Lufkin's first year back as a Class 6A program went pretty well.

It hung tough with the powerhouse The Woodlands program and gave Beaumont West Brook a good game even though it finished the season as the district's third-place team.

There's a lot of potential for the Panthers this season, but that's just it. Potential. Fifteen fresh faces will be given starting roles with the Pack.

It will be a fun ride.

This mostly new team will get to test its mettle against The Woodlands, which advanced to the 6A Division I state championship game last season. West Brook isn't far off. And it's always fun to represent East Texas in a mostly metropolitan district.

Will Lufkin surprise either of those two teams? Where do we see it and the rest of the league's field?

Our District 12-6A picks are here.

Lufkin WR/DL Breylon Garcia. (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

District 12-6A Preview

PLAYMAKERS

  • DB Ethan Bonner, Sr., The Woodlands
  • WR KeSean Carter, Sr., The Woodlands
  • LB Daniel Coleman, Jr., West Brook
  • QB L'Ravien Elia, Jr., West Brook
  • DB Savon Fields, Sr., Lufkin
  • WR/DL Breylon Garcia, Jr., Lufkin
  • OL Hunter Hollis, Sr., Lufkin
  • QB Jordan Hood, Sr., Montgomery
  • WR Malik Jackson, Sr., Lufkin
  • RB James Jones, Sr., West Brook
  • RB Donaven Lloyd, Sr., Conroe
  • DB Cooper Lucas, Sr., College Park
  • OL McKade Mettaver, Jr., The Woodlands
  • TE Jody Miller, Sr., Montgomery
  • DB Adam Myers, Sr., College Park
  • RB/DB Alex Nunn, Sr., Montgomery
  • DL Joseph Ossai, Sr., Oak Ridge
  • DB Jackson Shearer, Sr., The Woodlands
  • LB Brennan Young, Sr., Oak Ridge

TOP GAMES

  • The Woodlands at Lufkin, Oct. 6
  • Montgomery at Oak Ridge, Oct. 6
  • West Brook at The Woodlands, Oct. 12
  • Lufkin at West Brook, Oct. 20
  • Oak Ridge at Lufkin, Oct. 27
  • Montgomery at Lufkin, Nov. 10

1. The Woodlands Highlanders

  • Coach: Mark Schmid
  • 2016 finish: 15-1 (6A D-I state finalist)
  • Returning starters: 3 offensive, 5 defensive
Players to watch
  • WR KeSean Carter, Sr., 5-11, 160 (1,770 all-purpose yards, 18 TDs)
  • DB Ethan Bonner, Sr., 6-1, 170 (5 INTs)
  • DB Jackson Shearer, Sr., 5-10, 185 (106 tackles)
  • OL McKade Mettaver, Jr., 6-4, 305
  • OL Jake Syptak, Sr., 6-5, 275
  • QB/ATH Quinn Binney, Sr., 6-0, 175

2017 outlook: The Woodlands has to rebuild after last season's state championship game appearance. Eight starters from the 2016 team are back, but that's in line with what the other district frontrunners have after the past season.

The Highlanders might have an experience edge anyway. Thirteen of the team's 15 wins a season ago came by double digits and afforded the backups plenty of playing time.

Three starters return to an offense that averaged 56.1 points per district game. Receiver KeSean Carter headlines the group after amassing 1,770 all-purpose yards and 18 touchdowns his junior season.

Five players return to a defense that gave up 68 points through the entire district season. Lufkin scored 42 of those points in a 63-42 loss.

Jackson Shearer will anchor the defense as the team's leading returning tackler unless he gets the nod at quarterback. He's in competition with fellow senior Quinn Binney.

The Woodlands is far and away the largest school in the district with 4,280 students. It's not unlikely one of Texas' best programs the past decade will find capable players behind the known quantities.

The Highlanders have impressive non-district games against Cypress Fairbanks, Katy and George Ranch ahead of crossing Lufkin the first night of the district season.

