District 10-3A Division II is very much an example of the "haves" and "have nots."

Harmony is coming off its first undefeated regular season in school history, Arp is two seasons removed from a trip to the state semifinals, Winona got to the quarterfinals two years ago, and Troup just missed out on the playoffs in 2017.

On the other side of things, Alba-Golden lost its final seven games last season, Grand Saline and Frankston were each 1-9 in 2017, and Quitman is currently in the midst of a 43-game losing streak.

Harmony has all the pieces necessary to not only repeat as district champs, but the Eagles have enough firepower to make a serious run at a regional title.

But what about the rest of the district?

District 10-3A Division II Preview

Winona QB/ATH Dakota Pullum. (© Clint Buckley, ETSN.fm)

PLAYMAKERS

  • QB Brink Bizzell, Soph., Frankston
  • MLB/RB Easton Blackstone, Sr., Harmony
  • OL/DL Malik Gilliam, Sr., Troup
  • OL/DL Blake Hays, Sr., Arp
  • RB/OLB Barrett Hill, Sr., Harmony
  • WR/DB Ty Holland, Soph., Quitman
  • RB Quindarius Johnson, Jr., Winona
  • DB/WR Tren Jones, Jr., Arp
  • WR Boogie Krajca, Sr., Frankston
  • QB/DB Josh Medlin, Sr., Quitman
  • LB Tom Mitchell, Sr., Alba-Golden
  • QB/ATH Dakota Pullum, Sr., Winona
  • QB Weslee Ross, Sr., Troup
  • LB/TE Bryce Smith, Jr., Grand Saline
  • QB Zane Smith, Sr., Alba-Golden
  • QB/DB Zane Taylor, Sr., Grand Saline

 

TOP GAMES

  • West Rusk at Harmony, Sept. 14
  • Harmony at Winona, Oct. 12
  • Arp at Winona, Oct. 19
  • Arp at Troup, Nov. 9
Harmony RB/OLB Barrett Hill. (© Clint Buckley, ETSN.fm)

1. Harmony Eagles

  • Coach: Tim Russell
  • 2017 finish: 11-1 (3A Division II area finalist)
  • Returning starters: 7 offensive, 9 defensive

Players to watch

  • RB/OLB Barrett Hill, Sr., 5-9, 190
  • MLB/RB Easton Blackstone, Sr.
  • DB/WR Cameron Helpenstill, Sr., 5-10, 145
  • DB/WR Drew McNeel, Sr., 5-10, 173
  • TE/MLB Hunter McNeel, Jr., 6-0, 170
  • DT Jesus Maldonado, Sr., 5-8, 225
  • DL/OL Ty Pilcher, Sr., 5-5, 165
  • OL/LB Cesar Arreola, Sr.
Harmony OL/LB Cesar Arreola. (© Clint Buckley, ETSN.fm)

Offense: It's no secret what Harmony wants to do when it has the ball, and that's feed the ball to senior running back Barrett Hill. Last season, Hill rushed for almost 2,000 yards in helping Harmony win its first 11 games of 2017. Head coach Tim Russell also brings back six other offensive starters, including playmaking receivers Drew McNeel and Cameron Helpenstill. Harmony will need a new quarterback to pilot an offense that averaged more than 50 points per game a season ago. The offensive line will be anchored by seniors Cesar Arreola and Ty Pilcher, while junior tight end Hunter McNeel is an added dimension to the Eagles' protection schemes.

Harmony MLB/RB Easton Blackstone. (© Clint Buckley, ETSN.fm)

Defense: Harmony could be even better than it was on defense last season, and that's saying quite a bit. In 2017, opponents averaged just 11 points per game against the Eagles. Harmony returns all but two starters on the defensive side of the ball, so the going figures to be difficult for opposing offenses in 2018. Defensive tackle Jesus Maldonado provides a stable presence up front, while linebacker Easton Blackstone makes all the calls and is seemingly always around the football. Helpenstill and Drew McNeel will double as defensive stalwarts in the secondary.

