Surprise, surprise. The Daingerfield Tigers enter another season as the pick to win their district.

But don't overlook New Boston and Hooks, two teams with strong running games led by Lions' tailback Damien Haskins (Memphis commit) and Hornets' quarterback Aaron Doddy. They should help their teams battle for the next two playoff spots behind Daingerfield.

Redwater could also be a factor after its eight-win 2011 season, and Mount Vernon is moving down from Class 3A. So beyond Daingerfield, the playoff race could be cluttered.

1.Daingerfield Tigers

Coach: Aric Sardinea (second season, 10-4)

2011 Record: 10-4 (2A Division I Region II finalist; lost 42-21 to Melissa)

Returning starters: 7 offensive (multiple), 4 defensive (multiple)

Players to watch

  • QB/ATH Edwin Mims, Sr., 5-9, 180 (44 catches, 598 yards, 8 TDs)
  • CB Ruben Mims, Sr., 5-9, 165
  • DL Jacolby Simpson, Sr., 6-0, 280
  • LB Calvin Bryant, Jr., 5-9, 160
  • RB Ray Wallace, Jr., 5-10, 165 (102 carries, 682 yards, 11 TDs)
  • WR Shawn Hooks, Sr., 5-7, 160
  • OL Malik Ellis, Sr., 6-3, 255
  • WR Jonathan Barber, Sr., 6-2, 185
  • LB Kelshin Neal, Jr., 5-10, 175
  • DB Tykeema Wilson, Sr., 5-10, 165
  • OL Donavin Dublin, Sr., 6-0, 275
  • QB Keris Alexander (5 of 6, 114 yards)

Strengths: Skill positions, athleticism. Daingerfield once again has a wealth of playmakers on both sides of the ball, especially on the offense’s perimeter. Edwin Mims, whether running the offense or lining up as a receiver, is a big play waiting to happen, while Shawn Hooks and Jonathan Barber are poised for big seasons. So is Ray Wallace, who averaged 6.7 yards per carry splitting time in the backfield as a sophomore. The speed and athleticism isn’t limited to the offense. Ruben Mims and Calvin Bryant had solid 2011 seasons and are key cogs on a defense that must replace seven starters.

Weaknesses: QB experience, defensive experience. Edwin Mims and Keris Alexander appear to be the early candidates to replace 3,000-yard passer Alex Allen, who had the unenviable task of replacing three-time state champion Tyler Boyd at QB and did a superb job leading the Tigers to a 10-win season. So Daingerfield has proven it can rebound quickly from losing a great QB. The aforementioned Ruben Mims and Bryant will help the Tigers cope with returning only four defensive starters. Jacolby Simpson is more than an adequate start on the defensive front, too. Nevertheless, breaking in new players on defense is never easy, so the Tigers may experience some growing pains early in the season.

2012 Outlook: Daingerfield showed last season that it can still be a force to be reckoned with after losing a lot of talent during the offseason. Well, the Tigers will have to show that again with half their starters from a regional finalist squad gone. But the talent, as always, is there, and the Tigers are the District 8-2A Division I favorite entering 2012. New Boston and Division I FBS-bound tailback Damien Haskins will be their toughest challenger in 8-2A D-I, but expects Daingerfield to win another district championship and enter the postseason as one of the favorites in Division I’s Region II bracket.

2.New Boston Lions

Coach: Rick Barker (seventh season, 56-23; 112-66 overall)

2011 Record: 10-3 (2A Division I Region II semfinalist; lost 45-26 to Melissa)

Returning starters: 6 offensive (I formation), 5 defensive (4-3)

Players to watch

  • RB Damien Haskins, Sr., 5-9, 210 (committed to Memphis)
  • OG Wesley Holmes, Jr., 6-1, 285
  • WR Tyjae Clark, Sr., 6-3, 170
  • C Wes Teague, Jr., 5-10, 210
  • OG Colin Gholston, Sr., 5-10, 220
  • TE Justin Johnson, Sr., 6-2, 220

2012 Outlook: Finally out of the shadow of New Boston career rushing leader Shakeem Jefferson -- who ran for more than 6,000 yards -- Damien Haskins is ready to explode. And the more carries he gets, the more Division I FBS offers he should receive. Haskins gained more than 1,000 yards splitting time with 2,800-yard gainer Jefferson a year ago as New Boston won 10 games. Another double-digit-win season may not be in store for the Lions, but they should at least snag another playoff berth and be a tough out in the postseason. Tyjae Clark and Justin Johnson give whoever will be the new Lion quarterback to big targets in the passing game, which New Boston will need more of this season since teams will be able to sell out to stopping only one game-changing back instead of two.

3.Hooks Hornets

Coach: Hart Jeanis (second season, 5-5)

2011 Record: 5-5

Returning starters: 7 offensive, 6 defensive.

Players to watch

  • QB Aaron Doddy, Sr. (92 carries, 747 yards, 7 TDs)
  • FB Demetris Burchette, Sr. (111 carries, 698 yards, 3 TDs)
  • LB R.J. Williams, Soph. (63 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 FF, 2 FR)
  • DB Jimmy Houston, Jr.
  • LB Anthony Sciara, Jr.
  • RB Cedrick Johnson, Sr.
  • OL Tyrone Bishop, Sr.
  • RB Jeremy Green, Sr.
  • WR Lake Hight, Sr.
  • OL Andrew Lomax, Sr.

