District 12-2A Division II will be an interesting race in 2018.

Grapeland, Lovelady and Evadale all appear capable of taking the crown. There are plenty of skills players to go around, which should make for fun offensive showcases.

The Sandies enter 2018 at ETSN.fm's favorite to win the district based on their offensive prowess. They return quarterback Rick Frauenberger and receiver B.J. Howard, both of whom set school records this past season. They should only come back stronger after a year of experience.

Lovelady won't be far behind, though. The Lions returns their three offensive weapons from last year and will contend with Grapeland all year for the top spot along with Evadale.

Colmesneil, which joins Grapeland as the other East Texas school in the district, appears to be in prime position to take the fourth playoff spot. The Bulldogs finished 5-6 in 2018 but return 18 starters, which should bode well for their progression.

Sabine Pass, Saratoga West Hardin and Burkeville round out the bottom. To see any of these schools break through into the playoffs would come as a shock, but crazier things have happened.

Enjoy the ETSN.fm 2018 District 12-2A Preview.

District 12-2A Division II Preview

PLAYMAKERS

  • QB Rick Frauenberger, Sr., 6-4, 180
  • WR/DB B.J. Howard, So., 6-0, 165
  • WR/LB Josh "Bear" Ackley, Sr., 5-9, 170
  • RB Tim Johnson, Sr., 5-9, 172
  • WR/DB Jay Thomas Robinson, Sr., 6-2, 160
  • WR/DB Michael Price, Sr.
  • RB/LB Will Farr, Jr.
  • LB Kyler Vernon, Jr.
  • TE/DE Parker Moye, Sr., 6-3, 240
  • WR/DB Zane Hermsen, Sr., 6-2, 150
  • OL/LB Wesley Dobbins, Jr.,
  • OL/DL Carlos Cuellar, Sr., 5-11, 230
  • RB/LB Grayson Johnson
  • WR/DB Daniel Lowe
  • OL/DL Preston Price
  • RB/DB Randon Kelley, So.

TOP GAMES

  • Grapeland at Lovelady, Oct. 19
  • Colmesneil at Grapeland, Oct. 12
  • Evadale at Colmesneil, Nov. 2
  • Grapeland at Crockett, Sept. 14
  • Lovelady at Evadale, Nov. 9

1. Grapeland Sandies

  • Coach: Wayne Mahaffey
  • 2017 finish: 8-5 (2A D-II regional semifinalist)
  • Returning starters: 8 offensive, 7 defensive
Players to watch
  • QB Rick Frauenberger, Sr., 6-4, 180
  • WR/DB B.J. Howard, So., 6-0, 165
  • WR/LB Josh "Bear" Ackley, Sr., 5-9, 170
  • LB/WR James Lee Coleman, Sr., 6-1, 170
  • WR Tyrin Wiley
  • DB Deco Bryant, Jr., 5-11, 140
  • OL/DL Chancellor Francis, Jr., 6-2, 165
  • LB/WR Cooper Sheridan, So., 6-0, 165

Offense: Grapeland's offense had a breakout year in 2017 with the emergence of quarterback Rick Frauenberger and receiver B.J. Howard.

Frauenberger (2,904 passing yards, 29 TDs) set the school record for passing yards and touchdowns in a season. Howard, despite playing in only eight games, set the school record for receiving yards with 1,032. Both are back this season, meaning the Sandies are poised for another potentially record-breaking year.

They aren't the only key contributors back on offense. Josh "Bear" Ackley returns after putting up 612 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns a year ago.

Defense: Ackley will be a leader on defense as well. He led the team in tackles last season with 174 and also recorded two interceptions.

The Sandies also have Howard and safety Deco Bryant in the secondary. However, losses up front leave plenty of holes to fill. Aaron Davis (114 tackles, 12 for loss), Tanner Keith (91 tackles, 12 for loss, 7 sacks) and Ashton Henry (93 tackles, nine for loss) are all gone.

The biggest question for Grapeland will be how the players filling those spots respond in their first year as starters. Chancellor Francis, James Lee Coleman and Cooper Sheridan will all get their chances.

Still, that type of production isn't easily replaced, and it may take a few games for Grapeland to find its footing defensively.

2018 outlook: Grapeland is in prime position to win the district.

The offense shouldn't skip a beat from last season, with its main contributors returning. The graduation of running back Brandon Bedre, who rushed for 1,091 yards in 2017, leaves a void in the backfield that will be difficult to fill. But the passing game should keep things steady for the Sandies.

Grapeland has the tools to not only win its district, but also to make a deep run in the playoffs. If the defense comes together, the Sandies will be one of the top teams in 2A Division II.

