Sulphur Springs OL Jess Jenkins. (Christopher Vinn,

Several spread offenses and at least one shutdown defense could make for a compelling battle for playoff spots in District 14-4A.

Texas High isn't averaging 300 total yards per game, but the Tigers' defense has been stellar, yielding fewer than 175 total yards per contest during a 4-1 start. Texas High's lone loss was a 38-37 thriller against Class 5A Tyler Lee. In their four wins, the Tigers allowed 15 points, including shutouts of Arkansas High and Natchitoches (La.) Central.

That defensive prowess, keyed by SMU linebacker commit Anthony Rhone, has Texas High as the new favorite in 14-4A when district play starts Friday night. The Tigers travel to Pine Tree to face one of the district's powerful spread offenses.

Mount Pleasant WR K.D. Cannon. (Christopher Vinn,

Sulphur Springs (3-2) appears to be healthy after standouts Larry Pryor and Willy Ivery were banged up earlier in the season. The Wildcats ride momentum into Friday's pivotal district opener at home against Mount Pleasant after winning three of their last four, including consecutive contests against Paris and Corsicana.

Speaking of Mount Pleasant, the Tigers are missing running back T.L. Taylor and cornerback Ladarius Craddock, two players who aren't only senior leaders, but among the best on the team. Craddock, who has 10 interceptions since the start of 2012, is out for the year with a knee injury, while a collarbone injury has sidelined the speedy and versatile Taylor. Those injuries may have contributed to the Tigers' surprising 32-14 loss to Atlanta, which dropped Mount Pleasant to 3-2 two weeks ago. That leaves question marks for the Tigers entering district play.

Hallsville (3-2) sandwiched a trio of double-digit wins between losses to strong teams in No. 3 Whitehouse and 4-1 Nacogdoches. Senior Macailyn Wilder is having a big year at quarterback. The Bobcats' Nov. 1 home game against Mount Pleasant and super recruit K.D. Cannon, who is committed to Baylor, could be a shootout with huge district implications. The same goes for Hallsville's Oct. 25 trip to Sulphur Springs.

Hallsville QB Macailyn Wilder. (© Christopher R. Vinn/

The remaining two teams -- Pine Tree (3-2) and Marshall (1-4) -- have vastly different records but have played vastly different schedules.

Pine Tree has more wins than any season since 2007 (5-5), but those three wins came against teams that are now a combined 1-15. The Pirates' losses to Kilgore and Nacogdoches, teams that are a combined 8-1, came by a discouraging cumulative score of 101-21.

Marshall's four losses were to teams that will contend for deep playoff runs -- Kilgore, Longview, Bossier City Parkway, and Whitehouse. That quartet is 17-1. In other words, Marshall should be more than ready for the 14-4A schedule. Preseason Updated Prediction
First*Sulphur SpringsTexas High (4-1)
Second*Mount PleasantSulphur Springs (3-2)
Third*Texas HighHallsville (3-2)
Fourth*HallsvilleMount Pleasant (3-2)
FifthMarshallMarshall (1-4)
SixthPine TreePine Tree (3-2)

* -- denotes playoff berth

Friday's District 14-4A Openers

  • Texas High at Pine Tree
  • Marshall at Hallsville
  • Mount Pleasant at Sulphur Springs
Pine Tree's Jonathan Giddings (28) tries to escape Lindale's Stephen Clemmons during PT's 51-21 Sept. 27 road win. (Alison Owen,