2012 Outlook: Hooks will rely on a strong running game featuring multi-talented quarterback Aaron Doddy and fullback Demetris Burchette, a duo that accounted for more than 1,400 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns in 2011. R.J. Williams and Anthony Sciara give the Hornets a proven linebacker tandem that will spearhead a defensive unit that allowed a respectable 22.9 points per game last season. Six starters are back from that defense, so the Hornets could see improvement in 2012. We expect Hooks to be the darkhorse team for a big season in District 8-2A Division I. A playoff berth and more could be in the cards.

4.Redwater Dragons

Coach: Tommy Graf (first season)

2011 Record: 8-4 (2A Division I Region II semifinalist; lost 55-13 to Daingerfield)

Players to watch

  • LB Jared Bristow
  • RB/DB Hunter Cox
  • OL Jacobie Briscoe
  • DL Shawn McElwee
  • LB Neo Hudson
  • DB Michael Cochran
  • TE Blake Bentley
  • OL Cobin Brown
  • DB John Cleghorn

2012 Outlook: Redwater is aiming for its third consecutive playoff berth, a feat the Dragons have never accomplished in program history. The Dragons should be solid along both fronts, but an offseason head coaching change might have derailed a bit of the momentum they forged during the 2011 season, which was only the second eight-win season for Redwater in its history. In a district that isn’t short on playmakers, Redwater may have a hard time keeping up with Daingerfield, New Boston, and Hooks in the firepower department. The Dragons certainly won’t surprise anyone if they get that third consecutive playoff berth, but it will be very tough.

5.Mount Vernon Tigers

Coach: Mike Alexander (second season, 2-8)

2011 Record: 2-8

Returning starters: 8 offensive (multiple), 11 defensive (multiple).

Players to watch

  • RB Sakorey Chandler, Sr., 6-0, 175
  • ATH Daniel Brown, Sr., 5-10, 175 (50 tackles, 2 INTs)
  • RB Keenan Allen, Sr., 5-11, 200
  • QB Sam Alston, Jr., 6-0, 170 (122 of 235, 1,337 yards, 12 TDs, 19 INTs)
  • DL Ryan Johnston, Sr., 6-1, 220
  • DL Blake Sears, Sr., 5-10, 230
  • LB Chase Whitaker (76 tackles)
  • RB Mason Cook, Jr., 5-11, 180
  • OL Tyler Foster, Sr., 6-0, 240
  • WR Jonathan Barker, Sr., 5-9, 160
  • WR J.D. Gibson, Sr., 6-2, 175

2012 Outlook: Mount Vernon has the most experience back of any District 8-2A Division I team, especially on defense, where the entire unit is back. But that defense allowed 41.9 points per game in 2011, so the Tigers will have to see vast improvement if they want to challenge for a playoff spot. The big advantage Mount Vernon will have is dropping from Class 3A, so there is definitely hope for the Tigers as they try to recover from last season’s disappointing finish. The backfield of Sam Alston and Sakorey Chandler should help the Tigers compete with the likes of Hooks and Redwater in a fight for one of the district’s three playoff spots, although even a drop from 3A far from guarantees any postseason action for Mount Vernon.

6.Pattonville Prairiland Patriots

Coach: Glenn Schuelke (13th season, 83-55)

2011 Record: 3-7

Returning starters: 4 offensive (wing), 5 defensive (split)

Players to watch

  • TE Mason Gentry, Sr., 6-0, 175
  • OG Josh Owens, Sr., 6-2, 245
  • C Conner Skidmore, Jr., 5-10, 170
  • OT Lance Plemmons, Sr., 6-0, 240
  • OG Jamie Humphrey, Sr., 6-0, 265
  • QB Tyler Patterson, Sr., 6-0, 150

2012 Outlook: Several veteran offensive linemen return, which is critical in Prairiland’s run-heavy offense. But there’s not much in the form of proven skill position players, so the Patriots could struggle to keep pace with the more high-powered offenses in District 8-2A Division I. They averaged only 20.1 points per game in 2011 and may have trouble matching that limited output if new faces don’t emerge. Veteran coach Glenn Schuelke has had a great tenure so far at Prairiland, building the Patriots to relevance and taking them to their only five playoff appearances in program history. But don’t count on the sixth trip coming in 2012.

7.Queen City Bulldogs

Coach: Buddy Ray (third season, 1-19)

2011 Record: 0-10

Returning starters: 7 offensive (multiple I formation), 8 defensive (3-4)

Players to watch

  • QB Jay Hawley, Sr., 6-1, 175
  • WR Kendal Griffin, Jr., 5-9, 160
  • RB Darryl Shepard, Sr., 5-8, 155
  • FS Drew Davenport, Jr., 5-10, 170
  • OLB Cody Ball, Soph., 6-0, 145
  • DE Chase Norman, Jr., 5-9, 165
  • OG Steven Horton, Jr., 6-0, 220
  • TE Chris Reese, Jr., 6-1, 170
  • WR Colby Ivy, Jr., 5-7, 140
  • C Dalton Fortune, Sr., 5-11, 230
  • OT Shawn Owens, Jr., 6-1, 230
  • CB Tanner Martin, Sr., 5-9, 160
  • LB Kolton Morgan, Jr., 5-6, 140
  • LB Chance Patterson, Jr., 5-8, 160
  • OLB Cody Lee, Sr., 6-1, 150

2012 Outlook: Queen City returns 15 starters, so plenty of experience is there for a turnaround. But until the Bulldogs can make that experience count on the scoreboard, they won’t be picked anywhere but the District 8-2A Division I cellar. Opponents beat Queen City by an average score of 46.7-7.5, so one bright spot is there’s a lot of room for improvement with a group that may have taken the worst of its lumps a year ago.