District 9-4A seems clear at the top, but cloudy at the bottom.

Jasper appears to be the favorite coming off of an area round appearance in the playoffs in 2017. The Bulldogs return key playmakers on both sides of the ball, and should have little trouble navigating their way through this district.

Center, which finished just 3-8 in 2017, also has a chance to finish near the top. The Roughriders were relatively young a season ago and return two of their top players on offense. They'll contend with Shepherd for the second spot.

The final playoff spot will go to either Huntington or Cleveland Tarkington, both of which won only one game this past season. Each team is inexperienced and will count on internal improvement to earn more wins in 2018. This could be the closest and most interesting race in the district.

Without further ado, here is the ETSN.fm District 9-4A Division II preview.

District 9-4A D-II Preview

Center QB Jayden Hicks. (© Clint Buckley, ETSN.fm)

PLAYMAKERS

  • ATH Montavien Hunt, Jr., 5-9, Jasper
  • ATH Charlie Burnett, Sr., 5-10, 155, Jasper
  • OL/DL Shun'Markus Adams, So., 6-4, 290, Jasper
  • QB/DB Jayden Hicks, Jr., 5-6, 160, Center
  • RB/DB Marquez Hall, So., 5-7, 148, Center
  • RB/DB Deven Withers, Sr., 5-9, Shepherd
  • OL/DL Zach Taylor, Sr., 5-11, 316, Shepherd
  • WR/DB Christian Howard, Jr., Cleveland Tarkington
  • OL/DL Andrew Culpepper, Jr., Huntington
  • OL/DL Jasper Conn, Jr., 6-1, 28, Huntington
  • RB/DB Andrew Faulk, Jr., 6-0, 185, Huntington

TOP GAMES

  • West Orange Stark at Jasper, Oct. 5
  • Jasper at Center, Nov. 9
  • Center at Jefferson, Sept. 7
  • Huntington at Cleveland Tarkington, Oct. 26
Jasper OL/DL Ker'shaun Hubbard. (© Clint Buckley, ETSN.fm)

1. Jasper Bulldogs

  • Coach: Darrell Barbay
  • 2017 finish: 8-3 (4A D-II area finalist)
  • Returning starters: 5 offensive, 5 defensive

Players to watch

  • ATH Montavien Hunt, Jr., 5-9
  • ATH Charlie Burnett, Sr., 5-10, 155
  • LB William Bluitt, Sr., 5-9
  • OL/DL Brashaun Hubbard, Jr.
  • OL/DL Shun'Markus Adams, So., 6-4, 290
  • OL Trent Bryant, Sr., 6-2, 250
  • QB Colton Womack, 6-5, 190

Offense: Jasper's offense will feature Montavien Hunt and Charlie Burnett, who both showed flashes of potential in 2017. Hunt rushed for more than 500 yards and Burnett finished with more than 300 receiving yards.

Jasper WR/OLB La'Javien Jackson. (© Clint Buckley, ETSN.fm)

They will both take on larger roles this season. The line should be solid too with sophomore Shun'Markus Adams leading the way. Colton Womack looks to take over at quarterback in the Bulldogs' Wing-T attack.

Defense: A linebacker lead Jasper into 2018. William Bluitt is back after recording 87 tackles this past season and has Brashaun Hubbard on the defensive line to help him out. Hubbard finished with six sacks in 2017 and should lead the line. Adams will also play on the defensive line and hope to make a similar impact to the one he will have on offense. Look for Jasper to have a quick defense capable of producing a couple of turnovers when needed.

2018 outlook: One of two teams in the district to finish with a winning record a year ago, Jasper looks the favorite.

Jasper DE/RB Brashaun Hubbard. (© Clint Buckley, ETSN.fm)

The Bulldogs have enough returning talent to make another run in the playoffs, too. The biggest concern will be how Womack adjusts at quarterback. If he makes a smooth transition, Jasper will be one of the better teams not only in this district, but 4A as a whole.

Center OL/DL Logan Holloway. (© Clint Buckley, ETSN.fm)

2. Center Roughriders

  • Coach: Barry Bowman
  • 2017 finish: 3-8 (4A Division I bi-district finalist)
  • Returning starters: 8 offensive, 6 defensive

Players to watch

  • QB/DB Jayden Hicks, Jr., 5-6, 160
  • RB/DB Marquez Hall, So., 5-7, 148
  • OL/DL Logan Holloway, Sr., 6-1, 250
  • LB/WR Jake Liker, Sr.
  • RB/LB Ka'Tavious Evans, Sr.
  • TE/LB Jaterious McAllister, Sr.

