Whitehouse waited three years to get back to the playoffs, and once the Wildcats got there last season, the ride was over just as soon as it began with a blowout first-round loss to College Station.

But now, armed with a District 17-5A-best 17 returning starters, Whitehouse sees greener pastures on the horizon.

Whitehouse is ranked No. 7 in ETSN.fm's Preseason Class 6A/5A Poll.

The Wildcats finished fourth in 17-5A a year ago, but a ton of underclassmen got valuable experience.

Offensively, Whitehouse has nine starters back, including quarterback Jake Clemons, most of its receiving corps, and its entire offensive line.

Fifth-year head coach Adam Cook is hoping the seasoning on the offensive side of the ball will improve a unit that averaged a modest 24.4 points per game in 2016.

The defense carried Whitehouse last year, and all but three starters return.

Trevor Lawrence (Texas State commit) and Christian Owens anchor a physical defensive line, KJ McDade patrols the middle of the defense at linebacker, while athletic cornerback Javier Neal is back after pulling down seven interceptions a season ago.

Whitehouse's three 2016 district losses came by a total of 15 points, so the Wildcats weren't very far from challenging for the district title.

With a few more big plays, Whitehouse could find itself in serious contention for the league crown this fall.

Non-district games against Carthage (4A Division I champion), arch-rival Sulphur Springs, and Kennedale (4A Division I semifinalist) should be more than enough preparation for district play.

ETSN.fm Preseason Class 6A/5A Poll