ETSN.fm Preseason Class 6A/5A Poll: No. 7, Nacogdoches Dragons
Prior to last season, Nacogdoches had reached the playoffs only one time in 20 years. The 2013 Dragons weren't interested in the past. Instead, they were busy setting the foundation in the present for an exciting future.
And that is what has come to define the feeling that surrounds the Nacogdoches football program entering this season: excitement, along with an expectation to build upon the school's first postseason trip since 2006.
Not only is Nacogdoches eager for back-to-back playoff seasons for the first time since the mid-1960's, the Dragons are also hopeful they can surpass last year's win total of seven -- the most they've had since 1992.
The city of Nacogdoches, mostly recognized as "the oldest town in Texas," has begun reshaping its image. The community gained notoriety during the men's NCAA basketball tournament in March after Stephen F. Austin's thrilling overtime upset of VCU. Nac become even more visible as the U.S. Men's National Soccer Team, captained by Nacogdoches native Clint Dempsey, made its run at the World Cup in Brazil earlier this summer.
The East Texas town of roughly 33,000 residents also enjoyed quite a bit of attention for football during the past eight months.
Dragons senior cornerback Jaylon Lane, a transfer from San Angelo Central, is one of the most sought-after defensive backs in the nation. Lane (6-2, 180) committed to Oklahoma State after receiving FBS offers from close to 40 college programs.
Lane's teammate, junior safety Brandon Jones (6-0, 190), already holds more than 30 major Division I offers. And he hasn't even played a down of football as a junior yet.
Those two grab most of the headlines, but there are plenty of other standouts returning to the field this season for Nacogdoches.
Senior quarterback Hunter McClellan (6-2, 170) was enjoying a strong junior year before an injury sidelined him for the final six games of the season. Third-year coach Bobby Reyes is hoping an injury-free senior campaign for McClellan will make the Dragons' offense more dynamic than it was a year ago.
Running backs Coronado Tolbert and Bryce Matthews will receive most of the carries out of the backfield, while the receiving corps appears deep with players like Sam Morgan, Alex Gregory, Tae Thomas and Ken Rogers in the fold.
Nacogdoches lost defensive end Greg Roberts, a Baylor signee, but gained Collin Carrell (6-3, 240), a senior who transferred in from Garrison during the offseason. Carrell and Colton Pool should anchor the Nac D-line, and while the Dragons will be looking for stability at linebacker, there shouldn't be too much concern about the secondary.
Aside from Jaylon Lane and Jones, Nacogdoches will also have junior safety Corey Lane (5-11, 166) -- the younger brother of Jaylon who already has an offer from Louisiana Tech -- and promising cornerback prospect Tay Forest (5-11, 170).
Realignment threw Nacogdoches into one of the best 5A districts in all of the state back in February. District 16-5A, which consists of Nac, Ennis, John Tyler, Lufkin, Whitehouse, Lindale, Corsicana and Jacksonville, will be a challenge to navigate for any team in the district.
The Dragons' non-district schedule is difficult in its own right, featuring games against Kilgore, Hallsville and Carthage. Needless to say, there won't be too many gimmes on Nac's schedule.
2014 Nacogdoches Dragons Schedule
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ETSN.fm Preseason Class 6A/5A Poll
- No. 7: Nacogdoches Dragons
- No. 8: Sulphur Springs Wildcats
- No. 9: Marshall Mavericks
- No. 10: Hallsville Bobcats