District 11-2A Division I Preview: Get Your Popcorn Ready
One thing is for sure: District 11-2A Division I will not be without intrigue in 2018.
The new league features three schools -- Garrison, Beckville, and Harleton -- dropping down from 3A, one of which went three rounds deep in the playoffs in 2017.
It has also has a couple of schools up from 2A Division II -- Tenaha, the defending state finalist, and Timpson, which was eliminated by Tenaha in the quarterfinals.
Oh, and the other two district members -- Linden-Kildare and Joaquin -- were playoff teams last season as well.
Needless to say, what unfolds the next few months in 11-2A D-I is anyone's guess.
Here's ours ...
District 11-2A Division I Preview
- OL/DL Juarmez Brock, Sr., Tenaha
- RB/CB Hunter Gates, Sr., Joaquin
- QB Jon Grogan, Sr., Timpson
- RB LaDavion Johnson, Jr., Linden-Kildare
- WR/DB Jay Lloyd, Sr., Tenaha
- QB Morey Morrison, Sr., Beckville
- RB Jordan Osby, Sr., Timpson
- LB/WR Ty Patterson, Sr., Linden-Kildare
- RB/LB Sebastion Porter, Jr., Garrison
- QB/LB Trenton Ramsey, Sr., Joaquin
- DL Wyatt Reneau, Sr., Garrison
- WR Austin Roys, Sr., Beckville
- RB/LB Hunter Wallace, Jr., Harleton
- WR/OLB Cooper Ward, Jr., Harleton
- Crockett at Garrison, Sept. 7
- San Augustine at Tenaha, Sept. 21
- Timpson at Tenaha, Sept. 29
- Linden-Kildare at Joaquin, Oct. 12
1. Tenaha Tigers
- Coach: Greg Jenkins
- 2017 finish: 15-1 (2A Division II state finalist)
- Returning starters: 4 offensive, 4 defensive
Players to watch
- DL/OL Juarmez Brock, Sr., 6-1, 245
- WR/DB Jay Lloyd, Sr., 5-11, 170
- QB Hayden Jenkins, Jr., 6-2, 175
- SS/WR Ja'Qualin Franks, Sr., 6-1, 165
- DL/OL Jared Tovar, Jr.
- DL Nictavian Calloway, Sr., 5-10, 265
- DE/C Tycorreus Villegas, Sr., 5-9, 235
- WR/DB Erik Smith, Jr., 6-3, 180
Offense: Sure, Tenaha will likely go through a few growing pains after graduating its three biggest impact players on offense in quarterback CJ Horn, running back Onterio Thompson, and receiver Trai Gardner. There is also bound to be a few bumps in the road that naturally come with a new coaching staff. New head coach Greg Jenkins, however, still has a few playmakers at his disposal. Jay Lloyd has been playing since he was a freshman, and will become the go-to-guy on offense in 2018. Jenkins' son, junior Hayden Jenkins, will take the reins at quarterback. A new running back will need to emerge, but Coach Jenkins is excited about a few of the new faces at receiver, including junior Erik Smith.
Defense: The Tigers' defense lost a few players as well, but the most important returns in senior all-state lineman Juarmez Brock (123 tackles, 19 for loss, six sacks, two forced fumbles). The impact he and fellow defensive linemen Nictavian Calloway, Tycorreus Villegas, and Jared Tovar sets Tenaha's defense apart from most schools at the 2A level. Tenaha might not hold opponents to seven points per game like it did in 2017, but the size up front will be too much for most opposing offensive lines to handle this fall.
2018 outlook: Most prognosticators expect Tenaha to take a step back this season. Not only did Tenaha lose most of its offensive and defensive firepower from last year's state finalist squad, the Tigers are also moving up a classification to 2A Division I. New head coach, new starters, new level of competition; all of that is enough to doubt whether Tenaha has what it takes to get back to the state championship game come December. But take one look at the players Tenaha has coming up through the program, and reflect on the Tigers' sustained level success over the past decade, and it might not be so wise to discount Tenaha. Since 2009, Tenaha has amassed an astounding 102-23 record, which includes seven seasons of 10 wins or more.