 

2. Beaumont West Brook Bruins

  • Coach: Eric Peevey
  • 2016 finish: 11-2 (6A D-II regional semifinalist)
  • Returning starters: 6 offensive, 7 defensive
Players to watch
  • QB L'Ravien Elia, Jr., 6-0, 180 (2,800 total yards, 28 TDs)
  • RB James Jones, Sr., 5-9, 190
  • LB Daniel Coleman, Jr., 5-10, 165 (72 tackles, 10 sacks)
  • WR Bralin Simon, Sr., 5-10, 160
  • WR Damon Ward, Jr., 6-1, 187
  • DL Tyree Cormier, Sr., 6-3, 235

2017 outlook: The Bruins didn't have many issues transitioning from Class 5A to Class 6A. They knocked out Longview in the first round of the 6A Division II playoffs and rolled to the third round of the setup before meeting their end against a Spring Westfield team that narrowly missed a regional championship win.

West Brook has 13 returning starters, which is the best among district teams to qualify for the playoffs in 2016. None is more important than breakout quarterback L'Ravien Elia.

Elia, a converted receiver, put up 2,800 total yards last season and started the school's final seven games as the signal-caller. He went 6-1, starting with a 70-63 thriller against Lufkin.

Five other experienced players surround Elia. The list includes receivers Brailin Simon and Damon Ward.

West Brook averaged about 40 points per game through its 13-game season. The Bruins will probably hit similar marks if a good offensive line develops in fall camp.

Seven starters return to a defense that allowed 31 points per game.

The squad's best strengths are the linebacker and defensive backs positions. Not a bad place considering the powerful offenses Lufkin and The Woodlands present on a year-to-year basis.

West Brook's non-district schedule is not impressive at all and the squad probably won't be challenged until running into The Woodlands and Lufkin in consecutive weeks.

Lufkin WR Malik Jackson (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

3. Lufkin Panthers

  • Coach: Todd Quick
  • 2016 finish: 7-4 (6A D-II bi-district finalist)
  • Returning starters: 3 offensive, 4 defensive
Players to watch
  • WR Malik Jackson, Sr., 5-10, 170 (916 yards, 6 TDs)
  • OL Hunter Hollis, Sr., 6-3, 300
  • DB Savon Fields, Sr., 5-9, 175 (Returning from ACL tear)
  • WR/DL Breylon Garcia, Jr., 6-4, 210
  • RB Isaiah Phillips, Sr., 5-9, 185
  • WR Ja'Lynn Polk, Soph., 6-2, 175
  • OL Quynton Cole, Sr.

Offense: Lufkin has a lot to figure out with just three starters back from last season's explosive offense guided by quarterback and Texas State signee Kordell Rodgers.

The unit will be headlined by senior receiver Malik Jackson, a Houston commitment with 919 yards last year. He'll be the go-to guy this season whereas he complimented Dhailon Phillips as a junior.

Lufkin WR Ja'Lynn Polk (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Sophomore receiver Ja'Lynn Polk is a very promising receiver and could end up being the Panthers' second most productive. Breylon Garcia, who can double as a defensive end, is a second receiver with a promising future beyond 2017.

The offensive line is pretty inexperienced overall, but Hunter Hollis is a multi-year starter at right guard.

Lufkin's new offense has a big task ahead of it. Rodgers' offense averaged about 45 points per game against the district.

Defense: Four starters are back, including formerly injured safety Savon Fields off an ACL tear.

This side of the ball was Lufkin's downfall in 2016. The Panthers only lost games in which the defense allowed 50 or more points. That happened four times with a 50-49 loss to John Tyler in the bi-district round being the final nail.

Lufkin DB Savon Fields (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Jamal Arthur, a 6-foot and 290-pound tackle, is the Pack's most established player up front.

The linebacking corps needs some answers, but Lufkin should be very deep in the secondary with Fields, Trey McDaniel and Damond Moreland as known quantities.