2018 outlook: Harmony completed its first undefeated regular season in school history and set a school record for 11 wins in 2017. However, the Eagles' party was cut short in the second round of the playoffs against Jacksboro. With 16 total starters returning, Harmony is aiming for a district championship and beyond this season. New district foes Arp, Troup, Grand Saline, Frankston, and Quitman join holdovers Winona and Alba-Golden. Arp and Winona each made the playoffs last year, but neither finished with a winning record. The biggest difference for Harmony is joining Region III, which features Waskom, Daingerfield, and defending state champion Newton.

Winona's Quindarius Johnson (left) and Brandon Henson. (© Clint Buckley, ETSN.fm)

2. Winona Wildcats

  • Coach: Keylon Kincade
  • 2017 finish: 4-7 (3A Division II bi-district finalist)
  • Returning starters: 7 offensive, 8 defensive

Players to watch

  • QB/ATH Dakota Pullum, Sr., 6-1, 190
  • RB Quindarius Johnson, Jr., 5-7, 155
  • ATH KJ Kincade, Sr., 5-10, 180
  • WR/CB Arimon Ford, Soph., 5-7, 150
  • WR/CB Ashton Smith, Jr., 5-11, 160
  • MLB Peyton Snow, Soph.
  • LG/NT Brandon Henson, Sr., 5-8, 300
  • WR/DB Clifford Brown, Sr., 6-0, 170
Winona RB Quindarius Johnson. (© Clint Buckley, ETSN.fm)

Offense: Last season was inconsistent at best for the Winona offense, which averaged a little more than 26 points per game. Head coach Keylon Kincade hopes that with most of his impact players returning on offense, better days could be ahead. The Wildcats have a dynamic trio of athletes on offense in running back Quindarius Johnson, and multi-talented athletes Dakota Pullum and KJ Kincade. Johnson ran for almost 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2017, KJ Kincade produced 1,500 all-purpose yards and accounted for 15 TD's, while Pullum was Winona's most accomplished offensive player. Pullum had more than 1,000 yards receiving with 16 touchdowns, but he could be making a move to quarterback this fall.

Winona ATH KJ Kincade. (© Clint Buckley, ETSN.fm)

Defense: Improvement will need to made on the defensive side of the ball for Winona, which allowed an average of almost 35 points per game to opponents in 2017. The Wildcats bring back eight defensive starters, which should help the unit make positive strides moving forward. The secondary should be a strength with corners Arimon Ford and Ashton Smith providing coverage at cornerback. Kincade and Pullum starred at defensive back last season, and expect both of them to spend significant time on defense again in 2018. Lineman Brandon Henson and linebacker Peyton Snow will anchor Winona's defensive front.

2018 outlook: It was an up-and-down season last year for Winona, which made the playoffs, but collected only four wins. With 15 total starters coming back, head coach Keylon Kincade is hoping the Wildcats do more than just get to the playoffs. Winona is just two years removed from a trip to the state quarterfinals, and the Wildcats gave eventual regional finalist New Diana all it wanted in their first-round postseason game in 2017. Harmony defeated Winona, 53-0, in district last year, and the Eagles are loaded again this year. So it might be a stretch for Winona to realistically compete for a league championship, but there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic for more success in the playoffs this fall.

Arp's Kajun Horton (left) and Tren Jones. (© Clint Buckley, ETSN.fm)

3. Arp Tigers

  • Coach: Dale Irwin
  • 2017 finish: 4-6 (3A Division II bi-district finalist)
  • Returning starters: 3 offensive, 5 defensive

Players to watch

  • DB/WR Tren Jones, Jr., 6-3, 180
  • OL/DL Blake Hays, Sr., 6-3, 298
  • RB/WR/FS Caleb Wright, Sr., 5-9, 175
  • QB Jordan Wright, Sr., 5-10, 165
  • DL/RB Kajun Horton, Jr., 5-9, 225
  • LB/QB Logan Shuttlesworth, Sr., 6-2, 190
  • WR/DB Quinn Roberts, Sr., 5-9, 150
  • RB/LB Jakobie Bussey, Jr., 6-1, 185
Arp OL/DL Blake Hays. (© Clint Buckley, ETSN.fm)

Offense: With only three offensive starters coming back, Arp must find new playmakers to emerge in 2018. Expect Tren Jones, Caleb Wright, and Quinn Roberts to get most of the reps at receiver, Kajun Horton and Jakobie Bussey will likely split carries at running back, and Arp will settle on either Logan Shuttlesworth or Jordan Wright at quarterback. An inexperienced offensive line will be anchored by multi-year starter Blake Hays. Scoring points was a problem last season for the Tigers, who averaged less than 15 points per game.