2. Timpson Bears
- Coach: Kerry Therwhanger
- 2017 finish: 11-3 (2A Division II state quarterfinalist)
- Returning starters: 5 offensive, 7 defensive
Players to watch
- RB Jordan Osby, Sr., 5-11, 175
- QB Jon Grogan, Sr.
- OL/DL Nictaeo Scourton, Sr., 5-9, 260
- OL/LB Jarrett Page, Jr., 5-6, 175
- WR Cam Berry, Sr., 5-10, 160
- DL Shane Peveto, Sr., 6-4, 190
Offense: Timpson might only return five offensive starters in 2018, but perhaps the district's best offensive player is one of them. Bears senior running back Jordan Osby is back after putting up more than 2,000 yards rushing and 28 touchdowns in guiding Timpson to its best season since 1992. Osby is certainly on the short list of the top running backs in all of East Texas, but Timpson will need the help of several role players to match last season's accomplishments. Don't expect the Bears to open up the offense too much, but if senior quarterback Jon Grogan can be counted on for just a handful more big plays through the air per game, Timpson's offense becomes all the more explosive. Holes on the offense line will be a question mark early in the season.
Defense: The Bears played excellent defense for the most part in 2018. In Timpson's 11 wins its defense limited opponents to an average of just 15 points per game. Two of the Bears' three losses came to state finalist Tenaha, which sported one of the most explosives offenses in the state. Timpson could be even better on defense this season with seven starters coming back. Nictaeo Scourton and Shane Peveto give Timpson strengths up front while linebacker Jarrett Page is seemingly always around the football.
2018 outlook: Like Shelby County rival Tenaha, Timpson is also moving up to Division I after reaching the quarterfinals in Division II last season. The Bears have more starting experience returning, but they dropped both games to Tenaha by a combined 93 points. Moreover, Timpson hasn't defeated Tenaha in more than a decade. So while challenging Tenaha for district supremacy might seemed far-fetched, there's no reason to think Timpson can't once again challenge for a playoff spot in a loaded district.
3. Garrison Bulldogs
- Coach: Larry Prince
- 2017 finish: 7-6 (3A Division II regional semifinalist)
- Returning starters: 6 offensive, 6 defensive
Players to watch
- RB/LB Sebastion Porter, Jr., 5-9, 180
- DL Wyatt Reneau, Sr., 6-1, 250
- QB Drew Wise, Sr., 5-9, 165
- HB/LB Chace Rodriguez, Jr., 6-0, 205
- OL/DL Adam Renfro, Sr., 6-3, 280
- WR/DB Austin Colle, Sr., 5-5, 135
- WR Canyon Holmes, Jr., 6-1, 152
- LB Blake Greer, Sr., 6-0, 155
Offense: Garrison's offense wasn't flashy last season, but it did manage to help get the Bulldogs into the third round of the playoffs. Six offensive starters return, including running back Sebastion Porter, who is hoping to at least double his 675-yard rushing output as a sophomore. Expect Chace Rodriguez to handle a lot of the short-yardage and goal-line responsibilities. The passing game has the potential to be explosive with senior Drew Wise behind center, and a deep receiving corps led by Austin Colle and Canyon Holmes. Adam Renfro is a physical force up front for Garrison, and will be a mismatch for most 2A defensive linemen.
Defense: The Bulldogs gave up a lot of points in 2017, more than head coach Larry Prince expects from the unit this year. Like the offense, six starters return to the defense, including superstar lineman Wyatt Reneau, who is hard to handle for most 2A offensive linemen. Blake Greer is a strong asset at linebacker, while Porter and Rodriguez will also see time there. The secondary is Garrison's biggest question mark coming into the season, but a strong non-district schedule should get the Bulldogs ready for what should be a tough district slate.
2018 outlook: Despite finishing the regular season 5-5, Garrison surprised with a three-round trip through the playoffs last year. More good news followed with the Bulldogs' drop to Class 2A. With more than half of last year's starters returning and a more even playing field regarding school enrollment, Garrison should be not only competitive in its new district, but the Bulldogs could even make some noise in the playoffs out of Region III. Centerville, Carlisle, Tenaha, Timpson, and San Augustine will no doubt be tough outs in the playoffs, but Garrison has one big advantage over all of them: it went to the regional semifinals last year in 3A.
