VYPE Football 2020 Preview: District 17-6A
By Angel Verdejo
Welcome to the 2020 football season. What a weird offseason it was for everyone. There was not a summer camp circuit for player to go showcase their talents at. In-person recruiting came to a screeching halt and the COVID-19 Pandemic has affected everyone.
But VYPE has still done what we have always done when it comes to previewing Texas high school football here in Houston. With that said - here is the District 17-6A Preview!
Most Valuable Player: L.J. Johnson, Cy-Fair
Offensive MVP: Mike Evans, Jersey Village
Defensive MVP: Joey Verret, Cypress Creek
Breakout Player of the Year: Ben Moseley, Stratford
Sleeper Team: Memorial
New coach, same expectations for Bobcats. For the first time in nearly 40 years,Ed Pustejovsky won't be roaming the sidelines at Cy-Fair. The longtime coach with the Bobcats retired following the 2019 season with a 138-57 record as head coach and a state champion in 2017. In steps Jeff Miller, a former Cy-Fair star quarterback who returns home after leading Rockdale to a state title and 12 playoff appearances in his final 13 seasons at the helm. Expect a few tweaks but much of the same for the Bobcats, which means running the football and a stout defense. Four-star RB L.J. Johnson (5-foot-10, 200-pounds) is coming off a 1,900-yard rushing season with 37 touchdowns. The offense will also be paced by District 17-6A Offensive Newcomer of the Year QB Carter Cravens (1,300 yards). Others to watch on offense include OL DeVontae Taylor, TE Jack Witmer (Virginia-commit) and Jaxson Chrest. The defense returns only four starters and will lean on experience in the secondary early on, including first-team defensive backs Thatcher Milton and Nick Chrest. Another notable returner is first-team, all-district LB Hunter Warren.
JERSEY VILLAGE FALCONS
Youth got the better of Jersey Village following a district championship season in 2018, but those growing pains should pay off this season as the Falcons return 17 total starters. Of those, nine are on the offensive side of the ball, starting with a pair of big targets in WRs Mike Evans (6-foot6, 220-pounds) and Dionel Burrell. Last season, Burrell led the team in receiving with 628 yards and four scores, while Evans chipped in 529 yards and eight scores. The Falcons will have to find an answer at QB with Caleb Weaver moving away. Defensively, watch for LB Alec Dalencour, who led the team in tackles in 2019.
CYPRESS RIDGE RAMS
Cypress Ridge competed well in Andrew Shanle's first season as head coach, so expect more from the Rams with 11 total returning starters. The offense should lead the way with a talented one-two punch in RBs Tristian Fletcher and Mark Benjamin. They should help new QB Justin Austin transition under center. Watch for LB Will Walker to lead the young defense.
CYPRESS CREEK COUGARS
Following back-to-back Division II quarterfinal appearances, Cypress Creek will be among the youngest teams around. Only two starters return on each side of the ball. Whoever steps in under center for the Cougars will have a few experienced targets in WR Brazos Gadler and TE Korey Celestine. Last year's District 17-6A Defensive Newcomer of the Year LB Joey Verret (6-foot, 190-pounds) will be asked to step in as the defense's leader. A player who could emerge on the defensive unit is LB Keyon Cummings, who enters his senior campaign.
Despite large senior classes in consecutive seasons, Stratford could be in the mix with eight returning starters on offense. QBs A.J. Abbott and Dylan Shoemake have both shown the ability to lead the unit. No matter who is under center, the unit returns its top target in WR Ben Moseley (6- foot-2, 165-pound), who has committed to Brown University. Moseley was second-team, all-district. Joining him on that team was Stratford leading rusher in Darese Steptoe, who could have a breakout 2020. Also watch for Diego Denson (WR/RB) and Vincent Cashiola, who moves from the DL to the OL. Youth along the defensive front will be a concern, though DL Reco Griffin can cause havoc. Others to watch on defense include LB Drew Arend, Vincent Cashiola and Luke Simonich. Another name to remember is long snaper Connor Able, who won the Rubio Long Snapping Camp and was invited to an AllAmerican Bowl.
Memorial is always in the playoff mix under longtime head coach Gary Koch. But replacing a talented and experienced senior class will make it an uphill battle in a tough league. First-team, all-district RB Carson Zahn will need be counted on to take on a bigger role. Zahn rushed for 782 yards and 10 scores a year ago. Only four defensive starters return and the strength will be in the secondary with first-teamer CB Sean Sheets and DB Carter Weinert, who earned second-team, all-district honors in 2019. Also, watch out for Jack Dragna on the defensive line.
SPRING WOODS TIGERS
Spring Woods, which hasn't reached the playoffs since 1997, is banking on experience – the Tigers return 15 total starters – to be in the mix. RB/ LB Thomas Ainsworth and RB Andrew Trevino will lead the way in the Wing-T offense. Ainsworth earned an honorable mention nod last year.
Northbrook welcomes a new head coach in Andres Gomez, who won a state title as a player at powerhouse Katy and most recently helped build Klein Cain into an up-andcoming program. The Raiders will count on 11 total starters to fuel its turnaround. The lone all-district player returning is FB Emilio Lujano, who earned honorable mention.