Following their state championship season in 2009, the Cayuga Wildcats were placed in a district with Mart, one of the state's most storied programs.

During the latest UIL realignment and reclassification process, Mart was moved out of Cayuga's district, meaning the Wildcats' chances of recapturing past glory just got a lot easier.

However, Italy moves into the league after a successful season in Class 2A.

 

1. Italy Gladiators

Coach: Hank Hollywood (first season)

2011 Record: 7-4 (Class 2A Division II bi-district finalist; lost 55-28 to Franklin)

Returning starters: 5 offensive, 5 defensive

Players to watch

  • RB/LB Ryheem Walker, 6-1, 180 (1,600 rushing yards, 17 TDs; 100 tackles)
  • QB Marvin Cox
  • RB Chase Hamilton
  • OL Zain Byers
  • WR Eric Carson
  • RB/DL Jalarance Lewis
  • OL/DL Zach Boykin
  • OL/DL Adrian Reed
  • WR/DB Caden Jacinto
  • OL/LB Brauilo Luna
  • OL/DL Hank Seabolt
  • OL/DL Kevin Roldan
  • RB/LB Shadrach Newman
  • OL/LB Cody Medrano
  • WR/DB Trevon Robertson
  • OL/DL John Byers

2012 Outlook: A drop from Class 2A should help first-year coach Hank Hollywood contend for a district title. Hollywood has plenty of speed and production returning at the running back position. Walker had a breakout junior season with more than 1,600 yards and 17 touchdowns. Joining him in the backfield will be Chase Hamilton and Jalarance Lewis. The quarterback position is a bit of a question mark. Eric Carson should begin the year at QB, but Hollywood expects projected starter Marvin Cox will be good to go once district play begins.

 

2. Cayuga Wildcats

Coach: Greg Jenkins (third season, 13-9)

2011 Record: 4-6

Returning starters: 6 offensive, 6 defensive

Players to watch

  • RB D’onte Jackson, 5-9, 200 (1,168 rushing yards, 18 TDs)
  • LB Donald Holly III (87 tackles, 2 INTs, 5 sacks)
  • G Daniel Jock
  • RB/WR Frankie Avillas
  • K Stephen Slater
  • WR/CB Keyshawn Jackson
  • C Brandon Batton

Strengths: The Wildcats possess one of the top 1A running backs in the area in senior D’onte Jackson, who is entering his third year as a starter. Last season, the brother of former Cayuga and current Texas A&M standout Malcome Kennedy rushed for more than 1,100 yards and 18 touchdowns. Another sibling of Kennedy’s expected to provide Cayuga with steady production on offense is Keyshawn Jackson, who has a chance to impact the game in several areas. Defensively, Donald Holly III is getting looks from colleges and can be considered an elite defender at the 1A level. Last season, Holly racked up 87 tackles and five sacks.

 

Weaknesses: There is no doubt the quarterback position is the key on offense for Cayuga, and until a playmaker emerges, the Wildcats will be relying heavily on the ground game. As is the case for most teams at this level, depth will also play a huge role in how Cayuga fares this season. And despite returning 12 starters from last year, only 15 players enter this season with varsity experience. So there may some growing pains early on for head coach Greg Jenkins and his bunch.

2012 Outlook: The district sets up favorably for Cayuga, which is no longer sharing a league with perennial state title contender Mart. Italy, Kerens and Dallas Gateway pose the biggest threat to the Wildcats’ chances of returning to the playoffs. If D’onte Jackson can stay healthy and come through for a career year as a senior, Cayuga could make some noise come November.

