Anyone who knows a thing about TAPPS Division II, District 2 will tell you it's one of the most exciting collection of teams in the state.

A potent offense is just the standard. Elite defenses are at a premium.

This season should be no different. Each local school boasts a talented signal-caller at the top and each had a little more to be desired on the defensive side last season with exception to Tyler Grace Community, which had its unit wiped out by graduation.

Grace was far and away the best local team a season ago, but Bullard Brook Hill and Tyler Bishop Gorman have reloaded and might threaten the Cougars.

Of course, Dallas Christian will be a challenge for all the East Texas sides. It has done no worse than tie for first place each season since 2012.

Are any teams ready for that challenge?

ETSN.fm's preseason TAPPS Division II, District 2 picks are just a scroll away.

TAPPS Division II, District II Preview

Tyler Grace RB Uchenna Uduma. (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)
PLAYMAKERS
  • Justin Duffie, DL, Sr., Bishop Gorman
  • Campbell Fletcher, TE/DL, Sr., Brook Hill
  • Luke Graham, LB/DB, Sr., Grace
  • Isaiah Haggerty, WR, Sr., Bishop Gorman
  • Max Huff, OL, Sr., Prince of Peace
  • Tyler Hobbs, WR, Jr., Bishop Gorman
  • Jeremiah McGowen, RB, Sr., Brook Hill
  • Palmer Nix, RB/LB, Sr., Dallas Christian
  • Reggie Peck, RB, Sr., Dallas Christian
  • Caleb Powers, QB, Sr., Trinity Christian
  • Jeffrey Sims, OL, Sr., Dallas Christian
  • Jake Smith, QB, Jr., Bishop Gorman
  • Braydon Stone, QB, Jr., Grace
  • Hood Taylor, QB, Sr., Brook Hill
  • Uchenna Uduma, RB, Jr., Grace
TOP GAMES
  • Oct. 13 -- Bishop Gorman at Brook Hill
  • Oct. 27 -- Brook Hill at Dallas Christian
  • Nov. 3 -- Grace at Bishop Gorman
  • Nov. 10 -- Brook Hill at Grace

1. Dallas Christian Chargers

Coach: Mike Wheeler

2016 finish: 11-1 (TAPPS Division II regional semifinalist)

Returning starters: 5 offensive, 5 defensive

Players to watch

  • RB/LB Palmer Nix, Sr., 6-0, 220 (135 tackles)
  • RB Reggie Peck, Sr., 5-11, 205 (915 yards, 22 TDs)
  • OL/DL Jeffrey Sims, Sr., 6-0, 280 (63 tackles)
  • WR/DB Davis Baucum, Sr., 5-11, 170 (471 yards, 8 TDs)
  • OL/DL Josh Wilson, Jr., 6-4, 265
  • TE/LB Brandon Thomas, Sr., 6-0, 220
  • WR/LB Marcus Knox, Jr., 5-11, 185

2017 outlook: Dallas Christian took a slight step back from its dominance over TAPPS Division II as a whole, but it still won the District 2 championship in 2016. The Chargers have not finished worse than tied for first since joining the East Texas private school teams in 2012.

Quarterback Garrett Cody transferred from the program to play his senior season at Rockwall-Heath High School after amassing 2,431 total yards a season ago. Otherwise, Dallas Christian would have been exactly where it was last year with six returning starters on offense and five on defense.

Signal-caller duties are up for grabs this season, but Reggie Peck will help the new guy. He ran for 915 yards and a whopping 22 scores in 12 games.

The same goes for the offensive line. Two-way players Jeffrey Sims and Josh Wilson have great size for the TAPPS level.

Linebacker Palmer Nix is back to lead a defense that averaged 15.5 points against per game and a team net positive of plus-364 points a season ago. Sims and Wilson also had spot roles within the defensive front.

The Chargers do have to replace seniors who recorded seven of eight turnovers last year. For that matter, the squad probably will need more takeaways in district play to hold off a slew of very good quarterbacks at the opposing schools.

