This district had its struggles when postseason play began last year. In fact, none of the four playoff-bound teams made it to the area round.

District 9-2A Division I is still probably the weakest of four Region III districts, but the top finishers from the league might finally be in position to make some noise in November. Experience issues aren't a factor for most of the squads this go-around.

Linden-Kildare has 17 starters back and Simms Bowie is just one starter behind the Tigers. Is that enough for one of the sides to win a district crown?

Bogata Rivercrest has a majority of starters back as well and posted a perfect regular season with the group. Perhaps Rivercrest is the top-ranked team.

Wolfe City also makes a case.

Quinlan Boles and Honey Grove round out the district. Will one or both make it past Week 11?

Our District 9-2A Division I picks are here.

District 9-2A Division I Preview

Linden-Kildare WR/DB Ja'Kevian Rose. (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

PLAYMAKERS

  • RB/DB Devonta Brown, Sr., Wolfe City
  • OL/DL Eric Fisk, Jr., Wolfe City
  • QB Marty Johnson, Sr., Linden-Kildare
  • QB Bailey Obenoskey, Sr., Bowie
  • QB Trel Pruitt, Soph., Honey Grove
  • ATH Ja'Kevian Rose, Sr., Linden-Kildare
  • QB Lucah Strickland, Sr., Rivercrest
  • WR/DL Jayden Townes, Sr., Rivercrest
  • RB/LB Josiah Wilson, Sr., Boles
  • RB/LB Devon Womack, Soph., Rivercrest

TOP GAMES

  • Rivercrest at Linden-Kildare, Oct. 20
  • Bowie at Boles, Oct. 20
  • Linden-Kildare at Bowie, Oct. 27
  • Wolfe City at Linden-Kildare, Nov. 3
  • Rivercrest at Wolfe City, Nov. 10
  • Honey Grove at Simms Bowie, Nov. 10

1. Bogata Rivercrest Rebels

  • Coach: Lance Connott
  • 2016 finish: 10-1 (2A D-I bi-district finalist)
  • Returning starters: 7 offensive, 7 defensive
Players to watch
  • QB Lucah Stickland, Sr., 6-4, 190 (1,665 passing yards, 13 TDs, 387 rushing yards, 16 TDs)
  • RB/LB Devon Womack, Soph., 6-1, 175 (149 tackles, 28 TFL, 2 sacks, 3 forced fumbles)
  • WR/DL Jayden Townes, Sr., 6-3, 185 (692 yards, 4 TDs; 10 sacks)
  • TE/LB Jakob Jackson, Sr., 6-3, 185 (114 tackles)
  • OL/DL Clay Holt, Jr., 6-3, 260

2017 outlook: Rivercrest had 17 returning starters in 2016 and is still at a great experience point with 14 players returning to the lineup from a district championship team. The veterans are distributed evenly with seven starters back on offense and seven on defense.

Defense was the Rebels' calling card a season ago, and it doesn't look like things are changing.

The unit held all five district opponents to 72 combined points and brings back arguably its most important players. Devon Womack, now a senior, recorded 149 tackles in 11 games with 28 of his takedowns going for loss. Defensive end Jayden Townes was credited with 10 sacks in the same span and linebacker Jakob Johnson hit 100 tackles as well.

Senior quarterback Lucah Stickland simply had to be good for Rivercrest to push for its league title with two proven running backs. He was more than that with 29 total touchdowns and nearly 2,000 yards of offense.

Townes will be Stickland's go-to receiver, and he turned in decent numbers last year on the offensive side. Womack might double-dip, too, as the primary running back, but that positional battle will continue through fall camp.

A high finish will be very important in this district. The adjacent District 10-2A Division I is once again projected to be a much better league from top to bottom.

Rivercrest and all three other qualifiers out of the league a season ago were eliminated in the bi-district round of the postseason by the members of 10-2A Division I.

2. Wolfe City Wolves

  • Coach: Darren Anderson
  • 2016 finish: 6-5 (2A D-I bi-district finalist)
  • Returning starters: 8 offensive, 9 defensive
Players to watch
  • RB/DB Devonta Brown, Sr., 5-8, 175 (1,976 yards)
  • OL/DL Eric Fisk, Jr., 5-11, 220
  • RB/LB Cody Greenway, Jr., 6-0, 180 (600 yards; 118 tackles)
  • RB/DB Dylan Wilson, Soph., 5-10, 170 (600 yards; 60 tackles)
  • OL Bowie Tanner, Sr., 6-3, 265

2017 outlook: The Wolves are tied for the most returning starters among district teams with Linden-Kildare. Both teams carry over strengths, but Wolfe City appears poised for the most all-around improvement between the two teams. It is simply less reliant on single players.

The 2016 squad was tough on defense and allowed district opponents a little less than 21 points per game. Barring injuries, you can safely expect the defensive unit will hit a slightly better number this season.

Devonta Brown ran over the district a season ago, but Wolfe City somewhat lacked an offensive punch. It averaged 24.2 points and had a minor positive point differential of plus-19 through its five district games.

Brown is back after nearly a 2,000-yard season and will be complimented by underclassmen Cody Greenway and Dillon Wilson. Both of those players got to about 600 rushing yards and should be depended on to get more yardage this season.

All that said, the Wolves have the weakest non-district schedule of the district's teams. The good news is Linden-Kildare and Rivercrest don't appear on the schedule until Week 10 and Week 11.

