2015 Football Preview: Alba-Golden, Edgewood + Grand Saline Hope To Take Next Step In District 6-3A D-II
All six teams in District 6-3A Division II have something to prove this season.
Grand Saline is ready for something to celebrate after going a combined 0-20 the past two seasons, and they just might have something going on with 18 returning starters. Alba-Golden, meanwhile, is hoping to show its strong recent seasons were more than just new Linden-Kildare head coach Gary Schultz.
Edgewood is watching the back half of the district and trying to build something upon its sneaky move into last year's postseason. Paris Chisum wants the Bulldog's spot after putting together a better 5-5 overall record and losing the wrong league games.
Cooper has been strong in recent years, but it returns one starter on both sides of the ball. Its the same player.
Then there's front runner Lone Oak. It's gunning for its 10th straight playoff appearance and 10th consecutive season with seven wins or more.
The district ought to be tougher than it was even last season.
Which teams are in the best preseason standing for playoff spots? Let's take a look.
District 6-3A Division II Preview
- WR/LB/DB Gus Collins, Jr., Paris Chisum
- WR/DB Logan Culp, Sr., Alba-Golden
- WR/DB Devin Davison, Sr., Edgewood
- QB Trent Easley, Jr., Grand Saline
- RB/LB Tye Elie, Jr., Edgewood
- WR/DL Noah Tucker, Sr., Paris Chisum
- RB/DL Tristan Jones, Sr., Cooper
- LB Sammy Palma, Jr. Grand Saline
- OL/LB Eric Shaw, Sr., Lone Oak
- RB Bryan Tucker, Jr., Paris Chisum
- OL/DL Dane White, Sr., Lone Oak
- QB/DB Jacob Williams, Sr., Lone Oak
- RB/DL Dalton Wright, Sr., Alba-Golden
- Edgewood at Alba-Golden, Oct. 9
- Paris Chisum at Grand Saline, Oct. 9
- Edgewood at Lone Oak, Oct. 23
- Grand Saline at Cooper, Oct. 23
- Alba-Golden at Lone Oak, Nov. 6
1. Lone Oak Buffaloes
- Coach: Luke Goode
- 2014 finish: 9-2 (3A D-II area finalist)
- Returning starters: 4 offensive, 3 defensive
Players to watch
- QB/DB Jacob Williams, Sr., 6-0, 185
- OL/LB Eric Shaw, Sr., 5-7, 160
- OL/DL Dane White, Sr., 6-2, 230
- OL/DL Fili Rincon, Jr., 6-2, 240
- WR/DB Damion Rogers, Jr., 6-0, 160
2015 outlook: A winning culture cannot be overvalued. Lone Oak certainly has that as it aims for its 10th straight season with seven wins or better and 10th straight trip to the playoffs. Having talent isn't a bad thing either, although graduation did a number on last year's area round playoff team. Fortunately, quarterback Jacob Williams is back for his senior season. He threw for 1,644 yards last season and passed for 25 touchdowns to just five interceptions. He also can get it done with his legs with 500 yards and nine scores. That's not a bad starting place. In total, seven players return to spots they owned en route to the 2014 district championship. The Buffaloes will have a learning curve, but nice non-district games against Winnsboro, Scurry-Rosser, Caddo Mills, Class 3A Division I state runner-up Mineola and a Dickey Meeks-coached Mount Vernon team should season the newcomers.
2. Alba-Golden Panthers
- Coach: Ron Callahan
- 2014 finish: 6-5 (3A D-II bi-district finalist)
- Returning starters: 9 offensive, 6 defensive
Players to watch
- RB/DL Dalton Wright, Sr., 6-2, 235
- WR/DB Logan Culp, Sr., 6-0, 165
- QB/DB Dylan Harle, Sr., 5-10, 155
- OL Christopher Kellis, Sr., 6-2, 300
- WR/LB Kyle Morrow, Sr., 5-10, 163
Offense: It's a double whammy. The Panthers have experience and proven production out of their nine returning starters. Dalton Wright might be one of the most overlooked players in the region in his sheer meaning to his program. He rushed for 1,200 yards last season and punished defenders trying to bring him down. Offensive line is another major strength between its experience and size. Christopher Kellis headlines the line at 6-foot-2 and 300 pounds. Alba-Golden also will enjoy the services of Dylan Harle at the quarterback spot once again. He's a capable runner and has good touch on the ball when passing. Everything is going right on the offensive side.
Defense: It's not as strong in experience as the offense, but it is not exactly a rebuilding project. Every layer of the Panthers' defense claims at least one proven player. Dalton Wright increases his value as a defensive lineman and the rest of that group has good size. Senior Kyle Morrow is a giant asset at linebacker. Logan Culp packs a punch from his safety spot. Alba-Golden averaged three touchdowns against it per season. Don't expect the newcomers to give up more more with six key contributors back from that impressive statistical line.
2015 outlook: New head coach Ron Callahan could have inherited a much worse product. Gary Schultz did a good job with the program before leaving for the Linden-Kildare job. The team was always competitive. Alba-Golden will have a big say in the district race, including a head-to-head meeting with Lone Oak on the final night of the regular season. Non-district games against Cumby and Quinlan Boles should sharpen the team for the league gauntlet. Both of those opponents made the playoffs. A game against Big Sandy also presents challenges. Regardless, three wins against district competition should be enough to get the Panthers into the postseason. That's a very realistic projection.
