2016 Football Preview: Marshall Seeks to Build on Last Year’s Success in 16-5A
With Longview out of the picture and in Class 6A now, it appears as if District 16-5A will be a two-horse between Marshall and Texas High, which each grabbed a piece of the league title in 2015.
Marshall returns 12 starters from last year's 11-2 regional semifinalist squad, while Texas High brings back one of the top quarterback in the region in senior Cade Pearson, who is committed to North Texas.
Hallsville is coming off its first playoff win since 2003, Mount Pleasant is feeling good about its chances of reaching the postseason, Sulphur Springs looks to rebound from a rough 2015 season, and Pine Tree heads into the new year with a brand-new head coach.
District 16-5A Preview
- ATH Cam Haller, Sr., Marshall
- OL Chasen Hines, Jr., Marshall
- QB Cade Pearson, Sr., Texas High
- WR Quan Hampton, Sr., Texas High
- RB Josh Taylor, Jr., Hallsville
- LB James Nelson, Sr., Hallsville
- RB Travion Holloman, Sr., Mount Pleasant
- QB Ryan Humphries, Jr., Sulphur Springs
- WR Melvin Mapps, Sr., Greenville
- WR/DB Kenny Jackson, Sr., Pine Tree
- Longview at Marshall, Sept. 2
- Liberty-Eylau at Texas High, Sept. 9
- Texas High at Marshall, Sept. 23
1. Marshall Mavericks
- Coach: Clint Harper
- 2015 finish: 11-2 (5A Division II regional semifinalist)
- Returning starters: 4 offensive, 8 defensive
Players to watch
- ATH Cam Haller, Sr., 5-10, 205
- OL Chasen Hines, Jr., 6-3, 332
- DL Marje Smith, Jr., 6-6, 215
- WR/DB Corteze Hurd, Jr., 6-1, 170
- WR/DB Tre Macon, Jr., 5-11, 190
- OL Kameron King, Jr., 6-3, 272
- QB Hunter Herrington, Jr., 5-11, 190
- DL Greg Hood, Sr., 5-11, 260
Offense: Marshall was one East Texas' most potent offenses in 2015, averaging more than 38 points per game. Graduation created some voids to be filled on the offensive side of the ball, as Marshall will be without four-year starting quarterback Justin Hart and receivers Trel Patton and Jaquavian Dabbs. The good news for head coach Clint Harper: one of the area's most talented offensive players is back. Senior running back Cam Haller, a Texas A&M baseball commit, returns after putting up more than 1,800 rushing yards a season ago. The offensive line is still in good shape as well with juniors Chasen Hines and Kameron King leading the way.
Defense: With eight starters returning, the Marshall defense is loaded with seasoned playmakers. Despite losing defensive tackle Antonio Washington, the ETSN.fm East Texas Super Team Defensive Player of the Year in 2015, the Mavs have plenty of talent coming back on the defensive side of the ball. It all starts up front with linemen Marje Smith and Greg Hood, and Marshall could be exceptional in the back end with defensive backs Corteze Hurd and Tre Macon returning. Marshall's defense allowed less than 20 points per game a season ago, and there are several reasons to believe the Mavs' defense could be even better in 2016.
Outlook: Marshall got back to its winning ways in 2015, capturing 11 wins for the first time since its 2005 state finalist team won 13. With more than half of last year's starters returning, expectations continue to rise for Marshall. The Mavs' fate will likely rest on how quickly new quarterback Hunter Herrington and the new fleet of receivers develop. If Marshall can add some explosiveness in the passing game to what should be a dynamic ground attack, the Mavericks have an excellent shot of surpassing last season's accomplishments.
2. Texas High Tigers
- Coach: Barry Norton
- 2015 finish: 8-3 (5A Division I bi-district finalist)
- Returning starters: 6 offensive, 1 defensive
Players to watch
- QB Cade Pearson, Sr., 6-2, 200 (committed to North Texas)
- WR Quan Hampton, Sr., 5-9, 165
- DL Dejontae Harper, Jr.
- OL Dylan Raley, Sr., 6-3, 285
- WR/DB Eric Sutton, Sr., 5-8, 155
- WR/DB Jaqualen Brown, Jr.
- OL Kam Arnold, Sr., 6-4, 300
- WR Tevailance Hunt, Jr., 6-1, 175
Offense: Not very many programs have a QB-WR combination like that of Texas High's Cade Pearson and Quan Hampton. And for the third year in a row, the Tigers will be counting on those two to lead the way offensively. Pearson, who has committed to North Texas, has been steady during his high school career, and looks to end his high school career with a flourish. Hampton, who holds several Division I scholarship offers, is a big-play machine capable of stretching opposing defenses beyond their means. Texas High should also be solid up front on the offensive line with the return of Dylan Raley and Kam Arnold.