4. Linden-Kildare Tigers
- Coach: Derek Simmons
- 2017 finish: 8-3 (2A Division I b-district finalist)
- Returning starters: 7 offensive, 9 defensive
Players to watch
- LB/WR Ty Patterson, Sr., 6-1, 170
- RB LaDavion Johnson, Jr., 5-5, 137
- LB/C Draydon Delese, Sr., 5-8, 195
- QB/DB Jacob Owen, Sr., 5-11, 175
- WR/DB Marquise Jones, Sr., 6-3, 153
- DE Nicholas Kunze, Jr., 6-0, 200
- WR/DB Red Tyson, Jr., 5-9, 141
- WR Trey Schuler, Jr.
Offense: Linden-Kildare was explosive on offense a season ago, averaging more than 36 points per game. The biggest reason for that was running back LaDavion Johnson, who is back for his senior year after posting almost 2,000 yards on the ground as a junior. Quarterback Jacob Owen is also back, and the Tigers are as deep at receiver as they've been in recent memory. Ty Patterson, Marquise Jones, Red Tyson, and Trey Schuler are about as complete a pass-catching group as can be found in the district. Most of the offensive line from last year graduated, so it will be up to senior center Draydon Delese to provide strong leadership until things settle up front.
Defense: It was a mixed bag defensively for Linden-Kildare, which limited opponents to 23 points per game in 2017. Patterson is perhaps East Texas' best defender, pound-for-pound, and he leads a unit that returns all but two starters this season. Patterson racked up an amazing 200 tackles in only 11 games last season. He also posted 23 tackles for loss, forced 10 fumbles, had three sacks, picked off two passes, and blocked two kicks. The Tigers' defense will keep them in most games in 2018.
2018 outlook: No team in District 11-2A Division I returns more starters than Linden-Kildare, and the Tigers will need every bit of that experience to compete in a brutal district field. L-K was a respectable 8-3 last season, but its district competition in 2017 doesn't compare to what it will face this year. Patterson is arguably the best player in the district, and Johnson will challenge Timpson's Osby for the district rushing title. But it's going to take more than just a couple of superstars for Linden-Kildare to rise to the level of district-title contenders. With that being said, if the Tigers can remain healthy, they should have an excellent shot at reaching the playoffs.
5. Joaquin Rams
- Coach: Wade Lawson
- 2017 finish: 8-3 (2A Division I bi-district finalist)
- Returning starters: 4 offensive, 8 defensive
Players to watch
- RB/CB Hunter Gates, Sr., 5-8, 140
- QB/LB Trenton Ramsey, Sr.
- FB/OLB Joseph Tarver, Sr., 5-4, 140
- DB Juan Castillo, Sr.
- OL/DL Paul Salone, Sr.
- RB Tre Burns, Sr., 5-9, 170
- TB/DB Connor Bragg, Jr., 5-10, 155
- OL/DL Jackson Cater, Sr.
Offense: Joaquin lost its leading rusher from last season in Kase Yates, but does return its second- and fourth-leading rushers. And both Hunter Gates, a 1,000-yard rusher in 2017, and Connor Bragg (526 yards, seven TD's) will factor heavily into the Rams' run-heavy offense this season. Trenton Ramsey, who starred at linebacker a season ago, is expected to take over at quarterback, and Paul Salone and Jackson Cater will anchor an offensive line that lacks experience in 2018. Joaquin averaged more than 36 points per game last season, and the ground game accounted for more than 90 percent of its total offensive production. So the offensive line will need to come together quick if Joaquin is to recapture last year's magic on offense.
Defense: Things should be easier on the defensive side for Joaquin, which brings back all but four starters. Linebackers Lorenzo Lane and Ian Shahan will compliment Ramsey and Joseph Tarver, giving Joaquin a solid second level. More will be expected from the defensive line, while Gates, Juan Castillo, and Bragg are all potential all-district performers in the secondary. The 2017 defense was among the area's best in 2A, allowing less than 16 points per game. And with most of that nucleus returning, Joaquin has the chance to be a truly dominant unit.
2018 outlook: Joaquin has plenty of experience coming back, but the district it inherits could be much better than the one it inhabited the last couple of seasons. The Rams will need a strong non-district, especially on offense, if the Rams hope to reach the playoffs once again this season. Tenaha and Timpson will have an edge athletically, Garrison has the numbers dropping down from 3A, Linden-Kildare might have the district's best duo of players, and Beckville and Harleton won't be pushovers, either.
