Newton has beating on the door of state championships for several years now, and 2017 just might be the year it opens for the Eagles.

With 13 starters returning from last season's 13-1 Division II quarterfinalist, Newton has our vote as the No. 1-ranked team in the Preseason Class 3A Poll.

Since 2012, Newton has sported an overall record of 58-12, and has played at least three rounds deep in the playoffs every year. The Eagles played for the state title in 2014, and reached the semifinals in 2012.

Arp, which is ranked No. 8 in our preseason poll, knocked off Newton in last year's quarterfinals, 13-6.

Other potential regional challengers to Newton include West Rusk, Elysian Fields, and Crockett.

Newton's dynamic junior class is headlined by the trio of WR/DB Tamauzia Brown, RB Darwin Barlow, and QB/DB Josh Foster.

Brown amassed more than 1,200 yards of offense and scored 14 touchdowns, and added four interceptions on defense in 2016. Barlow ran for more than 1,100 yards and 13 TDs, while Foster made 96 tackles and added three interceptions.

They'll be joined by a fantastic trio on the defensive front, which includes linemen Bryson Thomas (14 sacks) and Evander Williams, and linebacker Corbin Foster (207 tackles, 5 sacks).

Region III won't be a cakewalk for Newton, which had to knock off two-time defending state champion Waskom and unbeaten Elysian Fields en route to reaching the regional finals a season ago. Preseason Class 3A Poll

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