Defense: Texas High has always prided itself on the defensive side of the ball, and 2015 was no different. The Tigers' suffocating defense limited opposing offenses to an average of just 19.6 points per game a season ago. Duplicating that kind of performance may be difficult this year with just one player coming back with starting experience. Head coach Barry Norton will have to rely on several new faces to get the job done defensively in 2016, but likes what he's seen from players like junior defensive end Dejonate Harper and defensive backs Eric Sutton and Jaqualen Brown.
Outlook: Texas High was able to claim a piece of the district title a season ago, handing Marshall its only league loss. The Tigers also get a break after realignment moved John Tyler, which has defeated Texas High in the bi-district round in each of the past two seasons, to Class 6A. If Texas High can find production with its new-look rushing attack and plug in the pieces on defense, the Tigers have the opportunity to do some damage beyond just the regular season.
3. Hallsville Bobcats
- Coach: David Plunk
- 2015 finish: 7-5 (5A Division II area finalist)
- Returning starters: 3 offensive, 7 defensive
Players to watch
- OL Slade Brown, Sr., 6-4, 280
- LB Blair Fernandez, Sr., 5-9, 190
- DL Drew Johnson, Sr., 6-3, 225
- WR Chris Kuler, Sr., 6-3, 180
- WR/DB Ty Meissner, Sr.
- LB James Nelson, Sr., 5-11, 200
- OL Cody Rogers, Sr., 6-5, 240
- RB Josh Taylor, Jr., 5-11, 180
Offense: Hallsville wasn't one of the area's most explosive offenses in 2015, but the Bobcats did enough to turn in a quality season, which included the program's first playoff win since 2003. Hallsville averaged a little more than 28 points per game a season ago, but with only three returning starters on the offensive side of the ball, head coach David Plunk will need to find several key replacements. Junior running back Josh Taylor is expected to receive the bulk of the carries out of the backfield after impressing as a sophomore. The receiving corps has potential with the likes of Chris Kuler and Ty Meissner back, and the offensive line will be anchored by senior standouts Slade Brown and Cody Rogers.
Defense: The Bobcats' defense last season could best be described as inconsistent. Hallsville limited opponents to 14 points or less three times last year, but also allowed 30 points or more on four occasions. The key to improved play on the defensive side of the ball might be experience, and Hallsville will have plenty of that in 2016. With seven returning starters, the Bobcats expect to be much better against opposing offenses this season. Among the top returning defenders are linebackers Blair Fernandez and James Nelson, and lineman Drew Johnson.
Outlook: Hallsville stunned the state in the bi-district round of the playoffs in 2015 by ousting defending state champion Ennis. The Bobcats followed that performance by nearly knocking out perennial power Lancaster in the area round before ultimately succumbing, 30-23. A solid foundation has been built in Hallsville, which has qualified for the postseason for five consecutive years. And with an elusive playoff victory under their belt, the Bobcats are hoping more are to follow.
4. Mount Pleasant Tigers
- Coach: Corey Homer
- 2015 finish: 2-8
- Returning starters: 8 offensive, 8 defensive
Players to watch
- RB Travion Holloman, Sr., 5-9, 171
- OL Thomas Spann, Sr., 6-5, 310
- OL Caleb Johnson, Sr., 6-5, 305
- DB Asheton Brown, Sr., 5-8, 170
- OL/DL Christian Ingram, Sr., 6-0, 285
- DB Diondrae Williams, Sr., 5-11, 165
- QB Josh Morris, Soph., 5-11, 170
- ATH J.K, Lee, Sr., 5-7, 170
Offense: Mount Pleasant may have turned the corner a season ago, and the offense is a big reason why expectations could be on the rise for the Tigers. In 2015, Mount Pleasant averaged only 15.2 points per game, but with eight returning staters back, the Tigers have the potential to be vastly improved on the offensive side of the ball. Senior running back Travion Holloman led the district in rushing as a junior with 1,904 yards and 13 touchdowns. He'll be running behind a massive offensive line, which features a couple of 300-pounders in senior Thomas Spann and Caleb Johnson. Sophomore Josh Morris is expected to take over the quarterbacking responsibilities.
Defense: The Tigers struggled on the defensive side of the ball last season, allowing opponents a scoring average of more than 37 points per game. With eight players back that have starting experience, head coach Corey Homer is expecting much better results in 2016. The Tigers are fairly strong in the secondary with a pair of exciting seniors in Diondrae Williams and Asheton Brown. If Mount Pleasant can develop the line and linebacking corps early in the season, the Tigers have a great chance of pulling things together defensively.
Outlook: It's been since 2012 that Mount Pleasant has reached the playoffs, and for the first time in a while, many are expecting the Tigers to challenge for a postseason spot. Mount Pleasant managed only two wins a season ago, and finished the year with a dreadful three-game losing streak in which the Tigers were outscored by a combined score of 140-3. However, a talented collection of experienced players have Mount Pleasant in a great position in 2016.
