2017 Football Preview: Loaded Newton Leads Way in 10-3A D-II
There's no doubt: the Newton Eagles are one of a handful of East Texas teams with realistic aspirations of celebrating a state championship in December.
More than half the starters from Newton's 2016 state quarterfinalist team return, and it seems the Eagles have been flirting with state titles every year since 2012.
The path in Region III won't be easy, and Newton's challengers in District 10-3A Division II shouldn't be, either.
Crockett has 12 starters back after getting three rounds deep, Corrigan-Camden has qualified for the playoffs every year since 1997, and Garrison has more returning starters than any of 2016's four playoffs teams from the district.
Scroll down for our district predictions in this ultra-competitive league.
District 10-3A Division II Preview
- RB Darwin Barlow, Jr., Newton
- QB Garret Bean, Jr., Frankston
- RB/DB Breandre Blake, Sr., Hemphill
- WR/DB Tamauzia Brown, Jr., Newton
- WR/DB Ma'Kedric Collins, Sr., Garrison
- WR/DB Trey Ellison, Sr., Hemphill
- LB Corbin Foster, Sr., Newton
- QB/DB Josh Foster, Jr., Newton
- DB Dohn Freeman, Soph., Corrigan-Camden
- RB/LB Ashton Jones, Jr., Corrigan-Camden
- RB/LB Reginald Lockhart, Sr., Crockett
- QB/DB Ty Love, Sr., Corrigan-Camden
- ATH Alton Owens, Jr., Crockett
- OL/DL Josh Porter, Sr., Frankston
- ATH Derrick Sherman, Sr., Crockett
- RB Jakelen Tutt, Sr., Garrison
- Sept. 1 -- Woodville at Corrigan-Camden
- Sept. 8 -- Silsbee at Newton
- Oct. 13 -- Newton at Crockett
- Oct. 13 -- Garrison at Frankston
- Oct. 20 -- Corrigan-Camden at Crockett
1. Newton Eagles
- Coach: W.T. Johnston
- 2016 finish: 13-1 (3A Division II quarterfinalist)
- Returning starters: 5 offensive, 7 defensive
Players to watch
- WR/DB Tamauzia Brown, Jr., 6-1, 170 (15 catches, 430 yards, 5 TDs; 66 carries, 573 yards, 9 TDs; 46 tackles, 4 INTs)
- RB Darwin Barlow, Jr., 6-0, 190 (135 carries, 1,111 yards, 13 TDs; 7 catches, 84 yards)
- LB Corbin Foster, Sr., 6-0, 220 (207 tackles, 11 for loss, 5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 forced fumble, 1 recovery)
- QB/DB Josh Foster, Jr., 6-1, 160 (23 carries, 159 yards, 1 TD; 96 tackles, 3 for loss, 4 INTs)
- DL Bryson Thomas, Sr., 6-1, 175 (75 tackles, 28 for loss, 14 sacks, 1 fumble recovery, 2 blocked punts)
- DL Evander Williams, Sr., 5-9, 230 (34 tackles, 8 for loss, 1 sack, 2 fumble recoveries)
- OL Caiden Walker, Jr., 6-4, 276
- DB Davien Johnson, Sr., 5-7, 155 (48 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT, 1 forced fumble)
Offense: Newton had one of East Texas' top offenses in 2016, averaging 41.5 points and almost 400 yards per game.
Graduation delivered a few blows as the Eagles will enter the new season having to replace quarterback Brock Barbay and last year's leading rusher J.D. Spikes.
Fortunately for head coach W.T. Johnston, there are a handful of dynamic playmakers returning that emerged onto the scene in a big way a season ago.
Juniors Tamauzia Brown, Darwin Barlow, and Josh Foster represent one of the top 2019 trios on any team in the region.
Brown, who was recently offered by Oklahoma State, was a monster on both sides of the ball as a sophomore. He compiled more than 1,200 yards of total offense, and averaged a ridiculous 35 yards per reception.
Barlow was one of two 1,000-yard rushers for Newton in 2016, and could be in line for a few Division I college suitors as well down the line.
Foster, one of Newton's top defenders a year ago, will transition to quarterback, giving the Eagles a serious ground threat at that position.
Defense: On the defensive side of the ball, few teams matched Newton's level of stinginess last season. The Eagles held opponents to less than 10 points per game, and authored five shutouts in 14 contests.
Seven starters return from that unit, including pass-rushing extraordinaire Bryson Thomas and tackling machine Corbin Foster.
Thomas racked up 14 sacks, while Corbin Foster led the team with 207 tackles in 2016.
Evander Williams is another solid force on the defensive line, while Brown, Josh Foster, and Davien Johnson headline one of the best 3A secondaries in the state.
2017 outlook: Newton has been beating down the door of its first state championship since 2005 for the last several years. Since 2012, Newton is 58-12, has played for one state title and been to at least the quarterfinal round of the playoffs four times.
The Eagles are certainly a favorite once again to reach AT&T Stadium in Arlington come December, but the always stacked Region III in 3A Division II won't be an easy road to navigate.
