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District 12-4A DI has some teeth. The El Campo Ricebirds are the headliners with one of the nation’s top prospects shining bright under the Friday Night Lights.
The ‘Birds are the clear favorite but watch out for an athletic Stafford squad with revenge on their minds.
After that pair, it’s anyone’s game. Brazosport has an explosive offense and possibly top QB in the district, while Navasota boasts some young talent.
Speaking of young, how about first-year program Iowa Colony getting into the mix with all freshmen and sophomores?
PREVIOUS DISTRICT PREVIEWS (2022)
El Campo RicebirdsStafford SpartansBrazosport ExportersNavasota RattlersNeedville BluejaysIowa Colony PioneersBay City Black Cats
VYPE PRESEASON AWARDS
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Rueben Owens II, El CampoOFFENSIVE MVP: Randon Fontenette, BrazosportDEFENSIVE MVP: Andrew Huff, StaffordBREAKOUT PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jamal Thomas, NavasotaSLEEPER TEAM: Iowa Colony
EL CAMPO RICEBIRDS
The Ricebirds were in uncharted territory a year ago as El Campo reached the Regional Semifinals going 11-2 and 5-0 in district play. Coach Chad Worrell’s squad returns nine starters and none bigger than Rueben Owens. The Louisville-commit rushed for just under 3,000 yards and had 46 rushing TDs as a junior. No wonder he’s one of the nation’s top RB recruits. The OL of Bryce Rasmussen, Taylor Manriquez and Luke Wengler will be relied upon to open some holes for the All-American along with FB/LB Hal Erwin. Stephen Norman will also move the chains coming out of the backfield. QB Oliver Miles will look in the direction of Sloan Hubert and Isaiah Batiste when they aren’t blocking downfield. The defense is going to need some work. Reid Jung, Hal Erwin, Rhenner Spenrath and Casen Braden will be the headliners on that side of the ball. Jung is a tackling machine.
Don’t count the Stafford Spartans out of the district title conversation. Not by a long shot. Coach Ken Savanah returns 14 starters from a 7-5 team that advanced to the second round. The backfield of QB Brayden Batiste and RB Jamaal Wiley are a lethal 1-2 combination. They ate up over 2,800 yards and accounted for 43 TDs. That’s a lot of points returning. John Longoria and Cameron Cooper will set the tone up front and the deep threats downfield are Caleb Jones and Julius Nealey. The defense should be stout returning eight starters. Andrew Huff is an athlete on the edge, while Dyland McClendon will clean up at the LB spot. DBs Ashton Miller, Braylon Collins, Chase Williams and Darius Sims are sticky in coverage.
Coach Mark Kanipes has flipped the culture down south at Brazosport. The Exporters play a fun brand of football and reached the second round of the 2021 playoffs, finishing 5-6 overall. Seven returns are back in the huddle and one in particular is their catalyst. QB Randon Fontenette threw for 1,400 yards and rushed for another 1,000, accounting for 33 TDs on the season as one of Greater Houston’s top offensive weapons. He will be flanked by RB Xavier Butler and WR Toric Goins as the team’s top headliners. Darius Roberson is to the defense what Fontenette is to the offense. Roberson had over 140 tackles and will be the kingpin on defense. Christian Scharrer will plug the rushing lanes at DT. At the Class 4A level, the team’s top players play both ways. That will be the case in the secondary as Goins, Butler, Leo Brown and Manny Williams will play.
The Rattlers reached the postseason a year ago with a 5-6 record but are looking for more in 2022 after being bounced in the first round. Twelve starters return for coach Casey Dacus and his team is pretty young. QB Hudson Minor should move into the primary signal-caller role in 2022. Another youngster who played a big part late in the season was Jamal Thomas. Thomas will be the featured back after going off for over 800 yards in limited playing time. The OL will be a strength with Douglas Franklin, Matthew Sosa and Drew Chavez leading the way. The human highlight reel is 6-foot-4 junior WR Kaddon Hubbard, who is great winning the 50- 50 balls. On the flip side, Frankederic Powell, Nick Castaneda and Chris Thompson will lead the defense from their LB positions. Jayden Shepard is solid up front in the trenches.