Brook Hill QB Hood Taylor. (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

2. Bullard Brook Hill Guard

Coach: Scott Ryle

2016 finish: 6-5 (TAPPS Division II bi-district finalist)

Returning starters: 6 offensive, 6 defensive

Players to watch

  • QB Hood Taylor, Sr., 6-0, 195 (1,376 passing yards, 9 TDs)
  • RB Jeremiah McGowen, Sr., 5-11, 205 (860 yards, 11 TDs)
  • TE/DL Campbell Fletcher, Sr., 6-0, 185 (75 tackles)
  • WR/LB Carson Ezell, Jr., 5-10, 230 (60 tackles)
  • OL/DL Andrew Brooks, Sr., 5-10, 215
Brook Hill RB Jeremiah McGowen. (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Offense: The Guard returns decent numbers on offense, and a lot of the guys are along the offensive line, but there might be some growing pains with the losses of receivers Parker Galbraith, Brooks Parham and Alec Kitt. Those players gave the team advantages in the passing game.

Fortunately, a good offensive line can hide growing pains. There is some experience to protect second-year starting quarterback Hood Taylor as well as senior running back Jeremiah McGowen.

Carson Ezell might be more prominent at receiver this year. The same can be said for junior Garrett Davis and sophomore Seth Moss. All three players have the potential to be multi-year players and will be mentored by a senior quarterback.

Brook Hill averaged 33.5 points per game through all 11 contests, but that number dropped to 26.8 points per game within the district. That might not cut it against more explosive district offenses, so expect head coach Scott Ryle to lean on McGowen in order to slow the game down until the fresh-faced receivers come along.

Brook Hill LB Campbell Fletcher. (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Defense: There's a good mix of experience and inexperience, but the Guard should have strength within the front seven in Carson Ezell at linebacker as well as established defensive linemen in Campbell Fletcher and Andrew Brooks.

Possessing a good front seven will be key in this district with so many established quarterbacks returning to opposing teams. If the group can frequently flush quarterbacks out of the pocket, they will force the best opposition away from their strongest suit.

The key receivers on Brook Hill's 2016 team also had major roles as defensive backs and will need to be replaced. Good news, the Guard are never short on athletes.

Non-district opponents Houston St. John's and Katy St. John XXIII will present the newcomers with their first serious reps against the spread. The top projected teams in District 2 mostly utilize the spread offense and air it out with ease.

 

Brook Hill WR/DB Garrett Brown. (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

2017 outlook: Brook Hill has the essentials down with good numbers at the offensive line spots, a seasoned offensive backfield, a good front seven and a history of qualified players at the skill positions.

The Guard probably will have to find a way to out duel Tyler Bishop Gorman and Tyler Grace Community to land near the top of the district standings, but both of those teams took worse graduation losses after the 2016 season. Gorman lost a major college-caliber player in receiver Judah Bell and Grace lost its star quarterback as well as the most productive parts of its receiving corps.

Head coach Scott Ryle and crew also could benefit from avenging a fairly surprising loss last season to Carrollton Prince of Peace.

Two wins was the magic number for the Guard to squeak into the postseason a season ago. Three victories is a safe bet this go-around to qualify for the playoffs.

Bishop Gorman WR/DB Isaiah Haggerty. (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

3. Tyler Bishop Gorman Crusaders

Coach: Randy McFarlin

2016 finish: 5-6 (TAPPS Division III bi-district finalist)

Returning starters: 6 offensive, 6 defensive

Players to watch

  • QB Jake Smith, Jr., 6-2, 200 (4,351 passing yards, 40 TDs)
  • WR Tyler Hobbs, Jr., 6-0, 185 (1,079 yards, 12 TDs)
  • WR Isaiah Haggerty, Sr., 6-2, 185 (419 yards, 2 TDs)
  • DL Justin Duffie, Sr., 6-3, 315
  • DB Matthew Chaump, Sr., 5-10, 175
  • RB Chris Schmidt, Sr., 6-3, 200
  • RB/DB Chris Jones, Sr., 6-1, 175
Bishop Gorman RB/LB Joshua Price. (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Offense: Bishop Gorman is famous region wide for its video game offensive numbers.

