VYPE Football 2021 Preview: District 8-5A-DI
Welcome to 8-5A-DI, which could be one of the wildest districts come season's end.
Magnolia won the district a year ago but has a lot of question marks.
College Station has all the pieces to win it but can they fend off a Magnolia West team that is looking to get some revenge for how 2020 ended for them?
Lufkin has a historic playoff run on the line as well. Let's see how District 8-5A-DI shakes out.
(Bold Denotes Playoffs)
Most Valuable Player: Jett Huff, College Station
Offensive MVP: Kedrick Reescano, New Caney
Defensive MVP: Jaxson Slanker, College Station
Breakout Player of the Year: Elijah Moody, Lufkin
Sleeper Team: Lufkin
College Station Cougars
The Cougars of College Station went 10-2 a year ago and finished second in the district standings. College Station made it to the second round of the playoffs before being ousted by Denton Ryan, 52-21.
Jett Huff leads the QB room after passing for 2,612 yards and 31 touchdowns a year ago with a 73-percent completion rate. The Cougars will have to replace the production of Roderick Brown at running back but in steps Marquise Collins, who rushed for over 1,000 yards and 20 scores last season. H
uff has all his top receiving targets back in Traylen Suel (772 yards, 7 TDs), Dalton Carnes (570 yards, 7 TDs) and Houston Thomas (498 yards, 3 TDs). Defensively, Jaxson Slanker is back after recording 147 tackles a year ago along with Harrison Robinson (109 tackles). Robinson also had two interceptions, five pass deflections, three forced and recovered fumbles last year.
Leading sacker Caleb Skow (4 sacks, 5 hurries) returns along with Connor Lingren (3 sacks). In the secondary, Byron Johnson Jr. will hold it down after three interceptions and eight pass deflections in 2020.
Magnolia West Mustangs
Magnolia West had a tale of two seasons in 2020. The Mustangs started the season 5-1 before stalling out and losing the last four games to close out the district 4-4 and in a three-way tie for the fourth playoff spot.
Coach Ben McGehee takes over the reins this season after Blake Joseph exited in the offseason to take a job at North Texas.
McGehee has some nice pieces to work with. Quarterback Brock Dalton passed for 2,727 yards and 31 scores, while Hunter Bilbo finished just shy of 1,000 yards with 905 and 13 scores. Trey Leggett is back as the team's leading receiver (614 yards, 6 TDs).
The defense is where they will have to be solid, especially late in the year. Jackson Blank is the straw that stirs the drink (83 tackles) and will get help from Cade Dunlap at linebacker. Don't forget about big-man Hayden Janskey (6-2, 230) at defensive end for the Mustangs.
Magnolia was the best in District 8-5A-DI a year ago. The Bulldogs went 10-2, went a perfect 8-0 in district play and reached the second round of the playoffs before falling to Frisco Lone Star, 40-28. Coming off a year like that and we predict them to be third? An offense that averaged 43.5 points per game has some big holes to fill at QB and RB.
Defensively, the Bulldogs should have the pieces to hold it together early. William Alexander is the key after recording more than 110 tackles and five sacks a year ago. Garrison Hefner at cornerback held it down last season with five picks and 60 tackles for the Dogs.
Kiran Curtis and Cade Mathieu will hold down the defensive line, while Eliel Sandoval patrols the middle of the field at linebacker.
On the offensive line, Zac Wilson and John Mitcham will have to protect and provide holes for the new signal-caller and running back. Ernie Mendoza will hold down the kicking duties.
New Caney Eagles
The New Caney Eagles found their way into the playoff picture once again in 2020 in coach Travis Reeve's first season at the helm. It was the sixth-straight postseason appearance for the Eagles.
With a full, mostly-normal offseason under their belts, New Caney should be once again a playoff berth favorite. Kedrick Reescano is a big reason why. The junior had a breakout sophomore campaign rushing for 1,157 yards and 14 scores. He had five games of 100 or more yards. He could be the most explosive back in the district come season's end. He has offers from Oklahoma State, Houston, Tulsa and SMU.
The Eagles will have to find a QB and WRs to fill out the rest of the offense. Defensively, DL/LB Tayte Baker and LB Sebastian Garza are back for their junior and senior campaigns, respectively. Dax Lipscomb is another name to remember on the New Caney defense.
Porter was one of those three teams in the midst of that three-way tie for fourth and lost out on a playoff spot by points. Exit Jim Holley as head coach as he takes over as the district's athletic director and enter Billy Russell, who was on the staff a year ago.
Russell may have a budding stars at running back returning in 2021 in Joshua Evans-Pickens. The District Newcomer of the Year rushed for over 1,200 yards and 20 scores a year ago and brother Payton Evans-Pickens will operate the offense. The Evans-Pickens show in the backfield may just get the Spartans back into the playoffs.
Up front they have some push with Samuel Garms, Anthony Prieto, Kyle Rigsby and Evan Williams. This group will pave the way for the Evans-Pickens duo. Defensively, David Walls and Khalil Tugwell check in at linebacker for Porter.
Under coach Todd Quick, Lufkin went reached the playoffs last year but were ousted in the first round by Longview. The Panthers return just three on the offense and five on defense from that team.
Offensively, 6-foot-3, 200-pound QB Elijah Moody will get the reins of the offense with little experience under his belt. The defense will have to hold up early and often in this district.
Leading the group will be Tre Jenkins on the defensive line and Tanner Havard at linebacker. This is not the same Lufkin offense from a few seasons ago, so can they figure it out in time and fight for that final playoff spot to secure a 24th-straight playoff appearance?
As year three of the Gene Johnson-era begins at Waller, the Bulldogs saw some improvement in 2020 despite it being a COVID-19 impacted season. They went from 0-10 his first year to a 3-7 team last fall, which was the most wins since 2018.
They return just one starter off the offense and four on defense. Caleb Godfrey will operate the offense after passing for 1,500 yards a year ago and 14 scores. He will have 10 new starters around him, so the leadership will definitely come from the QB1.
Defensively, DL Jairo Garcia, DB Isaiah Blair and LB Garrett Kern are names to remember.
Year one for Jason Fiacco was big in Cleveland. First of all, the Indians won two games, which for some doesn't sound like a big deal but for a program that hadn't won a single game since 2017 it was.
Cleveland will try and carry that momentum over to 2021 with five starters back on each side of the ball. Devonte Robertson is a big player for Cleveland checking in at 6-foot-3, 205-pounds.
Defensive back Donald Robertson also brings some size at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds. Tyler Spencer will operate the offense, while Tyric Cannon will come out of the backfield and Cary Wood is the receiving threat.
Defensively, besides the Robertson duo, DB Christian Duncantel will be another returner to watch.
Caney Creek Panthers
Caney Creek is coming off another tough year, going 0-10 in Kendall Hineman's first year at the helm. The Panthers do return nine starters on offense and six on defense, which is the most in each category among district foes.
John Milo (5-10, 175) is an athlete that will play on both sides of the ball for the Panthers. Christian Aguilar will operate the offense at QB after passing for 600 yards and six scores a year ago. Caleb Besaw will be his top target.
Defensively, Brandon Lewis will hold down the linebacker spot and Rowdy Sebastian will patrol at DB. Other names to remember are DL Tristen Brown, LB Daylin Manning and WR Braylon Reece.