5. Sulphur Springs Wildcats
- Coach: Greg Owens
- 2015 finish: 1-9
- Returning starters: 8 offensive, 6 defensive
Players to watch
- OL Gideon Gregory, Sr., 6-3, 290
- QB Ryan Humphries, Jr., 5-9, 170
- RB Lawrence Worth, Jr., 5-10, 180
- WR Simeon Taylor, Jr., 6-2, 165
- WR Tyrese Peters, Sr., 5-7, 165
- RB Jaylon Hawkins, Sr., 5-8, 185
- DB Terrell Turman, Jr., 6-0, 160
- DL Cameron Cooks, Sr., 6-2, 220
Offense: It was a rough 2015 season for the Sulphur Springs Wildcats, who missed out on the playoffs for the first time since 2006. In addition, Sulphur Springs finished 1-9, its worst record since 1969. Much of the problem was with the offense, which averaged just 14.9 points per game. But with eight returning starters on the offensive side of the ball, head coach Greg Owens is pinning his hopes on an improved product on the experienced core of players he has coming back. Quarterback Ryan Humphries is the key after getting a few starts under his belt as a sophomore a season ago. The rushing attack will be led by senior Jaylon Hawkins and junior Lawrence Worth. Simeon Taylor and Tyrese Peters will anchor the receiving corps.
Defense: Sulphur Springs had its struggles defensively as well last season, allowing an average of 40 points per game. The Wildcats will try to fix their inadequacies this fall with six returning starters. Senior lineman Cameron Crooks is a disruptive force along the defensive front, while junior defensive back Terrell Turman is a rangy playmaker out of the secondary.
Outlook: No one saw the 1-9 campaign coming last season, but with 14 returning starters, the hope in Sulphur Springs is that the Wildcats can bounce back quickly. With eight playoff appearances in the last nine seasons, Sulphur Springs has a solid foundation to build upon moving forward.
6. Greenville Lions
- Coach: Darren Duke
- 2015 finish: 2-8
- Returning starters: 6 offensive, 5 defensive
Players to watch
- OL Montana Bottone, Sr., 6-2, 341
- WR Melvin Mapps, Sr., 5-8, 170
- WR Derrick Givens, Sr., 6-0, 170
- QB Weston Jarvis, Jr., 5-11, 170
- LB Luis Garcia, Jr., 5-11, 190
Outlook: Realignment kept Greenville in an East Texas-centric district, which will make travel difficult for the Lions once again. Head coach Darren Duke is hoping that his team can build upon some of the positive things they accomplished in 2015. Greenville has a couple of solid playmakers to build around this season, including quarterback Weston Jarvis and receivers Melvin Mapps and Derrick Givens. Montana Battone is a massive offensive lineman, capable of giving opposing defensive linemen fits. The Lions bring back half of their starters from a year ago, hoping that experience is enough to keep them in the playoff chase.
7. Pine Tree Pirates
- Coach: Kerry Lane
- 2015 finish: 4-6
- Returning starters: 5 offensive, 5 defensive
Players to watch
- DB Paul Bonamy, Sr., 5-9, 145
- DL Kalvin Hutchings, Jr., 6-4, 218
- WR/DB Kenny Jackson, Sr., 5-9, 160
- OL Mose Jeffery, Jr., 6-4, 310
- WR Konnor Johnson, Sr., 6-0, 180
- WR/LB Shaffer Russell, Sr., 5-11, 205
- QB/DL Keshon Williams, Soph., 6-4, 230
- WR/DB Trey Pruitt, Jr., 5-11, 150
Offense: It was a big step forward for the Pine Tree offense in 2015. The Pirates put up an average of more than 25 points per game a season ago, but with several key performers gone following graduation, Pine Tree will be facing a stiff challenge to follow up those numbers. The Pirates will be searching for a new quarterback, but sophomore Keshon Williams has caught the attention of the Pine Tree coaching staff, and could lock up the starting spot at some point. The receiving corps, if nothing else, will be deep with Kenny Jackson, Konnor Johnson, Shaffer Russell, and Trey Pruitt all expected to contribute.
Defense: The defense may be a work in progress with the Pirates breaking in a half-dozen new starters in 2016. Pine Tree allowed an average of almost 34 points per game a year ago, so not only will several newcomers be called upon, the overall play on that side of the ball must improve. Russell is a physical specimen at linebacker, while the secondary will be anchored by Jackson, Paul Bonamy, and Pruitt. Junior Kalvin Hutchings is an intriguing prospect along the defensive line.
Outlook: Pine Tree was delivered a blow during the summer when head coach David Collins left to take another job, leaving the Pirates scrambling to find a replacement. Pine Tree acted quickly and hired Gilmer assistant coach Kerry Lane, who will try learn on the fly to get the most out of his new crop of players.