Shelbyville got over the three-year playoff hump last season.

What can it do for an encore?

The Dragons will begin the year ranked No. 5 in the Class 2A/Private School poll with an absolutely staggering 18 starters back from a 9-1 regular season team. That's the top number in District 10-2A Division I, although Joaquin is right there as well with 17 returners.

Among virtually the same team, a major strength will be the running game.

Senior Octavian Burrell already has reached the 3,000-yard career mark within head coach Jason Ferguson's Slot-T offense and is back to do more damage in his final year. The offensive line also is very much intact from the 9-2 year.

Even then, the absolute strength of the team is its defense. Ten starters return and the unit averaged 14.5 points against per game.

Defensive lineman Kal Metcalf, a 6-foot, 240-pound state power lifting finalist, gives the defensive side some real teeth.

Shelbyville's district is no slouch. It knows it better than anyone after having its outright league title dreams dashed in the final game of the regular season by West Sabine.

Beckville, Cushing, Joaquin and San Augustine also inhabit the district. Each has had its fair share of success.

Non-district games against Linden-Kildare, Garrison, Tenaha, Colmesniel and Queen City should provide a nice amount of challenge and confidence building for the league championship run.

2015 Shelbyville Dragons Football Schedule

Aug. 28Linden-KildareW 53-2
Sept. 4at GarrisonW 20-12
Sept. 11OPEN
Sept. 18at ColmesneilW 66-12
Sept. 25at Queen CityW 61-0
Oct. 2OPEN
Oct. 9*at JoaquinW 48-0
Oct. 16*CushingW 53-8
Oct. 23*at BeckvilleW 46-20
Oct. 30*at San AugustineW 54-26
Nov. 6*West SabineW 68-20
Nov. 13(BI-DISTRICT): vs. Big SandyW 46-19
Nov. 20(AREA): vs. CarlisleW 32-18
Nov. 27(REGIONAL): vs. CentervilleW 27-21
Dec. 4(QUARTERFINAL): vs. Lovelady7 p.m. Preseason Class 2A/Private Schools Poll