 

3. Kerens Bobcats

Coach: Russell Anderson (sixth season, 34-20)

2011 Record: 4-7 (Class 1A Division I bi-district finalist; lost 26-19 to Valley Mills)

Returning starters: 7 offensive, 7 defensive

Players to watch

  • LB MIchael Kline, 6-0, 210 (134 tackles)
  • DB Kevin Townsell (39 tackles, 3 INTs)
  • WR Brett Anderson
  • QB Nate Betts (767 rushing yards, 8 TDs; 795 passing yards, 6 TDs)
  • OL Dylan Woods
  • DB Shelton Sayles
  • LB Daedreon Tolliver
  • RB Adreon Davis
  • RB Rayvon Faulk
  • OL Talon Modester
  • OL Bubba Sayles
  • LB Zak Starkey
  • WR Daryle Tomita
  • WR Zack Duncan
  • DB Lane Green

2012 Outlook: The Bobcats are bringing back 14 starters from last year’s playoff team, including a bevy at the skill positions. Nate Betts is the triggerman for Kerens’ spread attack on offense. He totaled more than 1,500 yards and 14 touchdowns at quarterback last season. Defensively, Michael Kline headlines a talented corps of linebackers poised for breakout seasons. If Betts continues to develop at the QB spot, Kerens could challenge for a district championship.

 

4. Dallas Gateway Gators

Coach: James Bevil (ninth season)

2011 Record: 3-8 (Class 1A Division II bi-district finalist; lost 56-0 to Mount Enterprise)

Returning starters: 8 offensive, 8 defensive

Players to watch

  • LB Leland Lloyd, 5-11, 225
  • DL Avery Harris
  • RB Kelvin Williams
  • ATH Robert Overstreet (600 rushing yards, 10 TDs)
  • DB Joshua Dixon (4 INTs)

2012 Outlook: The Gators bring back more players with starting experience than any other school in the district. After reaching the playoffs a year ago, Gateway expects to take the next step and compete once it reaches the postseason. Robert Overstreet will have a lot to say about that after posting more than 600 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns in 2011. Leland Lloyd and Joshua Dixon will anchor what could be a stout Gators defense.

 

5. Itasca Wampus Cats

Coach: Bobby Campbell (second season, 3-6)

2011 Record: 3-6

Returning starters: 4 offensive, 4 defensive

Players to watch

  • RB Jonathan Frederick, 5-9, 180
  • RB Tamarcus Sheppard
  • OLB Nick Castillo
  • QB Brandon Farquhar (375 passing yards, 3 TDs)
  • LB Ashton Campbell
  • OL Christian Cruz
  • OL David Corbitt
  • OL Eric Garcia
  • OL Sam Orr
  • QB Cole Coleman
  • WR Michael Macias

2012 Outlook: Last season was one of transition for Itasca, which was learning all new systems from new head coach Bobby Campbell. The second year with Campbell in charge should be a little smoother for the Wampus Cats, who bring back four starters on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Brandon Farquhar will direct the offense after throwing for 375 yards and three touchdowns in 2011 as a freshman. The running game should make strides as well with Jonathan Frederick and Tamarcus Sheppard receiving the bulk of the carries from the backfield.

 

6. Cross Roads Bobcats

Coach: Brad Wallace (first season)

2011 Record: 2-8

Returning starters: 3 offensive, 4 defensive

Players to watch

  • LB Shawn Himes, 5-8, 160 (103 tackles)
  • OL Seth McGlaun
  • DL Tye Jenkins
  • WR Trey Hazelip
  • DB Taylor Johnson
  • DL Chace Lopez
  • WR Chad Sherrell (61 yards rushing, 1 TD; 103 passing yards, 2 TDs; 193 receiving yards)
  • OL Joe Merritt

Strengths: The hiring of first-year coach Brad Wallace has rejuvenated the Cross Roads community, and construction has begun on turning around a football program that’s fallen on hard times of late. Linebacker Shawn Himes is one of the players Wallace will count on for leadership following his 100-plus tackle season in 2011. Offensively, Chad Sherrell is jack-of-all-trades type and will fill a variety of roles for the Bobcats.

Weaknesses: With any new coach comes a learning curve for players accustomed to doing things differently. It may take a year or two before Wallace’s effects on the program start showing up in the win-loss column.

2012 Outlook: Order number one will be to make strides during the Bobcats’ non-district slate. A couple of wins early in the season could do wonders for a young team and a first-year head coach. If confidence develops early on, there is potential for push toward the playoffs -- a place Cross Roads hasn’t reached since 2003.