A regional champion has come out of District 9-3A in each of the last five seasons.

Elysian Fields did it in 2012, Waskom from 2013-15, and Arp won the regional title last year. Is it time for West Rusk to join the party?

We feel like that's a distinct possibility as the Raiders will begin the season ranked No. 4 in our preseason Class 3A poll.

West Rusk, which finished 7-4 last season and in third place in 9-3A, returns a district-best 16 starters -- eight on each side of the ball.

The Raiders dropped a one-point decision to Arp in league play in 2016, but was soundly defeated by district champion Elysian Fields, which lost a ton of firepower from its regional semifinalist squad.

West Rusk brings back quarterback LaJavius Harper, running back Jaylon Garland, and receivers DJ Hart and Levi Hughes to an offense that averaged 36 points per game last season.

Defensively, the Raiders are led by senior defensive end/outside linebacker and Texas A&M commit Tyree Wilson. He will be surrounded by a bevy of playmakers, including linebacker Diego Molina and Hart, who doubles as a standout defensive back.

The neighboring District 10-3A is strong at the top with Newton and Crockett, but if West Rusk can manage either a first- or second-place finish its district, a difficult opening-round playoff matchup can be avoided.

Then, the Raiders could play for a while.

ETSN.fm Preseason Class 3A Poll

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