Jasper has at worst tied for a district championship each season since 2014. With 13 starters back from a regional semifinal appearance, another crown should be in reach.

The Bulldogs will begin the 2017 season ranked eighth in our Class 4A Poll. They're one spot in front of District 8-4A Division II foe Tatum.

We'll level with you.

These are going to be the only teams ranked from this particular district to start the year. It should come down to the Jasper at Tatum game on Oct. 27.

To get ready for that game, and the rest of the district slate, Jasper has an impressive six-game, non-district schedule in front of it. Three of the six opponents made the playoffs in 2016, and the other two competitors are larger schools.

The year begins for Jasper with a trip to Little Cypress-Mauriceville just before a meeting with Pearland Shadow Creek High School. Shadow Creek has freelance status as a new school, but it will be much larger than Jasper in upcoming years as it phases in students from the Greater Houston area.

A huge game against Silsbee follows Shadow Creek. The non-district portion wraps up with Bryan Rudder from Class 5A and fair games against Bridge City and Hardin-Jefferson.

Jerkerion Simmons is back to lead the Bulldogs' offense. He paced an array of rushers last season with about 1,100 yards.

Six other starters return on the offensive side.

Jasper isn't much worse off on defense. Six experienced players are returning to the roster from a unit that held all 12 opponents faced to an average of 23 points, and helped the team to a plus-162 point differential.

Winning the district needs to be the team's main goal. The adjacent District 7-4A Division II is much deeper with Pleasant Grove already checking in at No. 10 in the poll.

ETSN.fm Class 4A Preseason Poll