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The District 23-6A title race will be an intriguing one this year, very likely to go down to the wire.
Any one of the Pearland, Shadow Creek or Pearland Dawson is capable of taking the crown.
Defense is the name of the game in 23-6A, as the playing on that side of the ball is exceptional.
And as tough as the district race will be, the competition for the fourth and final playoff spot will be just as intense.
PRESEASON RANKINGPearlandShadow CreekStrake JesuitPearland DawsonAlief TaylorAlief HastingsAlief ElsikAlvin(Bold Denotes Playoffs)
PRESEASON AWARDSMost Valuable Player: Dominic Serna, PearlandOffensive MVP: Kelvon Brown, Shadow CreekDefensive MVP: Amari Deason, PearlandBreakout Player of the Year: Duke Butler, Shadow CreekSleeper Team: Alief Hastings
Pearland is a team to watch out for this year, returning 13 starters from an 8-3 Area playoff finalist. Look out for the Oilers, who are hungry to assume their status as one of the consistent powers in Region III.
The defense has playmakers all over the field, led by senior 6-foot, 290-pound DL Amari Deason, senior LB Dylan Dixson, senior 6-foot-3, 217-pound LB K'Von Sherman, senior 5-foot-11, 190-pound DB Izeal Jones and senior DB Deveon Moses. Plenty of ammo.
Offensively, Pearland will have a potent running game behind senior 5-foot-10, 195-pound RB Dominic Serna (709 yards, 6 TDs) and junior RB Kennedy Lewis (171 yards, TD). Senior 6-foot- 3, 185-pound Jake Sock is back to run the team under center after throwing for 678 yards and 10 touchdowns to two interceptions.
It says a lot about the standard and expectations at Shadow Creek that its first year in Class 6A last season was considered "rocky". And yet, the Sharks still made it to the Regional Semifinals.
But the undefeated 2019 State Champs "only" went 6-4 last year, and this year could be a rough-go early on with only six returning starters.
Junior 6-foot-1, 170-pounder Duke Butler, the coach's son, moves to QB1 after throwing for 198 yards and three touchdowns as a backup last year. He'll be supported by senior 6-foot, 165-pound WR Lawrence Armstrong (276 yards, six TDs) and senior RB Kelvon Brown (765 yards, eight TDs).
The defense is headed by senior DB DeJuan Lewis (66 tackles, INT), senior DB Nick Hudson, senior DL Josh Diaz and junior DL Theorin Randle. Question marks are at the offensive line and linebacker spots.
The Crusaders bring back 10 starters from a 4-6 Bi- District playoff finalist and will be under new leadership as Donovan Fikac takes over. Strake Jesuit does not have much experience, so it will need younger players to step up sooner than later. However, there is a formidable core to build around.
On offense, there's senior 5-foot-10, 185-pound RB Joel Crawford (790 yards, 9 TDs), senior 6-foot, 180-pound WR William Taylor (363 yards, 4 TDs), senior three-star tight end Thomas Jewett, senior WR Leland Smith and junior 6-foot, 180-pound QB Bryce Fucik, who assumes QB1 after being a backup last year and getting invaluable game reps as a sophomore.
Defensively, the front seven is dangerous, thanks to the talents of senior DL Marc Arsham, senior 5-foot-11, 205-pound LB Jake Foster, senior 6-foot-1, 195-pound LB Billy Van Pelt and senior CB Craig Royal Jr.
The Eagles had an outstanding 2020, going 10-1, but only return five starters (four on offense). Junior 6-foot-4, 180-pound QB Colin Johnson (859 yards, 4 TDs) and senior 5-foot-7, 155-pound WR Ashton Stroman (302 yards, TD) have size and speed and will lead the offense.
Sophomore RB Bryce Burgess takes over ball-carrying duties. Others to watch on offense include WR Ryan Guillo and RG Jonathan Lopez.
Defense will be where Dawson will have to grow up quickly after graduating 10 starters. The key cog is senior 6-foot-2, 215-pound DE Amaurion Green (13 tackles, 4 tackles for a loss, 2 sacks). Shamar Jones could be a name to remember at OLB as well.
Dawson does have a strong special teams weapon in senior kicker/punter Carter Brown, one of the top kickers in the Greater Houston area and committed to Arizona State.
The run game could be potent for Taylor, which returns 10 starters from a 2-4 team. The offensive line is the strength, led by 6-foot-4, 300-pound senior Chizara Alegbe, 6-foot, 315-pound senior Nathanyal Ridgeway and 6-foot-6, 275-pound senior Tashaun Pennington.
Junior 5-foot-10, 177-pound QB Davion Horton is a gifted runner with his speed and elusiveness and will take full advantage of his friends up front. Senior 5-foot-10, 162-pound WR Tyler King (203 yards, TD) has game-breaking speed and is committed to Texas Tech.
Defensively, senior 6-foot-1, 245-pound DE Ethan Cox (25 tackles, 4 sacks) and senior 6-foot-1, 200-pound LB Blaise Tita (17 tackles) lead the way. A key newcomer is senior 6-foot, 220-pound stat-stuffing linebacker Everett Haven from Mayde Creek.
Hastings returns quality experience as 15 starters are back from a 2-4 team.
The Bears will be a force in the trenches behind 6-foot-7, 290-pound senior Emuvoke Gagophien and 6-foot-1, 310-pound sophomore guard Tristan Shandy on offense and senior 6-foot-2, 230-pound three-star DE David Oke on defense. Oke holds eight offers heading into his senior year, including ones from University of Houston, UTSA and North Texas.
Also, on defense watch for senior OLB Tiland Bowers. Junior QB Reynaldo Valenzuela has impressed with his leadership and poise and one of his top targets could be senior receiver George Cannon III.
Otherwise, the Bears will have to hope some of its younger talent develops rapidly if they want a return to the playoffs.
Fifteen starters return from a 1-7 team for the Rams. A pair of sophomores lead the offense in 6-foot, 205-pound QB Eric Dadzie Jr. (623 yards, 5 TDs) and 5-foot-7, 170-pound RB Zion Lewis (515 yards, 5 TDs). Young and raw, but talented and experienced.
Where Elsik can make its mark is on the defensive and offensive lines. The defensive front is led by senior 6-foot-3, 230-pound DE David Mubalama (20 tackles, 5 tackles for a loss), senior 5-foot-11, 235-pound DE Chris Garrett (30 tackles, 5 sacks) and senior 6-foot-1, 220-pound DE Daniel Abikoye (40 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss).
It's an embarrassment of riches Elsik has in rushing the quarterback. On the offensive line, 6-foot-3, 330-pound senior Kameryn Bell paves the way, surrounded by gifted juniors Oke Akpoborie (6- 0, 287) and Amara Sylla.
With just one win over the last three seasons, the Yellow Jackets are hoping new head coach James Gage, formerly the offensive coordinator, can be the one to turn things around. Gage will have a lot of veteran experience to work with as 16 starters return from an 1-8 team.
Senior 6-foot-2, 195-pounder Gavin Guthrie is dynamic as a versatile talent in Alvin's flexbone offense and is also a playmaking tornado on defense, totaling four sacks as a linebacker last year. Senior 6-foot, 190-pound RB Jordan Torres is a nightmare for defenses, averaging nine yards per carry last year.
Junior LB Easton Winfield is a young defensive leader after a stellar sophomore campaign.
Shadow Creek's Theorin Randle, Duke Butler, Nick Hudson, Lawrence Armstrong, Joshua Diaz and DeJuan Lewis
H-Town High School Sports continues on AT&T SportsNet and another Plays of the Week segment.
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