The Crusaders lost Judah Bell -- a 2,000-yard receiver -- to SMU, but Tyler Hobbs and Isaiah Haggerty should be able to help make up for the graduation. Hobbs caught for more than 1,000 yards a season ago and is the brother of current San Diego State receiver Connor Hobbs. Haggerty currently owns an NCAA Division I FCS offer from Howard University.

Quarterback Jake Smith is back and showed himself to be one of the region's best quarterbacks at the most recent ETSN.fm + APEC Football Recruiting Combine. He threw for more than 4,000 yards as a sophomore and connected with receivers for 40 touchdowns.

Defenses will obviously try every trick in the book to disrupt Gorman's passing game, so it is imperative the Crusaders have a complimentary running game.

Chris Schmidt and Chris Jones should fit the bill. Schmidt is a 200-pound, physical back whereas Jones presents more athleticism on the outside. Jones also will be used in the passing game.

Bishop Gorman OL/DL Justin Duffie. (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Defense: You have to be tough to be a Gorman defender and compliment a high-flying offense. Quick scores translate into quick turnarounds for the unit, and exhaustion showed last season.

The team surrendered 465 points to the 456 it scored in 2016.

New head coach Randy McFarlin was the Crusaders' defensive coordinator last season. Rest assured he's stressing defensive improvement now that he's in charge of the full team.

Defensive lineman Justin Duffie is a huge asset and headlines six returning starters. There's also athleticism in the defensive backfield to utilize against a district that by and large loves to throw the ball.

Bottom line, however, averaging 42.2 points against won't cut it.

Bishop Gorman DB Matthew Chaump. (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

2017 outlook: Jake Smith's arm and a set of capable receivers should be able to blow the doors off some district teams and get the Crusaders back into a game against the best league squads, but Gorman needs a better defensive performance if it wants to chase the TAPPS Division II state championship. Let alone the District 2 title.

Non-district games against White Oak and Waskom should help Gorman get ready for the varying offensive styles of the district.

White Oak possesses quarterback Heath Hood and its own set of very good receivers. Hood guided the Roughnecks to an undefeated record before a late-season shoulder injury.

Waskom, which won back-to-back state championships in 2014 and 2015, is a run-oriented team that will do everything in its power to keep the ball out of the Crusaders' hands. Gorman's defense will have to rise to the occasion in that game.

Three district wins should be enough for Gorman to make the playoffs. There are three teams ranked below it.

Tyler Grace QB Braydon Stone. (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

4. Tyler Grace Community Cougars

Coach: Norm Thompson

2016 finish: 8-4 (TAPPS Division II regional semifinalist)

Returning starters: 4 offensive, 2 defensive

Players to watch

  • QB Braydon Stone, Jr., 5-10, 160 (6 starts, 943 passing yards, 6 TDs, 595 rushing yards, 8 TDs)
  • RB Uchenna Uduma, Sr., 5-10, 175 (1,330 yards, 15 TDs)
  • LB Luke Graham, Sr., 5-11, 203 (120 tackles)
  • WR/DB Griffin Kuykendall, Sr., 6-2, 150
Tyler Grace WR/DB Griffin Kuykendall. (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Offense: Grace's passing game will have to rebuild once fall camp begins aside from quarterback Braydon Stone. He got six starts last season leading up to Christopher Wilhelmi's return from a preseason injury and held his own, especially when on the run.

The top receivers from last year's squad are gone. A lot of the offensive line also graduated.

You might see the Cougars transition to more of a run-oriented team this season, especially considering there's a new head man in Norm Thompson. Mike Maddox left Grace earlier this summer to become the athletics director at Lindale.

Uchenna Uduma put up more than 1,330 yards and Stone was no slouch in the running game either. Stone was averaging close to 100 yards per game before turing the reigns back over to Wilhelmi.

