This district pits three East Texas teams against three from the Dallas area, and further enhances the rivalry between two of the primary hotbeds within the Texas high school football world.

East Texas was supposed to have its way in the league last season, but Dallas Lincoln came from out of nowhere to make it interesting with Wills Point at the top.

How will it go this season?

Lincoln brings back 12 starters from its district runner-up team. Is it a good bet for the top spot?

Wills Point was a nice story last season, but it has lost two elite defenders to the college game. Are the Tigers going to be competitive without Sloan Rodberg and Tyriq Burnett?

Canton has to reload a bit and Emory Rains is hoping to improve upon its 5-6 record a season ago. Do those two squads have the right stuff for the playoff mix?

Our District 6-4A Division II picks are here.

Rains WR/DB Blane Campbell (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

District 6-4A Division II Preview

PLAYMAKERS

  • ATH Lamarsay Austin, Sr., Lincoln
  • WR/DB Blane Campbell, Sr., Rains
  • RB Damian Edwards, Jr., Ferris
  • QB Tyler James, Sr., Wills Point
  • RB/DB Damion Johnson, Sr., Roosevelt
  • OL/DL Gunner Land, Sr., Rains
  • WR Tanner Moore, Sr., Canton
  • RB/DB Dylon Mosley, Sr., Rains
  • WR/DB Trey Patterson, Sr., Wills Point
  • RB Brandon Smith, Sr., Wills Point
  • LB Grant Tullos, Sr., Canton
  • ATH Domanek Wilkerson, Sr., Lincoln

TOP GAMES

  • Canton at Wills Point, Oct. 20
  • Rains at Ferris, Oct. 20
  • Wills Point at Rains, Oct. 27
  • Roosevelt at Ferris, Nov. 3
  • Rains at Canton, Nov. 3
  • Lincoln at Wills Point, Nov. 3

 

1. Dallas Lincoln Tigers

  • Coach: Jamal Adams
  • 2016 finish: 7-4 (4A D-II bi-district finalist)
  • Returning starters: 6 offensive, 6 defensive
Players to watch
  • ATH Domanek Wilkerson, Sr., 5-10, 175 (1,900 total yards, 27 TDs)
  • ATH Lamarsay Austin, Sr., 5-8, 160 (1,650 total yards, 13 TDs)
  • DB Dewaylon Jones, Sr., 6-0, 190
  • WR/DB Leonard Whitley, Sr., 5-11, 170
  • QB Keiontay Coleman, Sr., 6-2, 200

2017 outlook: Lincoln was the district's most surprising team a season ago.

Picked fourth by us, the Tigers finished second only to Wills Point in the final standings with a 4-1 league record. It blew away the remainder of district competition and lost a two-point game to Wills Point.

Twelve starters are back from a bi-district finalist team, including its two most dynamic offensive weapons. Universal athletes Domanek Wilkerson and Lamarsay Austin, both seniors now, combined for 40 touchdowns and more than 3,500 all-purpose yards in 2016.

There's not a lot of experience along the Tigers' offensive line, but skill depth goes beyond Wilkerson and Austin.

Six of Lincoln's defensive starters return. The unit held district opponents to 10.1 points per game.

Only Wills Point has more returning contributors among last season's playoff teams than Lincoln, and only by one player. But among Wills Point's losses were two NCAA Division I caliber defenders and an experienced quarterback.

Wills Point RB Brandon Smith (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

2. Wills Point Tigers

  • Coach: Greg Cranfill
  • 2016 finish: 7-5 (4A D-II area finalist)
  • Returning starters: 6 offensive, 7 defensive
Players to watch
  • RB Brandon Smith, Sr., 5-10, 170 (746 yards, 12 TDs)
  • WR/DB Trey Patterson, Sr., 5-8, 150 (121 tackles, 1 INT)
  • QB Tyler James, Sr., 5-10, 165 (2 starts, 536 yards, 3 TDs)

Offense: Wills Point will miss the services of seasoned quarterback Caden Burnett, but Tyler James did pretty well in his two relief starts. He surpassed 500 yards and threw for three scores in a pretty balanced offense.

Wills Point QB Tyler James (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Running back Brandon Smith will compliment James. He ran for about 750 yards and scored 12 touchdowns.

The Tigers have some experience at the offensive line spots to help the backfield. A handful of receivers with modest numbers also return for senior seasons.

Wills Point won scrappy games to a 5-0 district record. Among the three other teams that reached the playoffs from out of the district, the Tigers never defeated an opponent by more than 14 points.

Expect the same gritty offense this season with six starters back in total.

Defense: Linebacker Sloan Rodberg, East Texas' leading tackler last season, is now with Stephen F. Austin. Former, and defensive lineman Tyriq Burnett is part of the Texas Southern roster.

Wills Point brings back seven defensive starters, but it still took massive losses to graduation.

Trey Patterson will lead the secondary for a second consecutive season. He racked up 121 tackles and picked off a pass at the strong safety spot en route to the district championship.

Wills Point LB Ben Bradshaw (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

The Tigers' front will need some surprises or multiple players to combine for the numbers Rodberg and Burnett hit last season to push for another district championship.

2017 outlook: Wills Point is the district's second-most experience team behind Dallas Roosevelt, and is first among the four teams that made the playoffs last year. The group was the only district team to survive beyond the first round of the postseason.

The squad has an outstanding non-district schedule to get ready for league play.

Chapel Hill, Irving Ranchview, Mineola and Tatum will be the Tigers' first opponents of the year.

