After spending two seasons in the original "District of Doom," Carthage was sent back to Region III with February's UIL realignment. The Bulldogs have spent their fair share of time in this southernly district, and the other teams in it are probably not happy Carthage is again a bunkmate.

Carthage enters 2012 a heavy favorite in the District 20-3A race and one of East Texas' top candidates for a state championship run. The Bulldogs not only start 2012 at the top of the ETSN.fm 20-3A predictions, but in our Class 3A rankings as well.

The next two spots in the 20-3A race will likely belong to Jasper and Center, but the order is debatable. The Roughriders hope athleticism matters more than size in the battle for second place. Jasper is the only 20-3A team that might be able to go toe-to-toe up front with Carthage.

A new season brings  a new coach in Diboll, which must replace standout tailback Terrence Taylor, a 2012 graduate. Huntington also hopes to win more than the one game it claimed in 2011.

1.Carthage Bulldogs

Coach: Scott Surratt (sixth season, 62-11)

2011 Record: 9-4 (3A Division II Region II semifinalist; lost 35-34 in 2OT to Argyle)

Returning starters: 4 offensive (I pro, multiple), 6 defensive (4-3)

Players to watch

  • QB Blake Bogenschutz, Jr., 6-0, 182 (179-for-324, 2,696 yards, 24 TDs, 10 INTs; 36 carries, 77 yards, 3 TDs; 2 catches, 48 yards, 2 TDs)
  • RB Tevin Pipkin, Jr., 5-10, 170 (242 carries, 1,707 yards, 11 TDs; 20 catches, 262 yards, 1 TD)
  • RB/MLB Trent Jackson, Sr., 6-0, 215 (28 carries, 140 yards, 8 TDs; 153 tackles, 13 for loss, 1 sack, 1 INT, 1 FF)
  • DT Isaiah Golden, Sr., 6-2, 315 (8 sacks each of past two seasons at Elysian Fields; committed to Texas A&M)
  • OT/DE Mario McCain, Jr., 6-0, 240 (52 tackles, 6 for loss, 2 sacks)
  • DT K'Aelin Ware, Sr., 6-0, 230 (61 tackles, 5 for loss, 1 sack, 1 FF)
  • CB Dominic Collins, Sr., 5-9, 170 (57 tackles, 2 for loss, 2 INT, 2 PBU)
  • RB/OLB D.K. Calloway, Sr., 5-7, 170 (29 carries, 172 yards, 2 TDs; 54 tackles, 2 for loss, 1 FF, 1 FR)
  • OG Adrian Goodacre, Jr., 6-4, 325
  • OG Griffin Bankhead, Jr., 6-3, 290
  • TE/DE Lane Pierce, Sr., 6-6, 230
  • DE Gregg Graves, Sr., 6-1, 200 (44 tackles, 7 for loss, 3 sacks, 1 INT, 3 FF, 2 FR)
  • DE J'Marcus Roberson, Sr., 6-1, 200 (12 tackles, 4 for loss, 1 sack, 1 FF)
  • K Jimmy Gonzalez, Jr., 5-10, 180 (44-for-50 PAT; 33 punts, 35.6 average, 52 long)
  • DS/WR Major Harris, Sr., 5-9, 170
  • WR/CB Sammy Chhor, Sr., 5-9, 170
  • WR/S Tee Goree, Jr., 6-2, 170
  • WR Okeeron Rutherford, Jr., 6-5, 180
  • TE/DE Trevor Cooper, Jr., 6-3, 190
  • ATH Bryian Bolton, Soph., 5-10, 175 (11 carries, 48 yards)

Strengths: Backfield, front seven. Carthage’s 2014 class is loaded, and no players from that group -- except perhaps two-way starting lineman Mario McCain -- have proven more already than quarterback

Blake Bogenschutz and tailback Tevin Pipkin, who combined for more than 4,500 yards of total offense and 40 touchdowns in 2011. That duo headlines a Carthage offense that must once again rebuild its offensive line, but with McCain -- a two-year starter on the O-line -- and fellow juniors Adrian Goodacre and Griffin Bankhead, the Bulldogs again should be solid up front. It’s not just Pipkin in the backfield, either. Starting middle linebacker Trent Jackson is Carthage’s short-yardage specialist, and sophomore Bryian Bolton could be the Bulldogs’ “next big thing” on both sides of the ball. Bolton’s father Marland ran for 1,766 yards and 25 touchdowns during Carthage’s 15-1 Class 4A state runner-up season in 1991. Defensively, Carthage’s front seven may be the best in 3A with Elysian Fields transfer Isaiah Golden, McCain, tackle K’Aelin Ware, Jackson, and a solid defensive end rotation.