New players will have to rise to the occasion, but Grace does have a good recent history on offense.

Will that be enough to contend with the top of the district?

Tyler Grace LB Luke Graham. (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Defense: Just two players are back from the regional semifinalist team. That defense allowed 26.4 points against to Grace's 47.6 points scored per game.

Fortunately, the teams ranked below Grace have offensive issues aside from Cedar Hill Trinity Christian, which had a defensive problem a season ago en route to a 4-6 record.

The Cougars program has produced good athletes in the past. It's safe to assume there will be some pleasant surprises.

 

2017 outlook: Grace's remaining offensive pieces plus linebacker Luke Graham should keep the school in playoff contention.

The Cougars also will stress themselves in non-district play against several larger public schools in Canton, Waskom and Malakoff just ahead of facing Dallas Christian the first week of the district season.

Cedar Hill Trinity Christian and Carrollton Prince of Peace -- both of which have yet to been ranked -- follow Dallas Christian. Grace must take advantage of those games because the regular season closes against Tyler Bishop Gorman and Bullard Brook Hill.

5. Carrollton Prince of Peace Eagles

Coach: Larry Thexton

2016 finish: 5-5

Returning starters: N/A

Players to watch

  • OL Max Huff, 6-9, 275
  • FB Parker Strong, Sr., 5-10, 200 (713 yards, 11 TDs)

 

2017 outlook: Prince of Peace is a ground-oriented team that should keep the explosive offenses among the top tier of the district in check. It upset Bullard Brook Hill last season and also scratched out a win against Tyler All Saints in the district finale.

However, the team needs to improve drastically on both sides of the ball. It mustered 115 points on offense within league play and gave up 210 points.

Two of three non-district games are against smaller TAPPS programs and the third game is against a squad that went winless in 2016.

Prince of Peace immediately will transition to Tyler Bishop Gorman, Bullard Brook Hill and Dallas Christian. It cannot afford more than one loss once it gets to the mid-tier of the district, and Tyler Grace Community appears in Week 9.

6. Cedar Hill Trinity Christian

Coach: Aveion Cason

2016 finish: 4-6

Returning starters: N/A

Players to watch

  • WR/DB CaMiron Smith, Sr., 5-10, 165
  • LB D'Angelo Wilder, Sr., 6-0, 203
  • WR/DB Joshua Tips, Sr., 6-4, 190
  • LB King Dennis, 6-0, 180

2017 outlook: Trinity Christian, one season removed from a TAPPS Division III title game appearance, has a lot to prove at the Division II level.

The team allowed 43 points per game through its 10-game 2016 season and averaged 37 points thanks in large part to blowout victories against Tyler All Saints and Carrollton Prince of Peace.

Trinity Christian's district schedule is not favorable down the stretch with finals games against Tyler Bishop Gorman, Bullard Brook Hill and Dallas Christian. There's no room for error at the beginning of district play.

INDEPENDENT

Tyler All Saints QB Tanner Towns. (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Tyler All Saints Trojans

Coach: Drew Starnes

2016 record: 2-8

Returning starters: 6 offensive, 8 defensive

Players to watch

  • QB Tanner Towns, Sr., 6-2, 170 (1,270 passing yards, 10 TDs)
  • OL/DL Collin Gee, Jr., 6-1, 220
Tyler All Saints TE/DL Collin Gee. (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Offense: All Saints is in decent standing as far as experience, but the team will have to improve on offensive production. It only managed to score more than 16 points once in district play last season.

Tanner Towns is a good starting point at quarterback.

Collin Gee is an established lineman that will play both ways as a junior.

Defense: The Trojans gave up more than 40 points in six of seven district games. That number has to improve to get the team into playoff contention.

Fortunately, eight starters are back on the defensive side.

2017 Outlook: Expect All Saints to show progress under second-year coach Drew Starnes.

A major problem the school has is its depth. There were only 24 players on the varsity roster last season.

The Torjans simply can't afford injuries.

Challenging early-season games against Harmony and West Rusk should get the team ready.