6. Beckville Bearcats
- Coach: Mike Bickham
- 2017 finish: 5-5
- Returning starters: 7 offensive, 6 defensive
Players to watch
- QB Morey Morrison, Sr., 5-9, 180
- WR Austin Roys, Sr., 6-0, 170
- OL/DL C.J. Robinson, Sr., 5-10, 250
- DE Cooper Morris, Sr., 6-0, 170
- RB J.D. Prince, Sr.
- WR/CB Taylor Hightower, Sr., 5-8, 120
- ATH Carlos Campos, Jr.
- WR/DB Marc McGwire, Sr., 5-9, 155
Offense: Beckville could not have started the 2017 season off any better, racing out to a 5-0 record and averaging almost 47 points per game in the process. As good as things were, that's how bad it ended for the Bearcats. The offense took a nose-dive, sputtering to a points-per-game average of just 14.8 during a five-game losing streak to end the season. Third-year head coach Mike Bickham is hopeful the lessons learned during the back half of the year will lead to positive results in 2018. Seven starters return on the offensive side of the ball, including senior receiver Austin Roys and senior lineman C.J. Robinson. But more is needed from the supporting cast if the final results are to be any different moving forward.
Defense: The Bearcats' defense saw a similar downturn down the stretch last season, allowing 50.7 points per game over the last three weeks. In fairness, those three games came against three of the region's top teams in Elysian Fields, Waskom, and West Rusk. The going shouldn't be nearly as tough in 2A, but Beckville will still needed a more consistent effort on defense to compete in this district on a week-to-week basis. Robinson and Cooper Morris are strengths on the defensive line, while Marc McGwire, who led the team in interceptions a season ago, returns as well.
2018 outlook: Ordinarily when a team drops in classification, a playoff berth is a sure thing. Not in this district. Beckville has the pieces to challenge for one of the four postseason spots, but finding wins in the district is difficult to put it mildly. Robinson is as good a two-way lineman as any in the district, and Roys is a legitimate weapon at receiver. The real question for Beckville is whether it has enough playmakers to compete with the rest of the league on a week-to-week basis. We'll soon find out.
7. Harleton Wildcats
- Coach: Terry Ward
- 2017 finish: 1-9
- Returning starters: 8 offensive, 7 defensive
Players to watch
- RB/LB Hunter Wallace, Jr., 5-9, 195
- WR/OLB Cooper Ward, Jr., 6-0, 165
- WR/OLB Braden West, Sr., 5-5, 116
- LB/RB Cagan Slone, Sr.
- QB/S Garrett Handlin, Sr.
- LT/DE Matthew Schreiber, Sr.
- OL/DL Sebastian Schenck, Sr.
- DL Brady King, Jr., 5-11, 203
Offense: Harleton wasn't expected to have a great 2017 season, but no one could've seen a 1-9 year on the horizon. The Wildcats' offense was young and the inexperience definitely showed. Turnovers were a big issue for Harleton, which third-year head coach Terry Ward hopes get corrected in 2018. Despite averaging less than 200 yards per game and putting up a meager 10 points per game a season ago, there were a few bright spots on the offense. Hunter Wallace emerged at running back and went for almost 700 yards as a sophomore. Quarterback Garrett Handlin took his lumps last year, but with a full season behind center under his belt, the Wildcats are expecting him to turn the corner. Cooper Ward and Braden West should step into starring roles at receiver.
Defense: It wasn't all bad for Harleton's defense, which did allow more than 33 points per game last season, but managed to play quite well during stretches. The Wildcats held a potent Linden-Kildare offense to 35 points in the season opener, and limited Beckville to just six points for its only win of 2017. With seven defensive starters coming back, expect Harleton to make significant progress in stopping opponents. Most of Harleton's offensive starters go both ways, so staying healthy will be key to the Wildcats' chances of surviving a difficult run through district.
2018 outlook: Harleton's drop in classification can only help turn around what was a disappointing 1-9 season in 2017. The Wildcats have plenty of experience coming back, but it remains to be seen whether that seasoning will be enough to overcome its limitations in certain areas. Harleton will need a strong non-district performance in order to build confidence for a daunting road through one of 2A's toughest districts in the state.