2. Lovelady Lions

  • Coach: Jon Lowery
  • 2017 finish: 7-5 (2A D-I area finalist)
  • Returning starters: 6 offensive, 7 defensive
Players to watch
  • RB Tim Johnson, Sr., 5-9, 172
  • WR/DB Jay Thomas Robinson, Sr., 6-2, 160
  • WR/DB Michael Price, Sr.
  • DL Greyson Bachynsky, Sr., 5-11, 195
  • LB Deontrae Hawkins, Sr., 6-2, 168

2018 outlook: Jay Thomas Robinson and Michael Price combined for more than 1,200 yards receiving a season ago and both return. Tim Johnson rushed for 1,209 yards and 14 touchdowns last year.

Lovelady will again be near the top of its district. The Lions pose the biggest threat to Grapeland after dropping from 2A Division-I.

3. Evadale Rebels

  • Coach: Mark Williams
  • 2017 finish: 7-3 (2A D-II bi-district finalist)
  • Returning starters: 8 offensive, 5 defensive
Players to watch
  • RB/LB Will Farr, Jr.
  • LB Kyler Vernon, Jr.
  • TE/DE Parker Moye, Sr., 6-3, 240
  • OL/DL Dylan Reeves
  • OL/DL Ethan Johnson, Sr.

 

2018 outlook: Evadle rounds out the top tier of 12-2A Division II.

Will Farr has been a starter since his freshman season and will again lead the offense from the backfield. The Rebels also have bulky tight end Parker Moye and a couple of lineman in Dylan Reeves and Ethan Johnson to create space for Farr.

Expect the Rebels to be right in the hunt for the district title.

 

4. Colmesneil Bulldogs

  • Coach: Ross McMurry
  • 2017 finish: 4-6 (2A D-II bi-district finalist)
  • Returning starters: 9 offensive, 9 defensive
Players to watch
  • WR/DB Zane Hermsen, Sr., 6-2, 150
  • OL/LB Wesley Dobbins, Jr.,
  • OL/DL Carlos Cuellar, Sr., 5-11, 230
  • RB/DB Ryan Bray, Sr., 5-9, 165
  • LB Evan Stewart, So., 6-0, 215

Offense: The Bulldogs have one of the best offensive lines in the district, led by Wesley Dobbins and Carlos Cuellar.

Ryan Bray will run behind them and should find plenty of space. Zane Hermsen is back for his senior season and should be the main target in the passing attack. Colmesneil returns nine starters from last season, so improvement should be expected for an offense that averaged 22.9 points per game in 2017.

Defense: As with many 2A schools, the Bulldogs have a lot of two-way players.

Dobbins, Cuellar, Hermsen and Bray all play two ways. Linebacker Evan Stewart, only a sophomore, will also play a large role on the defense.

Colmesneil will look to improve from a team that gave up 29 points per contest last season.

2018 outlook: The Bulldogs lose only four starters from 2017, so one would expect them to take a step forward this year.

They might not be on the same level as the Grapelands and Loveladys of the district, but they will contend for a playoff spot.

5. Sabine Pass Sharks

  • Coach: Jason Thibodeaux
  • 2016 finish: 1-4
  • Returning starters: 7 offensive, 7 defensive
Players to watch
  • OL/LB Logan Odom
  • RB/LB Grayson Johnson
  • RB/DE Austin Smith

2017 outlook: Sabine Pass will hope to improve on a 1-4 finish from last season. The Sharks will need big contributions from running back and linebacker Gray Johnson and running back and defensive end Austin Smith. Although they should see improvement from 2017, it would be a surprise if the Sharks were close to competing with the top teams in the district.

6. Saratoga West Hardin Oilers

  • Coach: Cody Day
  • 2016 finish: 1-9
  • Returning starters: 9 offensive, 9 defensive
Players to watch
  • OL/LB Isaac Murphy
  • OL/DL Preston Price
  • RB/DB Randon Kelley, So.

2018 outlook: The Oilers return 18 starters from last season, so the good news is improvement appears likely. However, improvement on a 1-9 season could be simply 2-8 or 3-7. It remains to be seen just how much better West Hardin will be. Random Kelley will be the main source of offense, and should see plenty of room running behind Isaac Murphy and Preston Price.

7. Burkeville Mustangs

  • Coach: Kenneth Thomas
  • 2016 finish: 0-9
  • Returning starters: 7 offensive, 7 defensive
Players to watch
  • WR/DB Daniel Lowe
  • OL/LB Devon Lakey

2018 outlook: If Burkeville can muster one win in 2018, it will be a better season than last year was for the Mustangs. Receiver and defensive back Daniel Lowe was an all-district selection last season and will pace the team on both sides. Expectations should be tempered for Burkeville, which will likely struggle to compete with the district's top four teams.