At the beginning of last season, everyone in East Texas knew about Daylon Mack, the five-star defensive tackle committed to Texas A&M. But by the end of 2014, several Gladewater Bears could become household names around the area.

Thanks to a surprising run to the fourth round of last year's playoffs, despite only being armed with five seniors on the roster, Gladewater is saddled with some of the highest preseason expectations for any program in the region.

Nearly every player who had a significant impact on last season's success returns, including Mack, who can lay claim to being East Texas' top overall player entering his senior year.

Gladewater DT Daylon Mack. (Christopher R. Vinn,

When it was his time to shine in the playoffs, Mack (6-1, 330) did just that. The interior-line beast took his game to a completely different level once the regular season was finished. And that wasn't limited just to defense. Playing a fair amount of fullback on short-yardage and goal-line situations became the norm last November and December.

In addition his defensive exploits, which included 98 tackles -- 35 of them for loss -- to go with five sacks and eight forced fumbles, Mack rushed for nearly 300 yards and scored 10 touchdowns.

Quite frankly, Mack put the "beast" in "Beast Texas."

But as mentioned before, he's not the only standout coming back. All but one of last year's offensive starters returns. A full stable of ball carriers -- James Reese, Justice Centers, Marcello Jackson, Daryl Polk and Darnell McKnight -- are all capable of taking over games. The five of them took turns hammering away at opposing defenses a season ago.

On the other side of the ball, Mack will be joined by junior defensive tackle Quanterius Turner, who could be on a similar college trajectory himself. Austin Blanco will carry the load at linebacker and safety Daylon "Duke" Gordon is about as reliable as they come in the secondary.

If all of that wasn't enough, Gladewater's enrollment numbers were such that the Bears will get a reprieve from facing the likes of Carthage, Kilgore, Chapel Hill and Henderson in district -- all of which are competing in 4A Division I.

Instead, Gladewater is a member of 6-4A D-II, which oddly enough, is also clear of perennial state contender and longtime rival Gilmer; the Buckeyes are placed in the neighboring district.

2014 Gladewater Bears Schedule

Aug. 29DaingerfieldW 34-13
Sept. 5PittsburgW 77-14
Sept. 12vs. St. Thomas More -- Lafayette, La. (at Shreveport)L 42-21
Sept. 19CarthageW 37-23
Sept. 26at KilgoreW 25-21
Oct. 3OPEN
Oct. 10*TatumW 52-8
Oct. 17*at AtlantaW 36-14
Oct. 24*Pleasant GroveW 41-21
Oct. 31*Spring HillW 54-14
Nov. 7*at CenterW 56-22
Nov. 13vs. Nevada Community (at Mount Pleasant)W 66-14
Nov. 21vs. Fairfield (at Longview)W 34-16
Nov. 28vs. Gilmer (at Longview)L 41-35 Preseason Class 4A Poll