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The Hurricanes went 11-3 last year finishing as 5A D1 Regional Finalist. Hightower makes the jump up to 6A this year and returns 7 starters on Offense and 5 players on Defense.
Key Returners: Junior RB Jeremy Payne (1,099 yards, 9 TDs), Senior CB Santana Wilson (27 total tackles, 2 fumbles caused, INT), Senior DE Treylon Beloney (18 tackles for loss, 7 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries), Junior DE Robert Staten Jr. (14 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 4 fumbles caused), Junior DT Dailon Ellis, Junior WR Zion Kearney.
Clements finished the season 7-4 last year and were 6A DII bi-district finalist. The Rangers return 7 starters on Offense and 4 starters on Defense.
Key Returners: Junior QB Gunner Chenier (1,164 yards, 8 TDs), Senior ILB Ferris Refai (95 tackles, 2 sacks), Senior WR Gabriel Moacyr, Senior DL Alex Aguirre, Senior ATH Michael Kasemervisz, Senior WR Joey Mongogna, Junior OL CarsonTalley, Junior OL Zack Yuan, Senior OL Lex Demeris, Senior OL Brian Navarro.
The Tigers had a record of 6-5 last year and finished as Bi-District Finalist. Travis returns 4 starters on Offense and 4 on Defense this year.
Key Returners: Senior WR Robert Sims (589 yards, 9 TDs), Senior LB Anthony Oliver (35 tackles, 2 fumbles caused, sack in 6 games), Junior LB Tomison Olorunfemi (51 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 fumbles caused), Junior WR Brent Johnson, Senior QB Dru Sissom, Junior OL Dawson Elliott, Sophomore RB Carmelo Ratliff.
Fort Bend Bush finished the season with a 5-6 record last year, making it as Bi-District Finalists in the playoffs. The Broncos return 7 starters on Offense and 6 on Defense.
Key Returners: Senior DB/WR Paul Omodia (26 tackles, INT), Senior DB/LB Bryce McDonald (43 tackles, 5 tackles for loss), Senior LB Preston Davis (24 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 2 fumble recoveries in 4 games), Senior LB/DE Kosy Okoroafor (39 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, 3 sacks), Senior LB/DE Isaac Buoye (36 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 4 fumbles caused), Senior RB/LB Allen Aldridge III, Senior TE Broc Boutte, Senior OL/DT Ikenna Nwakor, Senior WR Jamon Cooley.
Dulles finished last season with a 4-6 record. The Vikings return 5 starters on Offense and 7 on Defense.
Key Returners: Senior LB Trayveon Richard (44 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, INT), Junior DB/WR Carter Truscott (42 tackles, 10 passes defensed, 3 INTs), Senior DB Maxwell Cotton (40 tackles, INT), Senior LB Justin Ofoma, Senior RB Cole Hodges, Junior TE/DE Victor Aderungboye, Senior OL Chaseton Bobino, Senior OL/DL Tyler Clayton, Junior Jonah Talamantez, Senior DE/TE Anthony Garza.
The Knights finished the season at 2-8. Elkins returns 8 starters on Offense and 6 starters on Defense.
Key Returners: Senior QB Isaiah Smith (803 yards, 3 TDs passing; 89 yards, 8 TDs rushing), Senior WR Jakson Hart (361 yards, 3 TDs), Senior RB/LB Avion Stewart, Senior WR/DB Assad Abbas.
Willowridge finished the season at 4-5. This year the Eagles start a New Era under new Head Coach Kendron Penson Sr., and return 4 starters on Offense and 5 on Defense.
Key Returners: Junior QB Kendron Penson Jr. (2,111 yards, 20 TDs passing; 5 TDs rushing), Senior RB/LB Tulio Nunez (led team in tackles), Junior WR/DB Marxquise Hayes (315 yards, 5 TDs), Junior WR/DB Travis Willis, Senior RT Issac Orellana.
The Cougars finished the season with a 2-8 record last year. Kempner returns 8 starters on Offense and 7 on Defense.
Key Returners: Junior QB Javon Goss (672 yards, 8 TDs), Senior LB Chibuikem Ome (55 tackles), Senior DB Edrion Gray (4 INTs), Senior RB Abayomi Wiggins, Sophomore RB Luke Maxson, Senior LB Cody Pham.
Fort Bend Austin finished the season 0-10 last season. The Bulldogs return 7 starters on Offense and 8 on Defense.
Key Returners: Senior QB Jamal Franklin (373 yards, 4 TDs receiving; 229 yards, 4 TDs rushing), Senior WR Daniel Oloso (391 yards, 5 TDs), Junior DB Hugh Rolls (52 tackles), Senior OL Aries Stevens, Senior OLB Martell Jones, Senior WR/DB Jayson Tanifum, Senior DL Lotanna Ume-ezeoke, Sophomore WR Mason Cress, Senior RB Thusuan Gibbs, Senior DB Royell Salmon, Junior OL Da’leyon Benard, Junior OL Cooper Rodden.
Patrick Smith, Clements
CLEMENTS SENIOR DEFENSIVE BACK PATRICK SMITH DIDN'T START PLAYING TACKLE FOOTBALL UNTIL THE SEVENTH GRADE. HE DIDN'T START PLAYING SAFETY UNTIL THE EIGHTH GRADE.
"A late bloomer," Smith said, laughing.
But Smith always had "it". Two years after putting on pads, he was a freshman on varsity.
"I put everything on God and my parents," Smith said. "My parents knew football was one thing I've always wanted to get better at, and they've helped me do things to get to that level."
The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Smith played cornerback and safety and returned kicks last season, opening the eyes of college coaches. He totaled 44 tackles with two interceptions and had 49 receiving yards and a touchdown.
This season, he added receiver to his resume, and has 1,000 all-purpose yards through the season's first eight games (625 receiving, 234 kick return, 109 punt return) to go with 10 touchdowns (eight receiving, one rushing, one punt return). Defensively, he has 52 tackles, one fumble caused and four passes defensed.
He has 12 offers and is leaning toward Air Force, San Diego State or Lehigh.
"My dad being a safety helped out a lot when I was growing up learning the game," Smith said. "Naturally, I feel like I'm a corner but I'll adapt to whatever it takes to help the team."
Smith has always had speed, ever since he was playing kick ball and tag as a kindergartener. It's what he credits for his success. He's simply faster than whoever he's lined up against. At the TCU camp this summer, Smith hit a 4.41, 40-yard dash.
Smith worked on his defensive back and wide receiver play during the offseason, trying to perfect his craft at both. He knows the Rangers will need those two things this year, especially receiver play.
"I've been on varsity for four years," Smith said. "Freshman year, it was let's at least get one win. Sophomore year, it was OK, let's get at least two.
"This year, now it's about expecting wins. In my opinion, we have what it takes to be a playoff team, and we need to expect to make the playoffs."
Clements is 6-2 so far this season.
"The biggest thing is mental," Smith said "I feel like there's never really been a team that's really beat us. A lot of the time, we beat ourselves. We have to get over that mental hump. We have to have leaders. We have to have a mentality to win."
This story appeared in the Inaugural VYPE Fort Bend ISD Fall Edition, which is now available to pick up at your local Fort Bend ISD High Schools.