You've always got a chance when you have the mental tenacity it takes to play Gladewater football.

The Bears, one of East Texas' most physical teams perennially, will begin the year ranked seventh in our Class 4A poll. They're ahead of District 7-4A Division II foe Pleasant Grove, the poll's 10th-ranked team.

There's a lot of contact in an early season Gladewater practice. The program utilizes the I-formation on offense and runs out of it at nearly a four-to-one ratio. With all that running and contact, it forges a tough defensive front as a byproduct.

Isaiah Davis, a senior, is back to lead the charge on offense. He's currently regarded as an NCAA Division II-caliber player with offers from Texas A&M-Commerce and Southeastern Oklahoma off a 1,000-yard season in 2016.

At 6-foot-5 and 325 pounds, tight end Michael Sanchez holds a scholarship opportunity from Houston and should be an enormous problem for opposing defenses in getting to Davis. But Gladewater's nature as a run-oriented philosophy always develops a competent offensive line at large.

Seven defensive starters are back to six on offense, and the linebackers group is a particular strong suit. Fernando Serrano and Devonte Gunter have great size for the Class 4A level and will benefit from facing the Bears' ground game for two weeks ahead of scrimmages and a season-opener against defending 4A Division I state champion Carthage featuring the state's top-rated running back in Keaontay Ingram.

Pleasant Grove's prior ranking tells you District 7-4A Division II will be tough. Rest assured Gilmer, which has been to at least the state semifinals the past three seasons, also will begin the year with a ranking.

Atlanta, Pittsburg and Spring Hill will provide Gladewater with other difficult district games. Frankly, there's no free game in this league.

Carthage is a great early test, but the remainder of the Bears' non-district schedule isn't a joke. Kilgore, Center, Chapel Hill and Lindale also are on the pre-district slate.

You probably will know all you need to about Gladewater even before the team hits district play on Oct. 13. Class 4A Preseason Poll

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