3. Edgewood Bulldogs
- Coach: Ryan Simmons
- 2014 finish: 3-8 (2A D-I bi-district finalist)
- Returning starters: 5 offensive, 7 defensive
Players to watch
- RB/LB Tye Elie, Jr., 6-1, 215
- WR/DB Devin Davison, Sr., 5-9, 150
- OL/DL Duncan Hoedebeck, Sr., 6-1, 210
- DL Taylor McKibben, Jr.
- WR/DB Clayton Cox, Sr.
Offense: When you've got a player like Tye Elie, and you have him for two more seasons, things are looking up. He led all returners from last year's team with 780 yards. There's no sugarcoating the Bulldogs went 3-8 last season, but offense wasn't a problem. The team averaged 30.6 points per game -- more than enough to get the job done. Edgewood will enjoy four returning starters this season aside from Elie. Devin Davison is expected to do big things as a receiver for a second straight year. Quick and elusive to make up for his 5-foot-9, 150-pound size, he's one of the district's best playmakers with the ball in his hands.
Defense: It's definitely cliche, but experience should help the Bulldogs settle down from last year's bad average of 41 points given up per game. The team brings back seven starters from that defense. Ty Elie and Devin Davison will be looked up to as leaders after solid personal performances at linebacker and defensive back, respectively. There's tons of room for improvement and it can't get much worse than last season. Expect a nice turnaround for Edgewood's defenders.
2015 outlook: The Bulldogs snuck into the postseason last year with a 3-7 regular season record. Postseason experience matters though. Furthermore, Ryan Simmons' team is well ahead of other teams in the league. Cooper only has one starter back period. Grand Saline is seeking to snap a two-year winless streak. Obviously, scratching out wins against those teams are critical. Edgewood has a great set of non-district games. It opens the year with a highly winnable game against Marco Island (Fla.) Academy and then shifts to four tough games against Clarksville, Bullard, Malakoff and Commerce. All questions about the team will be answered by the time it hits the league set on Oct. 9.
4. Cooper Bulldogs
- Coach: Ronnie Green
- 2014 finish: 7-4 (3A D-I bi-district finalist)
- Returning starters: 1 offensive, 1 defensive
Players to watch
- RB/DL Tristan Jones, Jr.
2015 outlook: The district just doesn't know much about Cooper. It returns only one major player, Tristan Jones, and he counts twice as the starting running back and as a defensive tackle. It will probably be an up-and-down year with so many new faces running around, and it will probably take longer than normal to break everyone in. But the team needs to be ready from day one of district play. Tradition should count for something. The team has not missed the postseason since 2009 and has not suffered a losing season since 2008. Cooper opens with Lone Oak and Edgewood in straight weeks. Wichita Falls Rider and Farmersville headline Cooper's non-district schedule.
5. Paris Chisum Mustangs
- Coach: Bo Wasurik
- 2014 finish: 5-5
- Returning starters: 7 offensive, 10 defensive
Players to watch
- RB Bryan Tucker, Jr., 5-10, 185
- WR/LB Gus Collins, Jr., 6-1, 180
- WR/DL Noah Gordon, Sr., 5-9, 160
- TE Asa Kennedy, Jr.
- WR/DB Ethan Flippen, Jr.
2015 outlook: Chisum has tons of returning talent. The big question is whether or not it's ready to go right now after a 5-5 overall record last year and a 2-3 mark within the league. Bryan Tucker leads the group with more than 1,000 yards total offense out of the backfield as a pass-catching running back. Linebacker Gus Collins recorded 89 tackles through the 10-game season. Defensive lineman Noah Gordon scored nine sacks during the year. Games against Edgewood, Cooper and Grand Saline are big ones. Bells and Hooks highlight the tune ups before battling Grand Saline on Oct. 9.
6. Grand Saline Indians
- Coach: Michael Ridge
- 2014 finish: 0-10
- Returning starters: 8 offensive, 10 defensive
Players to watch
- QB Trent Easley, Jr., 6-2, 155
- LB Sammy Palma, Jr.
- DL Justin Simmons, Sr., 6-0, 185
- OL/DL Garrett Barnes, Sr., 6-2, 285
Offense: A life-threatening, retirement-inducing injury to star player Lane Davis thrust young Trent Easley into the starting quarterback position last season. He performed well with 826 passing yards and seven scoring throws in his eight starts and should improve dramatically with a full offseason under his belt as the guy. Running back Andy Gibson, a senior, also could take it to the next level after a 606-yard junior campaign. Grand Saline definitely improved along the offensive line as well. Its size will make it a formidable opponent for not only district opponents but anyone on its schedule. The Indians bring back eight starters. They'll have to improve their average of 19.7 points per game to give themselves a chance, however. That's the million dollar question as to whether Grand Saline can snap its slump.
Defense: The Indians return 10 starters, but the unit gave up 47.1 points per game. That must change. There is promise though with linebacker Sammy Palma and defensive lineman Justin Simmons in the mix. The two players combined for 177 tackles in the 10-game season. Experience is the biggest thing. It's natural to think Grand Saline will be more competitive this year.
2015 outlook: Grand Saline actually looks like a well put together team on paper and it's not short on talent whatsoever. But the smart money says place the Indians in last place until they can put back-to-back winless seasons and a 1-29 combined record through three seasons in the past. There are plenty of opportunities to get out of the cellar, particularly against Edgewood, Cooper and Paris Chisum. Every non-district game offers challenges. A win or two against the likes of Winona, Harmony and Hawkins could completely change the team's outlook before league play begins versus Chisum.