Henderson definitely surpassed expectations in 2014. The program was not even ranked in last year's ETSN.fm Class 4A Preseason Poll.

Can the Lions do it again? They will begin the upcoming campaign as the No. 9 best Class 4A team in East Texas.

Receiver Trestan Ebner is a great starting place to build around. He enters his junior campaign with college football offers from Kansas and SMU.

Lakendrick Van Zandt is another player that offers a two-year solution. He did quite a bit of the heavy lifting as a sophomore running back in Henderson's run to the Class 4A Division I regional semifinals. A run only ultimate state champion Navasota was able to stop.

However, the Lions will be without quarterback Zane Boles. He put the team on his back at times last season.

Finding a replacement will be key to any talk of another strong year.

Head coach Phil Castles' defense is in OK standing with four out of the seven total returning starters. Linebackers Cadarius Caldwell and Keatan Hand will play under high expectations as will defensive end Jaxon Goode and defensive back Justin Rojas.

District 8-4A Division I is not a walk in the park. Brownsboro, Carthage, Kilgore, Palestine and Chapel Hill make up the remainder of the district. And -- spoiler -- some of those teams will also be included in the countdown of the top 10 teams.

The Lions have an outstanding non-district slate to sharpen up and sort out the experience issue. Athens, Atlanta, Rusk, Newton and Daingerfield will challenge the team in unique ways.

2015 Henderson Lions Football Schedule

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ETSN.fm Class 4A Preseason Poll

  • No. 9: Henderson
  • No. 10: Tatum