 

Weaknesses: Experience in receiving corps, secondary. Replacing Texas A&M signee Edward Pope, a four-year varsity player who was all-state at receiver and safety, will be next to impossible. His 1,200-plus receiving yards and 16 touchdowns from 2011 will be missed. Carthage will have some inexperience on the offense’s perimeter, though there’s a lot of promise in the Bulldogs’ receiving corps. Juniors Okeeron Rutherford,  Tee Goree, and Trevor Cooper -- who might play tight end -- could all become key targets for Bogenschutz. In the secondary, Dominic Collins is the only returning starter, so Carthage may rely on its stellar front seven to cover the sins of the defensive backfield early in the season.

 

2012 Outlook: After an up-and-down season that saw Carthage narrowly escape district games at Pittsburg and Gladewater and included a three-touchdown home drilling of Henderson and double overtime loss to the eventual state runner-up, the Bulldogs are primed for a deep playoff run with a 2014 class that could be among the best groups in recent memory. Carthage will be strong on both lines and have the backfield to pile up points. The question is can Carthage navigate what should be a minefield of a 3A Division I Region III bracket? A first-round meeting with Palestine could precede a second-round date with Waco La Vega or Navasota, both perennial powers. Houston Yates or West Columbia could await in the regional final. Then there’s the possibility of Stephenville staring them down from the other side of the bracket. Nevertheless, Carthage is the East Texas Sports Network’s No. 1 team in our area Class 3A countdown for good reason, and we expect big things from the Bulldogs in 2012.

2.Jasper Bulldogs

Coach: Darrell Barbay (first season; 74-53 overall)

2011 Record: 6-5 (3A Division I Region III bi-district finalist; lost 70-28 to Chapel Hill)

Returning starters: 6 offensive, 9 defensive

Players to watch

  • WR Demarcus Collins, Sr., 5-11, 180 (22 catches, 514 yards, 8 TDs)
  • OL Terrell Cuney, Jr., 6-3, 270
  • RB Donavan Middleton, Sr., 5-10, 190 (47 carries, 533 yards, 14 TDs)
  • QB Steven Walker, Jr., 5-11, 190 (67 of 158, 1,115 yards, 16 TDs, 9 INTs)
  • LB DeAnthony Cuney, Sr., 6-2, 215 (122 tackles)
  • FS Jarvis Randall, Sr., 6-3, 180 (4 INTs)
  • DE Shawn Jones, Jr., 6-2, 225
  • DE Travon Scott, Jr., 6-2, 230
  • TE Dranzell Haynes, Sr., 6-2, 200
  • OL Dominic Limbrick, Sr., 6-0, 275
  • RB Terrance Cuney, Jr., 5-9, 205
  • WR Chris Spikes, Soph., 6-3, 170

Strengths: Skill positions, size. Jasper welcomes back a trio of proven playmakers at the quarterback, running back, and receiver positions. Steven Walker had a breakout season as a sophomore and should only get better with repetitions. Donavan Middleton averaged 11.3 yards per carry backing up former Bulldog standout Karrion Morrisey and becomes Jasper’s go-to ground option in 2012. Demarcus Collins, who averaged 23.4 yards per catch, is a versatile athlete who could draw recruiting interest as the season progresses. That trio will have a large line blocking for it spearheaded by Terrell Cuney and Dominic Limbrick, who give Jasper plenty of girth up front. That size is also found on defense, where bookends Shawn Jones and Travon Scott, a pair of promising juniors, play in front of the leader of the defense, linebacker DeAnthony Cuney, who is far from small himself.

