Liberty-Eylau seems to come and go in cycles.

Last year's 5-6 record was a big dropoff from the 2015 regional championship team. That being said, head coach Steve Wells had to bring in quarterback Decorian Phillips and receiver Isaiah Cross to replace players that moved on to NCAA Division I FBS careers.

We think the Leopards are ready to cycle back up the charts after a season of, you know, seasoning. They'll begin the year ranked fifth in our Class 4A poll.

Phillips, now a senior, nearly hit 2,500 total yards of offense while guiding the team to the bi-district round of the 4A Division I playoffs. Cross, a junior, broke through with an average of 12.1 yards per reception.

Six offensive starters are back in total, and a lot of the experience rests on the offensive line.

Six players are back on defense hoping to improve on the 27.3 points they averaged against through an 11-game season.

Dave Campbell's Texas Football projects Liberty-Eylau to finish first in District 7-4A Division I. We don't disagree.

The Leopards tied for the league crown last year and four of the other five district teams are bringing back about the same amount of starters. Quinlan Ford has 16 starters returning, but it tied for the worst district record and missed the playoffs in 2016.

We'll learn a lot about Liberty-Eylau before district play begins.

The year starts with non-district showdowns against Gilmer, Carthage and Texas High. Gilmer made the 4A Division II state semifinals for a third consecutive season last year, Carthage won the 4A Division I crown and Texas High put up a perfect 10-0 regular season record in Class 5A.

Pleasant Grove, our 10th-ranked 4A team, also will test the Leopards ahead of district.

There are quite a few opportunities for Liberty-Eylau to climb the poll. Class 4A Preseason Poll

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