Most teams slink back when they lose a high-profile college football recruit to graduation. Henderson lost two after a serious run at the Class 4A Division I state championship last season.

Yet we think the Lions are better prepared than most to deal with losing Trestan Ebner to Baylor and La'Kendrick Van Zandt to TCU. They'll begin the season ranked fourth in our Class 4A poll.

Only six players are returning from Henderson's regional semifinal team, which lost to eventual state champion Carthage by two points, but we really like quarterback Trae Hall leading the newcomers. Hall begins his senior season with offers from Florida Atlantic, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, New Mexico State and Tulane.

Lynn Freeney is a senior running back who has just been waiting for Van Zandt to graduate. He averaged 6.7 yards per touch over 72 carries and scored six times.

Defensively, the Blanton boys are back. Linebacker Ty Blanton and safety Tre Blanton both recorded more than 100 tackles in a 13-game season.

With a little fall camp development, Henderson should have some complimenting players to help the headlining group.

This is a program that has reached the postseason twice the past three seasons with no worse finishes than the regional semifinal level. The 2015 team missed the playoffs on tiebreakers despite going 7-3 through the regular season.

Henderson's District 9-4A Division I is no joke, though.

Carthage will try to defend its state championship with the state's top-ranked running back and an experienced Kilgore team tied for a share of the district title with Henderson a year ago. Both teams bested Carthage in league play.

Bullard, Center, Palestine, and Chapel Hill won't be easy games either.

Great non-district contests against Atlanta, ninth-ranked Tatum, Pittsburg and Pine Tree from Class 5A should have the Lions ready to go. Class 4A Preseason Poll

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