Weaknesses: Defense. Jones, Scott, and DeAnthony Cuney are three of Jasper’s nine returning defensive starters, but we’re not sure yet if that’s good or bad. Jasper allowed 31.3 points per game a season ago, so the Bulldogs will need a lot of improvement on that side of the ball to improve on last year's 6-5 season. Jasper yielded 37 or more points four times, including 70 in its first-round loss to eventual Division I champion Chapel Hill.

2012 Outlook: There will be scheme changes with first-year coach Darrell Barbay running the show, but with 15 returning starters and plenty of size, Jasper should be a solid team in 2012. The Bulldogs may not challenge their canine brethren to the north (Carthage), but at the very least should be a playoff team even if Center sneaks past them in the District 20-3A race. Jasper will also have the advantage of being a Division II playoff team since its enrollment figure is lower than Carthage’s.

3.Center Roughriders

Coach: Kevin Goodwin (fourth season, 17-17)

2011 Record: 5-6 (3A Division II Region III bi-district finalist; lost 24-14 to Bullard)

Returning starters: 9 offensive (spread), 8 defensive (odd front)

Players to watch

  • RB K.J. Garrett, Sr., 5-9, 178 (131 carries, 764 yards, 8 TDs; 122 receiving yards, 2 TDs)
  • LB Derrick Thomas, Sr., 6-0, 222 (101 tackles, 6 for loss)
  • WR Tony McCollister, Sr., 5-10, 150 (34 catches, 377 yards, 5 TDs; 3 INTs)
  • NG Tyler Morris, Sr., 6-1, 302
  • LB Kiounis Williams, Jr., 5-10, 215 (60 tackles, 9 for loss, 1 FF)
  • QB Dalton Horton, Soph., 6-3, 190
  • WR Shaquille Ingram, Sr., 5-8, 159
  • RB Myles Netherly, Sr., 5-8, 170
  • QB Cody Carleton (43 of 89, 278 yards, 1 TD, 5 INTs)
  • WR DeJalen Preston, Jr., 6-0, 168
  • OL Aaron Liker, Sr., 5-10, 245
  • OL Javaris Rankin, Sr., 5-10, 245
  • OL Kyle Clinton, Sr., 6-2, 205
  • ATH D.J. Bolton
  • RB Johnny Shaw, Soph.

Strengths: Skill positions, experience. K.J. Garrett is poised for a huge year running the ball, and the same can be said about wideout Tony McCollister in the passing game. The quarterback spot is a bit of a question mark, but fourth-year coach and Center alumnus Kevin Goodwin has high hopes in big, rangy sophomore Dalton Horton. He also has the option of playing veteran Cody Carleton, who started several games in 2011, or sophomore Caiden Rainbolt. All three have gotten looks during two-a-days. Center averaged 37.3 points per district game last season. With nine returning offensive starters, the Roughriders should have a chance to duplicate that this season. The eight returning defensive starters should also help Center improve on the 30.4 points per game it allowed a season ago. Derrick Thomas and Kiounis Williams may be among the region’s top linebacker tandems.

Weaknesses: Size. In most districts, Center would not have a problem here. But in District

20-3A, the Roughriders can’t match the size of their two toughest opponents, Carthage and Jasper, who are big almost everywhere on the field. Tyler Moore has good size to anchor the defensive line, while Aaron Liker, Javaris Rankin, and Kyle Clinton give the Roughriders respectable O-line size. But Center will be hard-pressed to avoid being pushed around at times by both groups of Bulldogs in the district.

2012 Outlook: Center has 17 returning starters and playmakers on both sides of the ball. The Roughriders will be ready for 20-3A play after navigating a non-district schedule that includes Atlanta and Tatum. Center should earn a playoff berth, which would be the Roughriders’ fourth in as many seasons under Goodwin. But can they compete with Jasper for second place? If their athleticism can compensate for the size disadvantage they’ll face, it’s a definite possibility.

4.Diboll Lumberjacks

Coach: Shane Adair (second season, 4-6)

2011 Record: 4-6

Returning starters: 4 offensive, 6 defensive

Players to watch

  • ATH Carlos Teal, Sr., 5-11, 160
  • WR Carlos Lewis, Sr., 5-10, 170
  • OL Seth Johnston, Sr.
  • RB Jason Cook, Sr., 5-8, 185
  • DL Luis Ramos, Sr., 6-1, 235
  • DL Austin Dubose, Sr., 6-2, 190
  • DL Jon Serrato, Sr., 5-5, 270
  • FS Antonio Garrett, Sr., 6-0, 165

Strengths: Defensive line. Luis Ramos, Austin Dubose, and Jon Serrato give Diboll a solid core of veteran defenders to anchor their line. That group should help the Lumberjacks as they try to improve on the 34.1 points per game they allowed a season ago. That included allowing 44 or more points four times.

