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Ridge Point is the familiar name, having firmly established itself as a premier brand in the Greater Houston area.
Coach Rick LaFavers has the Panthers on the up, up, up. Hightower, however, is the new kid on the block; not just in 20-6A, but 6A. The Hurricanes are making the move up in class but return much of the dynamic athleticism and potent playmaking that led it to the 5A-DI Regional Final last year.
As far as the rest of the district, Clements is hoping to sustain last season’s momentum and Travis is a playoff contender year in and year out. But don’t sleep on anyone else. All—as in, every other team—return substantial experience and could upset anyone if taken lightly.
PREVIOUS DISTRICT PREVIEWS (2022)
PRESEASON RANKINGSRidge Point PanthersHightower HurricanesClements RangersTravis TigersBush BroncosDulles VikingsGeorge Ranch LonghornsElkins KnightsAustin Bulldogs
VYPE PRESEASON AWARDS
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Jeremy Payne, HightowerOFFENSIVE MVP: Ezell Jolly, Ridge PointDEFENSIVE MVP: Taylor Davis, Ridge PointBREAKOUT PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Joseph Stewart Jr., HightowerSLEEPER TEAM: Dulles
RIDGE POINT PANTHERS
With 13 starters returning (8 defense) from a Regional Semifinalist, coach Rick LaFavers is hopeful the Panthers are “on the road to AT&T (Stadium).” Finding a way to go deeper in the playoffs is the next step for the perennial Region III-6A power (five double-digit win seasons in the last eight years). LaFavers likes his team’s overall speed and athleticism, playmaking and defense. Depth on the O-line is a concern. Leading the pack for the Panthers are senior DB Taylor Davis (87 tackles, 4 INTs, 2 pick-6s), senior 6-foot, 190-pound RB Ezell Jolly (864 yards, 12 TDs), senior DB Ryan Ramey (32 tackles, 4 fumble recoveries, 2 INTs), senior 6-foot-7, 270-pound OT Peyton Farmer, senior 6-foot-2, 215-pound LB James Walley (73 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 4 sacks) and junior 6-foot-1, 180-pound ATH Mason Dossett (433 yards, 5 TDs rushing; 127 yards, 3 TDs receiving). Senior 6-foot-3, 270-pound DT DK Kalu will be welcomed back with open arms after missing most of last year due to injury. Keep an eye on senior DT James Eaglin, junior WR Ashton Bethel-Roman, senior 6-foot-3, 210-pound TE Carter Groen and junior QB Samson Wheeler.
FORT BEND HIGHTOWER HURRICANES
Cornelius Anthony had a terrific debut leading his alma mater to the Class 5A-DI Regional Final last year. Now the Hurricanes make the step up to 6A. Twelve starters (7 offense) return, including a pair of dynamic skill players in junior RB Jeremy Payne (1,099 yards, 9 TDs) and junior 6-foot-3, 195-pound WR Zion Kearney (233 yards, 2 TDs). Payne is rapidly emerging as one of the elite talents in the Class of 2024. Defensively, senior CB Santana Wilson (27 total tackles, 2 fumbles caused, INT) and senior 6-foot-1, 225-pound DE Treylon Beloney (18 tackles for loss, 7 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries) star, along with steady complement of playmakers in junior 6-foot-2, 235-pound DE Robert Staten Jr. (14 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 4 fumbles caused) and junior 5-foot-11, 290-pound DT Dailon Ellis (5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks). Hightower has question marks in depth along the offensive and defensive lines, as well as at quarterback. Speaking of QB, keep a close eye on sophomore Joseph Stewart Jr., who could be special because of his athleticism and raw ability.
FORT BEND CLEMENTS RANGERS
Clements enjoyed its best season since 2009 last year, going 7-4 and making it to the playoffs. What’s the encore? Well, for one, 13 starters (8 offense) are back, which is a nice start. The Rangers will be led by junior 6-foot-2, 195-pound QB Gunner Chenier (1,164 yards, 8 TDs), senior WR Gabriel Moacyr (126 yards, 12.6 yards per catch), senior 6-foot-2, 195-pound ATH Michael Kasemervisz, senior WR Joey Mongogna (55 yards), junior 6-foot-1, 360-pound OL Carson Talley, junior 6-foot-4, 250-pound OL Zack Yuan, senior OL Lex Demeris and senior OL Brian Navarro on offense. Defensively, it’s senior 6-foot-1, 225-pound ILB Ferris Refai (95 tackles, 2 sacks) and senior DL Alex Aguirre (15 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks in 8 games) pacing Clements. Key newcomers are junior RB John Lewis, sophomore WR Max Cimino and senior RB Julian Wilson. Coach Bobby Darnell said he hopes the offensive and defensive lines are strengths. The secondary has the least experience as a unit and is a concern.
FORT BEND TRAVIS TIGERS
The Tigers are on a streak of nine straight years of making the playoffs. It’s likely they make it 10 in a row. Nine starters (6 offense) return from a 6-5 Bi-District finalist. Travis is young on defense and will need to find a No. 1 back. Still, there is still enough talent in the cupboard. Senior 6-foot-1, 175-pound WR Robert Sims (589 yards, 9 TDs) and junior 6-foot-1, 165-pound WR Brent Johnson make for a dynamic duo for senior QB Dru Sissom, the coach’s son. Sissom played sparingly as a backup last season but completed 4 of 6 passes for a TD. Defensively, the linebackers are solid in senior Anthony Oliver (35 tackles, 2 fumbles caused, sack in 6 games), junior Tomison Olorunfemi (51 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 fumbles caused) and junior 6-foot, 185-pound Temi Osinaike. The Tigers are otherwise thin on defense.