While graduation took its toll on some of last year's regional powers like the ones in the neighboring District 9-3A (Arp, Elysian Fields), both West Rusk and Waskom, which won back-to-back state titles in 2014 and 2015, should be much improved this season.
2. Crockett Bulldogs
- Coach: Jimmy Thompson
- 2016 finish: 11-2 (3A Division II regional semifinalist)
- Returning starters: 4 offensive, 8 defensive
Players to watch
- RB/LB Reginald Lockhart, Sr., 6-1, 200
- ATH Alton Owens, Jr., 5-6, 145
- ATH Derrick Sherman, Sr., 5-11, 160 (103 tackles, 7 for loss, 4 INTs, 6 forced fumbles, 4 recoveries)
- WR/DB Demarcus Richardson, Jr., 6-0, 165
- ATH L.T. Tryon, Sr., 5-8, 167
- OL/DL Dae'Javon Bibbs, Jr., 5-5, 205
- WR/DB Tyress Anderson, Sr., 5-11, 150
- RB/LB Joseph Porter, Soph., 6-1, 150
Offense: Crockett will be replacing quite a bit from an offense that averaged more than 40 points per game in 2016.
The Bulldogs will be breaking in seven new starters on the offensive side of the ball after the graduation of several elite playmakers, including receiver Lucky Daniels, quarterback B.J. Anderson, and a significant portion of the offensive line.
Crockett will likely try out several options at quarterback, including Alton Owens and Derrick Sherman, who each shined on the defensive side of the ball a season ago.
It might take a while for the Bulldogs to find their groove, but a deep collection of skill players should eventually come around.
Defense: Fewer holes exist on the other side of the ball as two-thirds of last season's defensive starters return.
Senior linebacker Reginald Lockhart is the man in the middle of it all, hoping to help build on a defense that surrendered an average of just 15.3 points per game in 2016.
Owens and Sherman combined for 10 interceptions last year.
2017 outlook: Despite losing just once in the regular season (to Newton in the district opener), Crockett was a victim of the brutal murderer's row in Region III.
Crockett was moments away from getting a rematch with Newton in the state quarterfinals until a last-second field goal sent eventual regional champ Arp to a dramatic 35-32 win in the regional semifinals.
The Bulldogs have the makings of another regional contender this season, especially on defense. If the offense can match up, a special year could be in the cards for Crockett.
3. Corrigan-Camden Bulldogs
- Coach: Seven Armstrong
- 2016 finish: 5-6 (3A Division II bi-district finalist)
- Returning starters: 6 offensive, 6 defensive
Players to watch
- QB/DB Ty Love, Sr., 6-4, 185
- RB/LB Ashton Jones, Jr., 6-0, 175
- DB Dohn Freeman, Soph., 6-1, 170
- OL/DL Alex Vance, Sr., 6-1, 195
- OL/DL Alex Cuevas, Sr., 5-5, 215
- OL/DL Hugo Sanchez, Sr., 5-5, 175
- RB Terrell Cook, Jr., 6-1, 160
- RB Latrail Bailey, Jr., 6-0, 180
Offense: Corrigan-Camden's "old-school" grind-it-out approach on offense has worked for years under longtime head coach Seven Armstrong.
It will be put to the test again this season, and with six offensive starters returning, including quarterback Ty Love, the Bulldogs figure to remain relevant in 2017.
Love is a big body difficult for defenders at the 3A level to bring down in one-on-one situations, and the stable backs led by Ashton Jones, Terrell Cook, and Latrail Bailey should definitely put opposing run defenses on their heels.
The Bulldogs are small on the offensive line, but it is an experienced group, headlined by the senior trio of Alex Vance, Alex Cuevas, and Hugo Sanchez.
Defense: The 2017 Corrigan-Camden defense wasn't a masterpiece by any stretch, as offenses lit the Bulldogs up for an average of 40.6 points per game.
Corrigan-Camden managed a third-place finish in the district despite being outscored by 100 points on the year.
Just like the offense, six starters are back on defense. The level of play on this side of the ball must drastically improve if Corrigan-Camden hopes to seriously compete with Newton and Crockett for the district title.
2017 outlook: Following a three-year stretch that included at least 10 wins or at least a three-round deep playoff run, Corrigan-Camden fell back to the pack with a 5-6 record, its first losing season since 2005.
The first three games of the season against Woodville, Centerville, and Shepherd will be a true test of how much progress has been made in a year. Those three outscored Corrigan-Camden 136-34 in 2016, and finished with a cumulative record of 28-9.
The Bulldogs get district favorite Newton at home, but must travel to Crockett and Garrison.
4. Garrison Bulldogs
- Coach: Larry Prince
- 2016 finish: 6-5 (3A Division II bi-district finalist)
- Returning starters: 7 offensive, 7 defensive
Players to watch
- RB Jakelen Tutt, Sr., 5-8, 176
- WR/DB Ma'Kedric Collins, Sr., 6-3, 175
- WR Keondric Collins, Sr., 5-8, 148
- RB/LB Chance Rodriguez, Soph., 5-10, 205
- LB Christian Shepherd, Sr., 5-9, 183
- OL/DL Wyatt Reneau, Jr., 6-0, 250
- QB Drew Wise, Jr., 5-9, 165
- OL Adam Renfro, Jr., 6-2, 282
Offense: There's a lot head coach Larry Prince has to be excited about concerning his offense this season.