Offense: Center will be fine on offense with the return of its leader from 2017, Jayden Hicks. Hicks, the quarterback, finished with 2,697 total yards and 26 touchdowns this past season.

Center RB/CB Marques Hall. (© Clint Buckley, ETSN.fm)

He's back, though he loses top target Ja'Terious Evans to graduation. Jake Liker and and Jaterious McAllister seem viable replacements, but it remains to be seen who will emerge as the favorite. Marquez Hall will see some targets from the backfield after putting up 730 total yards a season ago.

Defense: Defensive lineman Logan Holloway will lead the charge after totaling 50 tackles and seven sacks this past season. Liker will also be an impact player at linebacker. Hall and Hicks will do their best to keep things running smoothly in the secondary.

Center LB/RB Katavious Evans. (© Clint Buckley, ETSN.fm)

The offense appears to be the stronger of the two groups, especially as the defense loses five starters. However, the Roughriders won't be pushovers on this end.

2018 outlook: Center's best players are fairly young, with Hicks being a junior and Hall and sophomore. That should spell improvement from a year ago, when the Roughrider finished 3-8. Look for Center to be in the thick of the district race and once again make the playoffs.

3. Shepherd Pirates

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

Players to watch

  • RB/DB Deven Withers, Sr., 5-9
  • QB Dylan Arie, Sr., 6-2, 195
  • OL/DL Zach Taylor, Sr., 5-11, 316
  • FB/LB Brice Major, So., 5-8, 172

 

2018 outlook: The Pirates lose a large number of offensive lineman from 2017, so it will be up to Zach Taylor to carry the load up front. He'll at least have several capable skill players playing behind him, including running back Deven Withers, who finished with nine touchdowns a year ago. Look for Shepherd to be one of the four teams to make the postseason from this district.

4. Cleveland Tarkington Longhorns

  • Coach: Stan Howard
  • 2017 finish: 1-8
  • Returning starters: 6 offensive, 5 defensive

Players to watch

  • WR/DB Christian Howard, Jr.
  • OL/DL Micah Hare, Jr.
  • OL/DL Jacob Jones, Sr., 6-2, 250
  • RB/LB Austin Denton, Jr.
  • ATH Trae Deck, So.

2018 outlook: The Longhorns are young and will look to turn around the program after a 1-8 effort in 2017. Christian Howard will be the primary target at receiver and Trae Deck will hope to have a breakout sophomore season. The line looks solid, too, led by Micah Hare and Jacob Jones. Cleveland Tarkington will spar with Huntington for the final playoff spot in this district. It's anyone's guess as to who will take it.

Huntington LB/WR Chase Calhoun. (© Clint Buckley, ETSN.fm)

5. Huntington Red Devils

  • Coach: Jim Kerbow
  • 2017 finish: 1-9
  • Returning starters: 7 offensive, 6 defensive

Players to watch

  • OL/DL Andrew Culpepper, Jr.
  • OL/DL Jasper Conn, Jr., 6-1, 281
  • RB/DB Andrew Faulk, Jr., 6-0, 185
  • LB Chase Calhoun, Jr.
  • K Perrin Teer, Jr., 5-11, 125
  • RB John Flood, So., 6-0, 170

Offense: The Red Devils bring back seven starters from a rather forgettable 2017 campaign.

Huntington RB/DB Andrew Faulk. (© Clint Buckley, ETSN.fm)

Andrew Culpepper and Jasper Conn should make big strides after one year starting under their belts. That should clear room for running back Andrew Faulk to find some space. Look for Jon Flood to spell him when he needs it.

Defense: Chase Calhoun, a linebacker, will lead the defense. He finished with 82 tackles a season ago.

Huntington OL/DL Andrew Culpeper. (© Clint Buckley, ETSN.fm)

Conn and Culpepper will also see time on defense, as will Faulk in the secondary. The kicking game seems to be in good shape with Perrin Teer to lead the way.

2018 outlook: Huntington has a shot at being the last team in the playoffs from this small district. This is an incredibly young group entering its second season under coach Jim Kerbow. Improvement is to be expected this season. How drastic that improvement is will be the key to getting back in the postseason.