Teams at this level of the poll usually start hot and finish the season capable of beating anyone. Defending Class 4A Division II champion Gilmer started the campaign at this spot a year ago.

We think the No. 3 spot in the ETSN.fm Class 4A Preseason Poll is a good place for Gladewater to begin the year. The 2014 edition of the Bears certainly fit the mold, nine seconds away from toppling Gilmer and probably winning their own state title.

Head coach John Berry's current team should not be strikingly different. Sure, he lost defensive tackle Daylon Mack to Texas A&M, but most of the remaining critical players from the run to the Class 4A Division II regional semifinal appearance are back.

The Bears' running game will be especially troubling for opponents. It's already a four-headed monster and more depth might have stacked up behind the primary rotation through the offseason.

Justice Centers, Marcello Jackson, Darnell McKnight and Clint Starling are all back. They quash the loss of leading rusher James Reese to graduation.

Cameron Calloway and Caleb Williams had their moments as receivers last season and are returning. Blake Guthrie also will return to the rotation or take over the quarterback spot vacated by Nick Canaguier.

Combined, those skill players should find ways to work around a handful of green offensive linemen. But trench play has always been a strength at Gladewater.

The team will ride or die with its defense.

Fortunately, the team has big Quanterius Turner back at a defensive end spot while Austin Blanco is a proven, albeit overlooked, linebacker.

The offensive skill players could fill other defensive depth concerns if it comes to that.

District 6-4A Division II is not child's play though.

Gladewater is the third team ranked from the league, ahead of No. 8 Atlanta and No. 10 Tatum. Center, Pleasant Grove and Spring Hill are sure to throw challenges as they push for the playoffs themselves.

Great non-district games against Daingerfield, Pittsburg, Bossier City (La.) Parkway, Carthage and Kilgore should have the Bears ready to go.

2015 Gladewater Bears Football Schedule

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ETSN.fm Class 4A Preseason Poll