Which brings us to Linden-Kildare.

Linden-Kildare QB Marty Johnson. (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

3. Linden-Kildare Tigers

  • Coach: Derek Simmons
  • 2016 finish: 4-6
  • Returning starters: 8 offensive, 9 defensive
Players to watch
  • ATH Ja'Kevian Rose, Sr., 5-10, 165 (1,033 total yards, 14 TDs; 84 tackles, 7 INTs, 3 TDs)
  • QB Marty Johnson, Sr., 6-1, 180 (1,093 passing yards, 380 rushing yards, 19 total TDs)
  • OL/DL Dre'Shawn Williams, Sr., 5-11, 255
  • RB/LB Traccer Henry, Sr., 5-7, 155
Linden-Kildare WR/DB Ty Patterson. (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Offense: Linden-Kildare's passing attack should be stout considering its two undisputed key players are senior universal athlete Ja'Kevian Rose and senior quarterback Marty Johnson. The pair linked up for more than 500 yards a season ago as Johnson pushed toward a 1,000-yard passing season.

Eight starters are back in total which guarantees continuity along the offensive line. The Tigers' offensive line isn't that big in the grand scheme, but it is athletic and allows its skill position players to get down the field with ease.

Head coach Derek Simmons' squad averaged 32 points per game in 11 contests a season ago, but its production dropped about four points within the district. Twenty-eight points scored usually gives a squad a chance to win a game and yet the numbers could afford a boost.

Linden-Kildare hit the 28-point mark three times in district play and only won one of those games toward a district record of 1-4.

Linden-Kildare OL/DL Dre'Shawn Williams. (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Defense: Nine starters are back from a team that allowed a borderline unacceptable 32 points against per district game.

Rose will be the most important player on the defensive side as well as the offensive side. He recorded seven interceptions and took three to the house on top of 84 total tackles.

Dre'Shawn Williams should give the unit some bite in the trenches and Traccer Henry is back to guide the linebacking corps for a second season.

2017 outlook: Linden-Kildare had almost no experience entering the 2016 season and now ties Wolfe City as the most experienced team in the district. That could easily translate into the program's first winning season and playoff berth since 2010.

If you read the District 10-2A Division I preview, a projected third-place finish by the Tigers would probably force them into playing Big Sandy or Union Grove in the first round of the playoffs. That's not an ideal match up for any Region III team, so a higher finish would be a welcomed surprise.

What we do know is that Rose is the preseason most valuable player of the district and the team has an experience edge against four of the five district competitors. Those are assets the other teams would trade for.

4. Simms Bowie Pirates

  • Coach: Buddy Ray
  • 2016 finish: 4-7 (2A D-I bi-district finalist)
  • Returning starters: 7 offensive, 6 defensive
Players to watch
  • QB Bailey Obenoskey, Sr., 6-2, 195
  • RBLB Dakota Grant, Sr., 5-10, 175
  • OL/DL Kutter Walker, Jr., 6-4, 235

Offense: Bowie has some work to do on offense in spite of last season's improbable playoff appearance, but seven starters back is just what the doctor ordered.

Quarterback Bailey Obenoskey returns under center and should lead the charge as a runner and as a passer.

The Pirates scored 64 combined points in district games yet had a knack for staying in a game and winning late. That was a testament to Bowie's first playoff team since 2013.

Defense: Six experienced players return to a unit that held opponents to a district third-best 119 points against. Considering the lack of offensive support, that's a very good number.

Bowie's somewhat short but heavy defensive front is largely intact and should present opposing teams challenges at the first and second levels. A breakthrough player in the secondary could send the team over the top as far as playoff contention is concerned.

2017 outlook: Bowie should be in the playoff mix again. This time with a target on its back.

A strong non-district schedule featuring Overton, Maud and Cumby won't hurt the team entering its district opener with Wolfe City.

The Pirates' district schedule as a whole is the best. Games against Rivercrest and Wolfe City are separated by two weeks. They're the sole team to get two weeks between the two district favorites.

5. Quinlan Boles Hornets

  • Coach: Kim Kanaman
  • 2016 finish: 4-7 (2A D-I bi-district finalist)
  • Returning starters: 7 offensive, 6 defensive
Players to watch
  • RB/LB Josiah Wilson, Sr., 6-0, 175 (1,000 yards, 19 TDs)
  • OL/DL Keaton Kanaman, Sr., 6-4, 225
  • RB/DB Kyle Green, Jr., 5-10, 160

2017 outlook: Depth at Boles is a major concern. Only seven letter winners return despite the fact the school claims seven returning offensive starters and six on defense.

No other district team has less than 10 letter winners and most schools have numbers in the high-teens.

The Hornets went 2-3 within the district last season with a point differential of minus-one and reached the playoffs thanks to an upset win against Linden-Kildare. They'll probably need to steal a game once again this season.

6. Honey Grove Warriors

  • Coach: Gary Schultz
  • 2015 finish: 2-8
  • Returning starters: 6 offensive, 7 defensive
Players to watch
  • QB Trel Pruitt, Sr., 5-9, 130

2017 outlook: Honey Grove has 13 starters and 19 returning lettermen back for action in 2017.

The squad desperately needs to produce more on offense to compliment a defense that allowed a decent 25.6 points against per district game. The Warriors' offense generated 76 points all season.