It wasn't that long ago that the Bullard football program was almost an afterthought, but under the direction of head coach Shannon Wilson, the Panthers have turned the corner.

Armed with 14 returning starters from last season's bi-district finalist, Bullard begins the year ranked No. 7 in ETSN.fm's Preseason Class 4A Poll.

Since taking over in 2010, Wilson has led Bullard to an overall record of 35-29 with three playoff appearances. Prior to his arrival, the Panthers had not made the postseason since 1993.

Bullard, following back-to-back seven-win seasons in 4A Division II, moves up to Division I in 2016 and into a district that features East Texas powerhouses Carthage, Kilgore, Henderson, and Chapel Hill.

While this season figures to be a challenge, Bullard has several impact players returning to the field, including junior quarterback Cleet Bowman, who came on strong after taking over at QB midway through 2015.

Bullard is also armed with one of the top tight end prospects in the nation, senior Major Tennison, who has some of the country's top programs recruiting him.

Defensively, the Panthers are excited about defensive backs Tre Crayton and D'Juan Martin, along with defensive linemen Derek Landrum and Dakota Walsworth.

2016 Bullard Panthers Schedule

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ETSN.fm Preseason Class 4A Poll