Van surprised all the pundits last season with a trip to the regional championship game and, on a different night, probably could have gotten out of that meeting with a win.

The program lost more than a few notable players from that contest, but we think the two major holdovers on offense will keep the ship afloat.

The Vandals will begin the season ranked sixth in our Class 4A poll. They're the first local 4A Division I team on the list.

Offense shouldn't be much of a problem even though the team lost two very talented receivers in Isaiah Allred and Connor Houston to the college game.

TCU offensive lineman Kris Dike should give the Vandals a match up win in the trenches. (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Garrett Moseley is back for his senior season having amassed 4,465 total yards and 60 touchdowns in 14 games a season ago. Offensive tackle Kris Dike, a TCU commitment, and fellow lineman Caleb York return to the fold as well.

We like some of the weapons that were crunched by the depth on top of them last season -- receivers Bray Doring and Ethan Robinson in particular.

Van has six players to replace on defense, including ETSN.fm Defensive Player of the Year Cooper Bledsoe.

Bledsoe, a safety as well as a running back on the high school level, is now part of the Indiana State program. Zeke Betancourt is a lockdown corner who might shift up to fill the void.

The Vandals rarely are short on defensive front talent. Jake Kellam and Tristan Gentry should give the squad some bite along the line once again, and there are some linebackers that rotated in last season with good production numbers considering their playing time.

In spite of the graduation hits, Van is the most experienced playoff team from District 8-4A Division I. That has to count for something.

Good non-district games against Mineola, Princeton, Lindale and Palestine should help the newcomers get ready for the district grind.

ETSN.fm Class 4A Preseason Poll