First off, seven starters return to a unit that averaged almost 33 points per game and got better as the season went on.
Secondly, the district's leading returning rusher belongs to Garrison in senior running back Jakelen Tutt. Throw in complimentary skill players Ma'Kedrick and Keondric Collins, and Garrison is in a great position to exceed last season's offensive production.
Defense: Garrison's defense showed flashes of its potential during stretches of the 2016 season. And with all but four starters coming back, the odds of the Bulldogs putting everything together on the defensive side of the ball are good.
Christian Shepherd and Chace Rodriguez represent perhaps the district's best linebacking tandem. Rodriguez started at 11 games as a freshman, and it will be interesting to see his rate of progression in year two.
Ma'Kedric Collins has size, speed, and elite playmaking ability in Garrison's secondary.
2017 outlook: Garrison has more returning starters than any of the four playoff teams from the district last season, which bodes will for the Bulldogs.
Garrison suffered a three-point loss to third-place finisher Corrigan-Camden, but was outscored a combined 92-34 in losses to Newton and Crockett.
Garrison should be right back in the thick of the playoff race in 2017, and it wouldn't be surprising to see the Bulldogs trend upward in the district standings by year's end.
5. Frankston Indians
- Coach: Kevin Chase
- 2016 finish: 4-6
- Returning starters: 9 offensive, 7 defensive
Players to watch
- QB Garret Bean, Jr., 6-1, 175 (39 of 80, 644 yards, 4 TDs, 9 INTs; 103 carries, 523 yards, 6 TDs)
- OL/DL Josh Porter, Sr., 6-0, 265 (32 pancake blocks; 22 tackles, 1 sack)
- ATH Boogie Krajca, Jr., 5-9, 155 (90 carries, 741 yards, 9 TDs; 9 catches, 152 yards, 1 TD)
- RB/LB Drew Lewis, Sr., 5-10, 187 (81 tackles)
- RB/DB Jordan Pace, Sr., 5-10, 151 (52 tackles, 2 forced fumbles)
- OL/DL Jake Smith, Sr., 5-9, 205
- WR/DB Conner Griffith, Sr., 6-2, 165
- WR/DB Kaden Loebig, Sr., 6-0, 148
Offense: Frankston was extremely young last season, especially on offense, but not anymore.
The Indians return a district-best nine offensive starters, which should help them improve on a 2016 points-per-game average of 21.8.
Quarterback Garret Bean and versatile athlete Boogie Krajca are two solid pieces for first-year head coach Kevin Chase to build around.
Defense: The Frankston defense took its lumps last year as well, but with seven starters coming back, expect the level of play to improve substantially.
Linebacker Drew Lewis and defensive back Jordan Pace give the Indians some much-needed senior leadership on the defensive side of the ball.
Standout offensive lineman Josh Porter could have a big impact on the defensive line as well this season.
2017 outlook: To call the coaching situation at Frankston in recent years unstable would be putting it mildly.
Chase will lead the Indians in 2017 as interim coach following the sudden departure of Chip Keel in July. Keel was hired to replace Jonny Louvier, who left Frankston after one season to join Kurt Traylor's new staff at Tyler Lee.
Longtime East Texas coaching veteran Mike Owens lasted just one season as well in 2015.
Chase is the fifth head coach at Frankston since 2014.
It will remains to be seen what impact, if any, the instability will have on the field.
6. Hemphill Hornets
- Coach: Gary Vanya
- 2016 finish: 0-10
- Returning starters: 3 offensive, 3 defensive
Players to watch
- RB/DB Breandre Blake, Sr., 5-9, 150
- WR/DB Trey Ellison, Sr., 6-2, 160
- OL Reese McGraw, Sr., 6-3, 248
- WR/LB Logan Leone, Sr., 5-10, 160
- TE Zachary Lucious, Sr., 5-10, 200
- OL Alex Pina, Sr., 6-3, 225
- DB Trey Proctor, Jr., 5-7, 142
- OL Brody Greer, Jr., 6-3, 314
Offense: The 2017 season wasn't very much fun for Hemphill, which suffered through its third winless campaign since 2010.
On the bright side, head coach Gary Vanya begins his second season in charge, and there's nowhere to go but up for the Hornets.
Hoping to turn around an offense that averaged just 15 points per game will be senior running back Breandre Blake, who is one of only three returning starters on the offensive side of the ball.
Defense: There were plenty of issues on defense for Hemphill last season as well, as the Hornets allowed opponents to score 36 points per game on average.
Only three starting defenders return in 2016, so several newcomers will be asked to take on leading roles within the defense.
2017 outlook: Hemphill is currently in the midst of a 24-game district losing streak that dates back to 2012, so any positive turn would be a step in the right direction.
A second-year head coach and a cast full of newcomers may not be a bad thing for a program in desperate need of a culture change.