Arp RB/WR/FS Caleb Wright. (© Clint Buckley, ETSN.fm)

Defense: Arp had to rely on its defense to win games last season, but its most important defender -- DeMarvion Overshown -- is now a freshman at the University of Texas. The Tigers bring back five defensive starters, including Jones, Wright, Hays, and Horton. Opponents averaged a little less than 25 points per game on Arp last season, but if that number is to improve, several new faces will need to step into starring roles this fall.

2018 outlook: Arp is currently on an impressive streak of 11 consecutive playoff appearances, so if recent history is any indication, the Tigers are once again a safe bet to reach the postseason. Graduation did a number on Arp, which is bringing back only eight starters from a year ago, so head coach Dale Irwin will need some new faces to step into impact roles this season. The good news for the Tigers is that they lose the likes of Waskom and West Rusk as district opponents, and Arp's new district is not neighboring the league inhabited by defending state champion Newton, which eliminated Arp from the playoffs in 2017.

Troup's (from left) Braxton Cassell, Cade Jones, and Malik Gilliam. (© Clint Buckley, ETSN.fm)

4. Troup Tigers

  • Coach: John Eastman
  • 2017 finish: 5-5
  • Returning starters: 9 offensive, 7 defensive

Players to watch

  • QB Weslee Ross, Sr., 6-0, 145
  • OL/DL Malik Gilliam, Sr., 6-2, 340
  • WR Brandon Pike, Sr.
  • OL/DL Braxton Cassell, Sr.
  • OLB/WR Bryce Attaway, Sr., 5-9, 160
  • FS/LB Matt Adams, Sr., 6-0, 170
  • RB/LB Trent Allen, Sr., 5-10, 205
  • OL/DL Cade Jones, Sr., 6-3, 285
Troup QB Weslee Ross. (© Clint Buckley, ETSN.fm)

Offense: Troup enters the 2018 season with the most offensive experience in the district with nine returning starters. The Tigers averaged 23.3 points per game in 2017, and the hope is that they'll be more productive this fall. The key to the offense is senior quarterback Weslee Ross, who will have fellow seniors Brandon Pike at receiver and Trent Allen at running back at his disposal. The strength, however, will be the offensive line, which brings back Malik Gilliam, Braxton Cassell, and Cade Jones. If it stays healthy, Troup has the capability of becoming one of the most improved offenses in all of East Texas.

Troup FS/LB Matt Adams. (© Clint Buckley, ETSN.fm)

Defense: The Tigers surrendered an average of more than 28 points per game last season, but with most of the starters returning, expect that number to come down in 2018. Troup has talent at all three levels of its defense. Gilliam, Cassell, and Jones will play a big role on the defensive line, Bryce Attaway and Allen will anchor the linebacking corps, while Matt Adams is listed at safety but is probably Troup's most versatile defender.

2018 outlook: Realignment may have been kindest to Troup, which no longer has to contend with regional powers Waskom, West Rusk, and Elysian Fields in district. Troup nearly qualified for the playoffs in 2017 despite the brutal league competition. The new district isn't without its fair share of challenges in the form of Harmony, Winona, and Arp, but with 16 total staters returning, head coach John Eastman should feel good about Troup's chances of getting back to the postseason for the first time since 2013. The Tigers might be picked fourth in the district, but that is not to suggest that Troup won't win a game or two in the playoffs.

