It's been 16 years since the Pine Tree Pirates qualified for the playoffs, but for the first time in a long time, expectations are high.

Pine Tree just missed out on the postseason a year ago, finishing one game behind fourth-place finisher Mount Pleasant in District 16-5A.

But the Pirates are bringing back half of 2016's starters, including some dynamic impact players, which gives second-year head coach Kerry Lane confidence heading into the 217 season.

Pine Tree is ranked No. 10 in ETSN.fm's Preseason Class 6A/5A Poll.

Texas High and Marshall, despite both experiencing head coaching changes, along with Sulphur Springs figure to be safe bets for the postseason out of 16-5A.

That leaves four teams -- Pine Tree, Hallsville, Mount Pleasant, and Greenville -- fighting for the last remaining playoff spot.

The Bobcats tied with Pine Tree last year, and brought in Joe Drennon, who won last year's 3A Division I state championship at Mineola, as their new head coach.

Mount Pleasant returns just eight starters from last year's playoff team, while Greenville is currently in the midst of a 3-43 stretch in district games dating back to 2010.

Pine Tree is exciting to have junior quarterback Keshon Williams, who showed flashes of greatness before suffering a season-ending injury, back behind center.

The Pirates are also intrigued by another couple of underclassmen in junior running back Sylvandan Stewart and sophomore receiver J.J. Sparkman.

Senior Mose Jeffery anchors a physical offensive line.

Pine Tree should be strong on the defensive front as well with the return of linemen Gary Wiley and Kalvin Hutchings.

The make-or-break stretch for the Pirates will come in October when they face Mount Pleasant, Greenville, and Hallsville in consecutive weeks.

ETSN.fm Preseason Class 6A/5A Poll

  • No. 10: Pine Tree Pirates