2017 outlook: Lufkin is tied with The Woodlands College Park for the least amount of experience, but the program has been excited about some of the players it will promote to starting roles for several years.

The Panthers have good non-district games against Longview, Nacogdoches and John Tyler this season.

The Pack also caught a break in district play. While it will have to face The Woodlands and West Brook in back-to-back games, there's an open week between the dates.

This team is the district's wild card.

 

4. Montgomery Bears

  • Coach: John Bolfing
  • 2016 finish: 6-5 (6A D-I bi-district finalist)
  • Returning starters: 7 offensive, 4 defensive
Players to watch
  • RB/DB Alex Nunn, Sr., 5-8, 165 (1,000 total yards, 12 TDs)
  • QB Jordan Hood, Sr., 6-0, 165 (2,300 total yards, 12 TDs)
  • TE Jody Miller, Sr., 6-3, 185 (426 yards)
  • DB Conner Wilson, Jr., 6-0, 170 (53 tackles)

2017 overview: Montgomery was the district's surprise team a season ago, but it won't be flying under the radar this season.

The Bears have 11 starters back, including seven on offense. Of the offensive returners, its most important skill position players are back.

Defensive back Alex Nunn added running back duties to his resume and went for exactly 1,000 yards between his runs and receiving yardage from out of the backfield. Quarterback Jordan Hood also is back.

Four players return from a defense that could afford to improve considering the offense only managed 23.3 points per league contest. The defensive unit surrendered nearly 36 points per game, skewed up by The Woodlands, Lufkin and West Brook.

This is a somewhat experienced team with playoff experience. The playoffs will be a goal once again.

 

5. Conroe Oak Ridge War Eagles

  • Coach: Dereck Rush
  • 2016 finish: 4-6
  • Returning starters: 5 offensive, 7 defensive
Players to watch
  • DL Joseph Ossai, Sr., 6-3, 220 (46 tackles, 9 sacks)
  • LB Brennan Young, Sr., 6-0, 218 (47 tackles, 2 sacks)

2017 outlook: The War Eagles are a very experienced team for the district with 12 starters returning.

This is defensive end Joseph Ossai's team. He will begin his senior season with college football offers from Alabama, Arkansas, Notre Dame, Texas and Texas A&M.

Oak Ridge's defense as a whole should be very good with seven experienced players returning to their positions. The group needs to be good because the school possessed the second-lowest productive offense among the seven teams last year.

Taking care of the bottom two teams in the district and stealing a game from a team ranked ahead probably would be enough to get the War Eagles into the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

 

6. Conroe Tigers

  • Coach: Robert Walker
  • 2016 finish: 3-7
  • Returning starters: 5 offensive, 8 defensive
Players to watch
  • RB Donaven Lloyd, Sr., 5-10, 200 (1,452 yards, 18 TDs)
  • WR Jon Jones, Sr., 5-9, 160
  • DT Earl Roy, Sr., 6-2, 305

2017 outlook: Conroe brings back 13 starters from last year's team, but it was in this exact same position last year and failed to win a district game.

Donaven Lloyd should make a case for district MVP on the heels of his 1,400-yard junior season

Conroe will have to be much better defensively. The unit allowed about 42 points per game in district play.

The Tigers have eight defenders returning.

 

7. The Woodlands College Park Cavaliers

  • Coach: Lonnie Madison
  • 2016 finish: 1-9
  • Returning starters: 3 offensive, 4 defensive
Players to watch
  • DB Cooper, Sr., 5-11, 183
  • DB Adam Myers, Sr., 5-10, 165
  • WR Daniel Vann, Sr., 5-10, 175

2017 outlook: College Park brings back seven players from a 1-9 team last season.

Former Klein Collins defensive coordinator Lonnie Madison joined the Cavaliers program in the offseason after a run to the regional championship round. He has his work cut out for him, but there are a lot of good athletes in The Woodlands area.