Last season’s district runner-up finish may only be the start of big things for head coach Lance Angel and the Palestine Wildcats.

Following a brutal 1-9 campaign in Angel’s first year on the job in 2010, Palestine shot up the charts with 4-1 run through the district. And despite losing their bi-district clash with perennial power Waco La Vega, 35-20, confidence is on the upswing in Palestine.

The Wildcats, loaded with speed and athleticism, return 7 offensive and 8 defensive starters in 2012. The quarterback-running back tandem of Brian Gummelt and Darrius Stephens should put up big numbers after stellar 2011 seasons.

Gummelt passed for 1,055 yards and 14 touchdowns to just one INT, while Stephens ran for 1,005 yards and 10 TDs. In the fold at receiver is speed-burner Paul Barksdale (5-8, 170), who’s been clocked in the 4.4s in the 40 during the offseason.

Palestine is fast on defense as well with linebacker Jadarius Beasley and his 4.4 speed patrolling the open space.

Palestine will receive an early litmus test when La Vega, a preseason favorite to compete for a state title, pays a visit to Wildcat Stadium on Aug. 31 for the season opener.

But the early-season challenges don’t stop there.

Jacksonville, defending state champion Chapel Hill and Pittsburg figure to prep Palestine for District 19-3A. But standing in the way of a potential deep run through the playoffs figures to be a Carthage team several are picking to win its fourth state championship in five years.


3A Countdown

No. 7: Atlanta

No. 8: Van

No. 9: Jasper

No. 10: Rusk