FORT BEND BUSH BRONCOS
Bush coach Allen Aldridge likes what he has coming back this season. Thirteen starters (7 offense) and 26 lettermen return from a 5-6 Bi-District finalist. Leading the way is senior 6-foot-2, 185-pound DB/WR Paul Omodia (26 tackles, INT), senior 6-foot, 220-pound RB/LB Allen Aldridge III, senior 6-foot-1, 200-pound LB/DE Isaac Buoye (36 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 4 fumbles caused), senior 6-foot-3, 230-pound TE Broc Boutte, senior 6-foot-2, 315-pound OL/DT Ikenna Nwakor, senior 6-foot, 195-pound DB/LB Bryce McDonald (43 tackles, 5 tackles for loss), senior 6-foot, 195-pound LB Preston Davis (24 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 2 fumble recoveries in 4 games), senior 6-foot, 220-pound LB/DE Kosy Okoroafor (39 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, 3 sacks) and senior WR Jamon Cooley. Bush will need to find stability at QB and RB. Keep a watch out for senior OL Douglas Lawson, senior WR Jose Citan, junior WR/DB Nathaniel Walker, junior LB Joachim Nicolau, junior QB Antione Eakins, junior DB/WR Reginald Williams and junior OL Fernando Padilla.
FORT BEND DULLES VIKINGS
Twelve starters (7 defense) return from a 4-6 team. Coach Shane Byrd said the linebackers and secondary are strengths. The O-line is a concern. Paving the way in Dulles’ Wing-T offense is senior RB Cole Hodges (161 yards), junior 6-foot-3, 225-pound TE/DE Victor Aderungboye (108 yards, TD receiving), senior OL Chaseton Bobino, senior OL/DL Tyler Clayton and junior Jonah Talamantez. Leading the defense is senior DE/TE Anthony Garza (13 tackles, sack), senior 6-foot, 220-pound LB Trayveon Richard (44 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, INT), junior 6-0 DB/WR Carter Truscott (42 tackles, 10 passes defensed, 3 INTs), senior DB Maxwell Cotton (40 tackles, INT) and senior LB Justin Ofoma (38 tackles). Newcomers expected to make an impact are junior 6-foot-2, 170-pound QB Kason Byrd, senior RB Ade Simaze, senior DL Jackson Prong, sophomore Micah Owens and junior Adrien Phan.
RICHMOND GEORGE RANCH LONGHORNS
The Longhorns return eight starters (5 offense) from a 5-5 team that missed out on the playoffs. Three of those five returning offensive starters are linemen. Senior 6-foot-3, 300-pound tackle/guard Hanzlah Rana is the rock of that line. George Ranch will go with some experienced, yet unproven, skill players in junior QB Deion Drinkard (238 yards, 2 TDs passing; 32 yards, TD rushing), senior 6-foot-4, 180-pound WR Gregor Jones (101 yards, TD) and junior RB Jaden Shelton (270 yards, TD, 6.8 yards per carry). Defensively, the Longhorns have some consistent playmakers in junior CB Kennard McGuire (24 total tackles, 5 passes defensed), senior 6-foot-3, 200-pound DL Jacques Franklin (24 total tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 2 sacks) and junior LB Trevion Aikens (27 total tackles TD), but will need others to step up big-time, especially in the secondary.
FORT BEND ELKINS KNIGHTS
Knights coach Dennis Brantley said the offensive line, quarterback and defensive line are strengths this year. Depth is a concern. Fourteen starters (8 offense) return from a 2-8 team. There are viable stalwarts on offense in senior 6-foot, 195-pound QB Isaiah Smith (803 yards, 3 TDs passing: 89 yards, 8 TDs rushing), senior 6-foot-2, 220-pound RB/LB Avion Stewart (178 yards, 2 TDs), senior WR/DB Assad Abbas and senior WR Jakson Hart (361 yards, 3 TDs). Defensively, Abbas and Stewart will also have a profound effect. Other key returners are junior OL Armond Owens, senior OL Ben Feit, junior OL Deandre Pittman, senior center Cameron King, junior LB Israel Cheers, senior OL/DL Noah Tristan, senior DB/WR Dexter Jackson, senior DL Ashton Payne and junior DB/WR Braelon Thompson.
FORT BEND AUSTIN BULLDOGS
Austin coach Mike Arogbonlo said there are no glaring holes this season as 15 starters (8 defense) return from an 0-10 team. Arogbonlo said he feels very good about where the Bulldogs are as a team. They only lost eight seniors, and the strengths? QB play, O-Line, secondary, D-Line and receivers. Not shabby. Leading the charge are senior ATH Jamal Franklin (373 yards, 4 TDs receiving; 229 yards, 4 TDs rushing), senior 6-foot-2, 195-pound WR Daniel Oloso (391 yards, 5 TDs), senior 6-foot-3, 255-pound OL Aries Stevens, senior OLB Martell Jones, senior WR/DB Jayson Tanifum, senior 6-foot-3, 230-pound DL Lotanna Ume-ezeoke, sophomore WR Mason Cress, senior RB Thusuan Gibbs, junior DB Hugh Rolls (52 tackles), senior DB Royell Salmon, junior OL Da’leyon Benard and junior OL Cooper Rodden. Key newcomers are sophomore RB David Bishop, senior ILB Raylon Holmes and junior DL Mike Ume-ezeoke. Arogbonlo said he is excited about the defense under new coordinator Trey Herrmann, previously head coach at Danbury and Katy Taylor.
Jonathan Giles of Elkins posing at the 2014 VYPE Football Photoshoot
Welcome to another week of H-Town High School Sports with Todd Freed!
Check out the feature of former Elkins Star Jonathan Giles as he prepares for the NFL!