9-3 (2A D-I area finalist)
  • Returning starters: 5 offensive, 5 defensive
Players to watch
  • RB Tim Johnson, Jr., 5-8, 170 (1,018 yards, 10 TDs)
  • WR/DB Jay Thomas Robinson, Jr., 6-1, 170 (7 TD receptions, 40-yard punt return average)
  • OL/DL Damario Mattingly, Sr., 5-11, 290
  • QB Colt Robinson, Sr., 5-9, 180

2017 outlook: Ten starters are back from a two-round playoff team. Some of them also started through Lovelady's trip to the state semifinal round in 2015.

Tim Johnson headlines the five returners on offense. He ran for a tad more than 1,000 yards last season and could be leaned on for more since the Lions are going through a quarterback transition.

Colt Robinson, a converted receiver, will replace graduated starter Lee Holsey under center. Fortunately, big Damario Mattingly will be protecting his blind side.

Lovelady will have some bite on special teams. Jay Thomas Robinson averaged 40 yards per punt return last season and also will start both ways for a second consecutive year.

Jay Thomas Robinson and four other players are back from a defensive unit that held opposing district teams to about 21 points per game.

Straight non-district games against solid Joaquin, Timpson and Jewett Leon teams should have the Lions ready to go once the league schedule rolls around in October.

Groveton WR Saul Chavez. (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

3. Groveton Indians

  • Coach: Brandon Craus
  • 2016 finish: 9-2 (2A D-II bi-district finalist)
  • Returning starters: 6 offensive, 6 defensive
Players to watch
  • WR/DB Saul Chavez, Sr., 5-7, 160 (1,262 yards, 15 TDs)
  • QB Hayden Terry, Sr., 6-0, 195 (2 starts, 896 passing yards, 11 TDs, 247 rushing yards, 5 TDs)
  • RB/DL Ethan Cathey, Sr., 5-10, 220 (647 rushing yards, 283 receiving yards, 14 total TDs; 79 tackles, 23 TFL, 8 sacks)
  • WR/DB Eli Stewart, Jr., 5-10, 160
  • OL/DL Eli Hardeman, Sr., 6-2, 285
  • OL/DL Blake Hollis, Jr., 6-3, 275
Groveton OL James Driskell. (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Offense: Groveton has a good history of airing the ball out. It shouldn't stop with senior Hayden Terry taking over the quarterback role full-time.

Terry filled in quite well for an injured Glenn Thornton twice last season and recorded more than 1,000 total yards between the starts and garbage time duties. To boot, the new signal-caller is probably a better runner than Thornton.

Second and third-leading receivers Saul Chavez and Eli Stewart are back, but they're both under six feet. The squad will miss 6-foot-4 graduated receiver Dawson Chumley. That being said, Chavez and Stewart are more explosive in space.

Ethan Cathey returns at running back and helps prevent defenses from going absolutely gung-ho against Groveton's passing attack. You can expect him to be a secondary aerial threat as well.

The Indians also bring back their bookends from last season in Eli Hardeman and Blake Hollis. Both have phenomenal size for the 2A Division I level.

Groveton WR/DB Elijah Stewart. (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Defense: Last preseason, Groveton's defense was viewed as a potential weakness. It might be the team's stronger side this year with six starters returning to a unit that allowed district foes just 13.6 points per game.

The Indians have great depth at defensive line with Ethan Cathey, Eli Hardeman and Blake Hollis pulling some double duty.

Saul Chavez and Eli Stewart's athleticism help shore up the defensive backfield.

Linebacker is the only real question mark. Groveton needs some players to emerge at the spots to defend against the district's best running backs.

2017 outlook: Groveton dominated this district a year ago and yet it was Centerville that did the most in the postseason. The Indians bowed out in the opening round of the playoffs against a San Augustine team it beat in the regular season.

This season, Groveton probably has the best non-district schedule of all the league teams. Grapeland, San Augustine, Buffalo and Normangee face the squad in succession before the Indians hop into district play.

Hopefully, those games will help remind the team what it takes to get through a postseason game.

Groveton is a dark horse to win the district crown.

 

4. West Sabine Tigers

  • Coach: Jared Wallace
  • 2016 finish: 5-6 (2A D-I bi-district finalist)
  • Returning starters: 6 offensive, 8 defensive
Players to watch
  • RB/LB Trevez Galloway, Sr., 5-10, 215 (70 tackles)
  • ATH Dailon Smith, Jr., 5-11, 165 (3 INTs, 1 TD)
  • RB Zack Franklin, Sr., 5-8, 170 (830 yards, 10 TDs)
  • RB/DL Tyler Smith, Sr., 6-0, 190
  • WR/QB Jesse Biscamp, Sr., 6-1, 180

Offense: West Sabine averaged a decent 25 points versus district opponents last season and brings back six starters.

Zack Franklin is the most valuable running back returning, but there's no doubt the squad will miss star back Demarie' Smith. The good news is there are several athletes available that can combine to replace Smith's production beyond just Franklin.

Experience at offensive line is short and will have to come along quickly.

Defense: Experience counts for something, and the Tigers have plenty of seasoning with eight returning starters.

The team must be better than last season. It gave up about 39 points per district game, and West Sabine finished 2016 with a minus-26 point differential.

Linebacker Trevez Galloway is a bright spot and a large player for the level. Dailon Smith intercepted three passes last season, will anchor the defensive backfield and also will have a role on offense.

2017 outlook: West Sabine faces the same issue it did in the preseason of 2016. Defense must improve while the offense also could afford to up its productivity.

The good news is the team brings back the most experience of all district teams and is slated for challenging non-district games against Timpson and Tenaha to begin and conclude the non-district portion of the schedule.

Jared Wallace's roster might be the district's biggest surprise.

5. Deweyville Pirates

  • Coach: Lance Dale
  • 2016 finish: 5-5
  • Returning starters: 6 offensive, 3 defensive
Players to watch
  • OL/DL Justin Lilyquist, Sr., 5-10, 200
  • LB Darin Lavergne, Sr., 5-5, 150

2017 outlook: Deweyville got shut out by the top three projected teams within the district last season and only scored more than 14 points once through the league schedule.

Six starters are back on offense and should benefit from their 2016 experiences.

The Pirates have good non-district games against Evadale and Hull-Daisetta to prepare.

6. Saratoga West Hardin Oilers

  • Coach: Cody Day
  • 2016 finish: 1-9
  • Returning starters: 7 offensive, 7 defensive
Players to watch
  • WR/DB Jay Hughes, Sr., 6-1, 175

2017 outlook: West Hardin scored six points against district competition last season as the team fell back from a 2-8 season in 2015 to 1-9.

Fourteen starters are back, but the team averaged 1.2 points per district game and surrendered nearly 50 points per game.

The Oilers will definitely benefit from coaching continuity. Cody Day is about to begin his second season with the program.