 

5. Alba-Golden Panthers

  • Coach: Derek Smith
  • 2017 finish: 3-7
  • Returning starters: 7 offensive, 7 defensive

Players to watch

  • QB Zane Smith, Sr., 6-3, 180
  • LB Tom Mitchell, Sr., 5-10, 155
  • ATH Boedy Baker, Soph., 6-2, 200
  • LB Dylan Arenas, Sr.
  • OL Zach Kellis, Jr.
  • RB Chris Chabaud, Jr.
  • DB Jon Michael Chadwick, Jr., 6-1, 155
  • DL Tim Mitchell, Jr.

Offense: Alba-Golden believes positive change is on the way for its offense, which struggled to a scoring average of 14.7 points per game in 2017. Seven offensive starters are coming back, including quarterback Zane Smith, who has the potential to carry the offense at times. Junior Chris Chabaud will factor in heavily to the running game, while sophomore Boedy Baker is expected to serve a variety of needs for the Panthers' offense. Zach Kellis anchors an offensive line that hopes to see dramatic improvement moving forward.

Defense: The Panthers gave up an average of more than 33 points per game in 2017, so there is work to be done on the defensive side of the ball. Just like the offense, there are seven players returning with starting experience. Tim Mitchel will be key up front along the defensive line, the duo of Tom Mitchell and Dylan Arenas provides Alba-Golden with stability at linebacker, while Jon Michael Chadwick is a legitimate game-changer in the secondary.

2018 outlook: Alba-Golden got off to a 3-0 start last season only to drop its final seven games of the year. The Panthers are hanging their hopes on the return of 14 starters to make a push for the playoffs. However, the road to the postseason won't be easy as Alba-Golden has to compete with Harmony, Winona, Arp, and Troup for one of the four playoff spots. A Week 2 game against 2A regional contender Big Sandy will tell us quite a bit about Alba-Golden's chances of competing in an extremely top-heavy District 10-3A Division II.

Grand Saline's Luke Melton (left) and Zane Taylor. (© Clint Buckley, ETSN.fm)

6. Grand Saline Indians

  • Coach: Michael Ridge
  • 2017 finish: 1-9
  • Returning starters: 7 offensive, 9 defensive

Players to watch

  • LB/TE Bryce Smith, Jr., 5-10, 195
  • QB/DB Zane Taylor, Sr., 5-11, 170
  • OL/DL Aaron McKiddy, Jr., 6-0, 240
  • OLB/WR Grant Lewis, Jr., 6-3, 200
  • DB/WR Luke Melton, Sr., 5-9, 160
  • OL/DL Luke Morrison, Jr.
  • OL/DL Reed Deatherage, Jr., 6-0, 220
  • ATH Judsen Truett, Sr., 6-2, 170
Grand Saline OL/DL Aaron McKiddy. (© Clint Buckley, ETSN.fm)

Offense: Grand Saline had its moments on offense a season ago, but there was too much inconsistency to establish any kind of positive momentum. The Indians averaged 25.3 points per game for the season, but they were limited to 16 points or less on three occasions. Grand Saline is hopeful that with seven offensive starters returning it can begin the process of developing into a high-octane offense. Zane Taylor will be the trigger man at quarterback, and he'll be surrounded by Grant Lewis, Luke Melton, and Judsen Truett, who can all make big plays. The offensive line will be a considerable strength with the return of Aaron McKiddy, Luke Morrison, and Reed Deatherage.

Grand Saline LB/TE Bryce Smith. (© Clint Buckley, ETSN.fm)

Defense: The big problem last season for Grand Saline was its defense. Opponents averaged more than 43 points per game on the Indians in 2017, so major improvement is a must. Junior linebacker Bryce Smith is the key to a defensive turnaround, but he'll need help. McKiddy, Morrison, and Deatherage will be asked to pull double duty and shore up the defensive line, while Melton and Taylor could be used extensively on defense as well in the secondary.