Canton WR Tanner Moore (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

3. Canton Eagles

  • Coach: Robert Ivey
  • 2016 finish: 7-4 (4A D-II bi-district finalist)
  • Returning starters: 5 offensive, 6 defensive
Players to watch
  • WR Tanner Moore, Sr., 6-2, 190 (700 yards, 13 TDs)
  • LB Grant Tullos, Sr., 5-10, 190 (121 tackles)
  • QB Simon Miller, Jr., 6-2, 185
  • WR/DB McGwrie Martin, Jr., 5-10, 170

Offense: Canton finally had to say goodbye to multi-sport star Hunter Moore after a regional quarterfinal baseball playoff appearance. Football wise, Moore finished his senior year with more than 2,300 passing yards and 29 scores to 11 interceptions.

Electric receiver Zach Brown also graduated.

To pick up the slack are two brothers of former Canton stars.

Tanner Moore caught for 700 yards and 13 scores in 2016. He's projected to be the leading receiver.

Simon Miller, the little brother of Louisiana-Monroe defender Samuel Miller, steps in at quarterback.

Canton QB Simon Miller (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Three other starters are back from a unit that scored a second-best 162 points against the district behind Lincoln's 216 points. Canton averaged about 32 points per contest.

Defense: Six players are back from a unit that was the fourth-best in district play.

Grant Tullos is a definite bright spot at linebacker. He racked up 121 tackles and gives the front, the defense's most proven suit, a real bite. Canton will rely on its good history of athleticism to fill voids in the secondary.

Canton LB Grant Tullos (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

The Eagles had the district's fourth-best defensive unit in terms of points surrendered en route to a third-place finish. With new offensive players in critical roles, this defense could afford some improvement.

2017 outlook: Canton's signature in recent seasons has been its explosive offense. The Eagles may very well have that, but they'll have to prove it on the field.

The squad has a marginally challenging non-district schedule headlined by Brownsboro and Tyler Grace before beginning the league schedule against Ferris.

Canton needs to have a playoff berth locked up by Week 10. Its season finale is on the road at Lincoln.

Rains TE Michael Stafford (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

4. Emroy Rains Wildcats

  • Coach: Randy Barnes
  • 2016 finish: 5-6 (4A D-II bi-district finalist)
  • Returning starters: 6 offensive, 5 defensive
Players to watch
  • RB/DB Dylon Mosley, Sr., 5-11, 190 (2,016 yards, 19 TDs)
  • OL/DL Gunner Land, Sr., 5-11, 190 (56 tackles, 9 sacks)
  • WR/DB Blane Campbell, Sr., 5-8, 165 (5 INTs)
  • OL/DL Robert Spence, Sr., 6-3, 275
  • TE Michael Stafford, Sr., 6-3, 190

Offense: Dylon Mosley is a potential district offensive MVP candidate as a 2,000-yard rusher out of Rains' Wing-T offense.

For that matter, the Wildcats look well built to execute head coach Randy Barnes' offensive style for a second consecutive season. Six starters return from last season's fourth-place and bi-district round team with good size to run the ball.

Tackle Robert Spence is the biggest lineman in the district at 6-foot-3 and 275 pounds. Big tight end Michael Stafford will compliment him.

Rains OL/DL Robert Spence (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Rains could afford to do better than the 27.4 points it averaged against district competition a season ago, but the bottom two picks in the district performed far worse on the offensive side.

Defense: Rains has five returners and a strong front end as well as a back end for the six primary additions.

Defensive end Gunner Land recorded 56 tackles with nine sacks. Blane Campbell came up with five takeaways in the secondary.

Rains OL/DL Gunner Land (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

The Wildcats had the district's third-best defense a season ago. They gave up 24 points a game to district teams.

Only Lincoln -- which has six returning defensive starters -- and Wills Point -- which has lost two NCAA Division I college players -- were better.

2017 outlook: Rains should be competitive with the top half of the district.

Even if their offense isn't heads and shoulders better than last season, the Wildcats were much more productive than either Ferris or Dallas Roosevelt's offensive units.

Expect Rains to average out with a strong defense and modest offense. That's good enough to contest for a playoff berth for a third consecutive season.

 

5. Ferris Yellowjackets

  • Coach: Brandon Layne
  • 2016 finish: 4-6 (4A D-II bi-district finalist)
  • Returning starters: 4 offensive, 4 defensive
Players to watch
  • RB Damian Edwards, Jr., 5-10, 180 (1,106 yards, 11 TDs)
  • QB/DB Riley Fagan, Sr., 5-10, 175 (674 yards, 8 TDs)

2017 outlook: Ferris is the district's least experienced team with eight returning starters in total, evenly distributed across the offense and defense.

Damian Edwards eclipsed 1,000 yards last season and is back to guide an offense that averaged 19 points per game against district competition. Edwards scored most of the squad's touchdowns.

Ferris has to improve on the offensive side and will begin fall camp with a quarterback competition. Incumbent Riley Fagan is being asked to fight off junior candidate Koby Lankford, who will return to receiver if he loses the battle.

It will take some surprises for the Yellowjackets to make the playoff cut.

 

6. Dallas Roosevelt Mustangs

  • Coach: Randall Johnson
  • 2015 finish: 2-8
  • Returning starters: 7 offensive, 8 defensive
Players to watch
  • RB/DB Damion Johnson, Sr., 6-1, 200 (743 yards, 5 TDs)
  • OL Roderick Franklin, Sr., 6-1, 240

2017 outlook: Dallas Roosevelt does not have much of a winning tradition and, as a result, the participation rate is very low.

But experience will be in the Mustangs' favor this year. Fifteen of 17 players from the 2016 varsity roster are returning.

Roosevelt must improve on offense even before worrying about defense. It won two non-district games by less than a full possession for its sole two wins of the season. The offense put up 22 total points against all five district opponents.

The objective this season is clear.