The Needville Bluejays struggled in 2021 to a 3-7 record and did not appear in the postseason. Coach Mike Giles welcomes back 15 starters so experience will be a strength. Da’Shawn Burton exploded onto the scene as a freshman last year with over 1,100 yards on the ground. He will be the bell-cow of the offense. Keilan Sweeny must manage the offense and get the ball into the hands of junior Alex Coffin, Kade Ramirez and Austin Anderson. Kade Whiddon and Dallas Sillman will man the trenches. On defense, eight starters return and need to improve their bite. It starts up front with Bo Spitdowski and Brance Farrell. They need to come up big. Linebackers Camden Babcok, Hunter Brewster and Diego Ochoa have experience and know where to be, while Landon Hobbs will lead the secondary.
IOWA COLONY PIONEERS
The Iowa Colony Pioneers are ready to plant their flag on the Texas High School football landscape. The first-year program is the largest school by enrollment in the district and draws from a talent pool around Shadow Creek and Manvel. Coach Ray Garza could be sitting on a sleeping giant. The Pioneers are going to be led by all sophomores with no varsity game experience, so there will be some growing pains early on. Garza raves about RB Jacody Miles, DL Christopher Johnson, OL Michael Howard and WR/DB Gregory Guidry. It will be all-hands-on-deck as the Pioneers head into uncharted territory.
BAY CITY BLACKCATS
The Bay City Blackcats are predicated on speed. Their most explosive Cat is Brice Turner, who reached the State Track Meet in the 100 and 200 meters. He will be the featured back on a team that went 2-7 and 0-5 in district. They need a playmaker. Jada Andrews had a big freshman year in 2021 and will make up a dynamic backfield. Bay City will likely stay on the ground, move the chains and control the clock. Zo’Maryon Bryan and Marco Mata lead the way up front. The defense will be left to Ayden Smith and Carlon Jones, who play linebacker and DL, respectively. Jones has a nose for the QB. He will be helped by Caden Bradford and Josh Williams up front.
The Celina Lady Bobcats started their season leading the VYPE DFW 1A-4A Volleyball rankings. Taking all expectations set for them and running, the Lady Bobcats have not disappointed this season. Celina has worked hard every second of the season and now finds themselves only one game away from a State Title match. The only team standing between them and the state finale? Needville. Before the first serve goes over the net, though, let's take a look at what fans should expect in this semifinal pairing.
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Celina has posted an incredible season. The Lady Bobcats went undefeated (12-0) in district play while posting only one loss the entire season with a 41-1 overall record. Their only loss came against an extremely competitive Gunter squad who finds themselves in the UIL Class 3A title game.
The defense has played outstandingly as the Lady Bobcats have lost only nine sets the entire season. Of Celina's 41 wins, 36 of them have been complete sweeps. Coming into the state semis on a 20-game win-streak definitely has the Bobcats ready to show everything they have on the court. Not only has the defense played incredible, but this Bobcats offense has proven to be nearly unstoppable the entire season. Fans can expect to see a strong Lady Bobcats squad that is ready to advance.
Needville has posted a great season so far finishing at the top of their district with an undefeated district record (12-0). Posting big wins over the likes of Dobie, Cypress Lakes, Huntsville, and more, the Bluejays shouldn't be counted out as they enter the State Semifinals.
Needville has strong athletes who play great on both the front and back rows. Fans can expect to see the team come out ready to put up a fight in order to do everything they can to advance to the state championship match. With a great group of seniors, the team is poised and ready to show just what kind of muscle they have on the court.
Needville is a strong team and will be one of the toughest opponents Celina has seen all season. Celina will need to go into this match without getting too far ahead of themselves or too into their own heads about it. Both teams are going to come out fast-paced and attempt to stay neck-and-neck in scoring. Celina has what it takes to take down Needville, but they will need to stay on their toes and energized to complete the win.