2018 outlook: Head coach Michael Ridge has been with Grand Saline the previous five seasons. The first two did not yield a single victory, and after two years of a combined nine wins, the Indians slipped to a 1-9 finish in 2017. No one is quite sure what to make of Grand Saline this year. The Indians do bring back 16 total staters, but there is a ton of improvement that needs to be made if they are seriously to challenge for a playoff spot in one of the toughest 3A districts in the area. After opening district with Troup, Grand Saline has a stretch of games that could be considerable winnable. The Indians likely need to sweep through it because they close the season with Winona, Arp, and Harmony.

 

7. Frankston Indians

  • Coach: Paul Gould
  • 2017 finish: 1-9
  • Returning starters: 8 offensive, 8 defensive

Players to watch

  • QB Brink Bizzell, Soph., 5-8, 135
  • WR Boogie Krajca, Sr.
  • OL/DL Jesse Owen, Sr.
  • LB Luke King, 6-0, 185
  • WR/DB Clayton Carnes, Jr.
  • OL/DL Ethan Roark, Jr.

Offense: It was a season to forget for the Frankston offense, which averaged a little more than 11 points per game in 2017. Turnovers, three-and-outs, and youth were a common theme. Brink Bizzell was forced into quarterbacking duty as a freshman, which was trying at times for the Indians. But with Bizzell having plenty of experience under his belt heading into 2018, there is a hope better days could be ahead for the Frankston offense. Senior Boogie Krajca can provide highlight-reel type plays at receiver, and he will be the Indians' big home run hitter again this season. Jesse Owen and Ethan Roark will anchor Frankston's offensive line.

Defense: Opponents averaged almost 40 points per game on Frankston's defense last year, but with eight defensive starters returning, the general feeling is that won't be the case again. Linebacker Luke King was one of the few bright spots on the Indians' defense a season ago, but there will need to be more players step up and follow King's lead.

2018 outlook: There's been so much coaching turnover at Frankston in recent years the Indians haven't been given much of a chance to re-build their program. Paul Gould, who went 42-17 in five seasons at Alto, will be the sixth different head coach at Frankston since 2014. Gould wasn't hired in Frankston until midway through the summer, so it might take a while before the Indians are comfortable with the new coaching staff. There will be undoubtedly be some growing pains early in the year, but the hope is that it's clear Frankston is headed on the right path by the end of the 2018 season.

 

8. Quitman Bulldogs

  • Coach: Bryan Oakes
  • 2017 finish: 0-10
  • Returning starters: 7 offensive, 7 defensive

Players to watch

  • QB/DB Josh Medlin, Sr., 6-2, 155
  • WR/DB Ty Holland, Soph.
  • ATH Trey Berry, Jr.
  • DB/WR Gavin Derryberry, Sr., 6-3, 162
  • WR/DB Dylan Coe, Jr., 6-0, 150
  • WR/DB Riley Flanagan, Jr.
  • OL/DL Hunter Gilbreath, Jr.
  • RB/LB Bryan Morris, Soph., 5-6, 117

Offense: It wasn't pretty for Quitman last season on offense. The Bulldogs averaged a little more than seven points in 2017, and they were shut out on four occasions. With seven starters back, there is hope that Quitman will take a few steps in the right direction. The Bulldogs will need big seasons from quarterback Josh Medlin and receiver Ty Holland to turn things around. But others will need to chip in.

Defense: The Bulldogs' defense was just as bad in 2017, allowing opponents an average of almost 53 points per game. The same number of defensive starters come back, but there is a ton of work to be done. Quitman will likely have multiple players go both ways until the right combination is found by the coaching staff.

2018 outlook: Quitman currently owns the longest losing streak in East Texas at 43 games; that's also the third-longest skid in the state. None of the players in the Bulldogs' program have experienced a victory at the varsity level. Repairing that kind of losing culture might be the toughest thing in sports to accomplish. Head coach Bryan Oakes is entering his second year in charge, and several underclassmen were put into the fire in 2017. Quitman is hoping that experience will help bring that streak of losing to an end. The Bulldogs probably have three chances at grabbing a win in 2018. Quitman faces Scurry-Rosser (0-10 in 2017) in Week 2, and gets Frankston and Grand Saline, both of which were 1-9 last season, in district play.