Rusk’s 4-8 record from 2011 is a little misleading. The Eagles began the year 0-5, but four of the losses were by four points or less.

Rusk began to pick up steam in district, ultimately nailing down a playoff spot for the first time since 2006. And once they were there, the Eagles did a little damage with a 47-18 rout of Kirbyville in bi-district. The season ended a week later, but the positive momentum created by the postseason win should carry over into the 2012 season for the Eagles.

It doesn’t hurt that Rusk brings back 16 starters (eight on each side) from last year. Included among them is speedy tailback, defensive back and return specialist Chaston Bennett (5-10, 160). As a junior, Bennett ran for 1,480 yards and 21 touchdowns to pace Rusk’s run-heavy attack.

As big as Bennett’s impact will be on offense, senior linebacker David Overstreet is just as vital to the Eagles’ defense. Last season, Overstreet made 63 tackles (eight for loss) and came away with four sacks. Big defensive lineman Darren Franklin (6-3, 300) should direct more than a fair share of plays in Overstreet’s direction.

The odds of returning to the playoffs a second consecutive year are in Rusk’s favor with the Eagles competing in a five-team district once again. Fairfield was 10-1 and Palestine went 7-4 in 2011, but the league’s other two teams combined to go just 4-17.

Things won’t be easy for Rusk if it does reach the playoffs with either Center, Jasper or Diboll waiting in the first round.