Weaknesses: Quarterback, offensive line. Only four starters return to an offense that averaged a less-than-ideal 22.8 points per game last season. The receiver and tailback positions appear settled with the group of Carlos Teal, Carlos Lewis, and Jason Cook likely assuming the Lumberjacks’ go-to skill position roles, but it’s not clear who will assume the quarterback spot and get those players the ball. Seth Johnston may be Diboll’s only O-line veteran, so there could be growing pains on offense during September.

2012 Outlook: Diboll narrowly missed the playoffs in 2011, losing a three-way tiebreaker with Center and Kirbyville (now 2A), all of which finished 2-2 in district. With fewer starters back than Jasper or Center, Diboll may be the odd team out in the playoff race. The Lumberjacks won’t be able to match Carthage’s firepower, and they must travel to Jasper on Oct. 19 a week after hosting Center. Diboll beat Center 28-27 a year ago, but right now, we don’t expect that to happen again in 2012, so the Lumberjacks appear likely to miss the postseason for the third time in four seasons.

5.Huntington Red Devils

Coach: Todd Hopkins (fourth season, 4-26)

2011 Record: 1-9

Returning starters: 5 offensive (spread), 6 defensive (50 front)

Players to watch

  • OL Jacob Slaughter, Sr., 6-0, 260
  • WR/DB Jamichael Brown, Jr., 5-8, 170 (4 of 12, 88 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs; 26 carries, 286 yards, 3 TDs; 1 INT)
  • LB Josh Packard, Sr., 5-9, 185 (82 tackles)
  • QB Brent Loggins, Soph., 6-1, 175
  • RB Lane Williams, Sr., 5-11, 165
  • OL Hudson Cook, Sr., 6-1, 235
  • WR Trent Carrigan, Soph., 5-9, 170
  • OL Rowdy Witt, Jr., 5-11, 265
  • WR Joseph Loggins, Sr., 5-8, 170 (8 catches, 138 yards)
  • TE Nick Moore, Sr., 6-0, 210
  • DB Bob Dickerson, Sr., 5-9, 170
  • DB Dylan Wallace, Sr., 5-8, 175
  • LB Matt Hudspeth, Sr., 6-0, 185
  • DB Jason Williams, Sr., 5-10, 160
  • DB Brax Turner, Sr., 5-8, 130
  • DL Jacob Cartwright, Jr., 5-9, 200
  • OLB Jacob Sinclair, Jr., 5-7, 155

Strengths: Receivers. Jamichael Brown played multiple positions as a sophomore and should be a bigger threat in Huntington’s offense in 2012. Brown averaged 11.0 yards per carry and could again see playing time at various spots. Joseph Loggins averaged 17.3 yards per catch in limited opportunities and should be a bigger part of the receiving corps this season. Brown and Loggins should help break in a new quarterback in sophomore Brent Loggins.

Weaknesses: Size, offense. After a 41-20 season-opening win against Cleveland Tarkington, Huntington failed to score more than 22 points in a game the rest of the season. Six of those games saw the Red Devils score six points or fewer. Huntington’s inability to score consistently also put its defense behind the 8-ball as it allowed 44.3 points per game. Jacob Slaughter, Rowdy Witt, and Hudson Cook give Huntington good size on the offensive line, but even at that stature the Red Devils could be one of the two smallest teams along the lines in District 20-3A.

2012 Outlook: Huntington starts the season with three opponents who were a combined 6-24 in 2011, so the Red Devils may have opportunities to get a win or two under their belt. They also play Madisonville, a 3-7 team, just before starting the 20-3A schedule. Huntington has never made the playoffs in 30 years of football. The Red Devils have also never won more than three games. They’ll miss the playoffs again in 2012 because they simply won’t be able to compete with the big boys of the district, but they have a shot to improve on last season’s 1-9 record.