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Deer Park is the quietest 7-0 football team in the city of Houston.
The Deer blew out Pasadena Memorial this week and should run the table with Channelview, Sam Rayburn and South Houston left on the slate.
But can they make a playoff run as the District 22-6A power?
Check out the gallery by Andy Tolbert.
The district will be interesting due to the parity that permeates through it. Deer Park won the district championship last year but graduated a bunch of key seniors. Channelview returns a lot from a promising team and has a bunch of playmakers that fill up the stat sheet with ease.
Perhaps the more intriguing race might be for playoff positions number three and four, as four teams have a strong shot at sneaking in. Between Dobie, Memorial, Sam Rayburn and South Houston, there is not much separation in competition or level of talent.
It will be fascinating to see how 22-6A shakes up in 2022, particularly around playoff time. For the second straight year, no 22-6A team advanced past the first round.
PREVIOUS DISTRICT PREVIEWS (2022)
Channelview FalconsDeer Park DeerDobie LonghornsMemorial MavericksSam Rayburn TexansSouth Houston TrojansPasadena Eagles
VYPE PRESEASON AWARDS
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Marques Neal, ChannelviewOFFENSIVE MVP: Moe Canales, Deer ParkDEFENSIVE MVP: Miguel Ceja, ChannelviewBREAKOUT PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Esteban Nava, Sam RayburnSLEEPER TEAM: Pasadena Memorial
The Falcons finished third in district play last season but have what it takes to make a serious run at the district title. Fourteen starters (7/7) are back from a 6-5 team. The star of the bunch is senior WR/ CB Marques Neal (832 yards, 13 TDs receiving; 156 yards, TD rushing; 2 kickoff return TDs). Senior WR Darreon Williams (393 yards, 4 TDs) will also be key. Keep an eye on junior Darius Clark-James as he takes over at QB. Defensively, Channelview has some nice talent in senior LB Miguel Ceja (88 tackles, 3 sacks), senior LB Malachi Martin (46 total tackles) and senior S Jimmy Guzman (64 total tackles). Coach Averion Hurts said offensive experience and linebacker play will be strengths this year. Overall team depth is a concern. “I hope we remember selfinflicted mistakes that cost us (last year),” Hurts said.
DEER PARK DEER
The Deer are defending 22-6A champs but are in a bit of a reloading mode this season. Ten starters are back from last year’s 8-3 Bi-District finalist, seven of those on defense. The offensive line and quarterback are positions of concern, but there is potential stardom in senior RB Moe Canales (743 yards, 14 TDs) and junior WR Hayden Smith (446 yards, 4 TDs). The question is who is going to block for them and get them the ball. Senior 6-foot-3, 275-pound center Wiley Sills has the chops to steady the front. Otherwise, sophomore OL Roberto Rodriguez, sophomore WR Trey Martinez and junior WR King Phillips will be counted on to assume significant roles. The defense is the strength, no doubt. There are playmakers galore in junior 6-foot-3, 255-pound DL Caleb Dilley (18 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 2 sacks) and 6-foot-3, 280-pound Luke Webb (15.5 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 3 sacks), senior S Tudi Gustave (2 INTs) and senior LB Dino Demetriou.
A new boss is in town—kind of—as Demond Stafford makes the short drive from Rayburn to take over Dobie. Nine starters (5 defense) return from an 8-3 Bi-District finalist. The Longhorns have a plethora of talent for their vaunted Wing-T attack in senior RBs Jalen Baldwin (509 yards, 5 TDs) and Raynard Hall Jr. (725 yards, 9 TDs), and sophomore RB Cameron Mathews (344 yards, 4 TDs). The offensive line is young. Dobie will also have a young defensive secondary, but it’s got some firepower elsewhere in senior 6-foot, 215-pound LB Nigel Hill (32 tackles, INT) and senior 6-foot-1, 195-pound DE Anforny Lee. Lee is a three-year starter. Keep an eye on junior DT Roderick Drumgo and junior DB Charles Richard. Stafford expects to have a strong rushing attack this season. He said inexperience is a concern.
Memorial started 11 sophomores and four others saw significant varsity time as the Mavs went through a trying season in 2021, finishing 3-7. Twelve starters return from that team, seven on defense. Coach Jamie Crocker is hoping experience will be a strength this time around and not an adversary. The Mavs will have a potent 1-2 punch on offense in senior 6-foot-1, 185-pound QB Hayden Stallings (1,050 yards, 9 TDs) and junior RB Jaylon Bell (911 yards, 8 TDs). The defense will be the cornerstone of this team, particularly early on, behind the talents of senior LB Everett Epps (50 tackles) and junior DB Jamal Robinson (61 tackles). The offensive line and cornerback depth are points of concern.
SAM RAYBURN TEXANS
Sergio Gonzalez takes over the Texans after leading Houston Chavez last year. Rayburn had a breakthrough year of sorts in 2021, going 5-5 after winning a total of three games in the previous eight seasons combined. Fifteen starters (9 offense) are back to ease Gonzalez’s transition. The offense has some standout pieces in senior QB Esteban Nava (1,017 yards, 10 TDs passing; 442 yards, 2 TDs rushing), senior WR Jesus Mendoza (529 yards, 7 TDs) and senior OL Ramiro Torres, a steady veteran presence. Defensively, the Texans will lean on junior DB Jermaine Calvin (2 INTs, 1 fumble recovery) and senior LB Joseph Duron (110 tackles, 11.0 tackles for loss, INT, sack).
SOUTH HOUSTON TROJANS
Coach Patrick Longstreet said skill players, linebackers and defensive backs are the strengths of his team this season. Ten starters (5/5) return from a 4-7 team that finished as a Bi-District finalist. Headliners are junior 6-foot, 295-pound QB Kam Webb (considered one of the top athletes in the district), junior 6-foot-3, 190-pound WR Jacob SheppardRubio, junior RB Christian Epps, senior 6-foot-2, 175-pound LB Jeremiah Sheppard (3-year starter who led the team in tackles and sacks last year), senior DB Jason Hampton (3-year starter), senior 6-foot-2, 220-pound LB Mi’Jai Mickles (2-year starter) and junior ATH Abraham Escareno, who plays on both sides of the ball. Sophomores Braden Mayberry and Angel Rodriguez will be asked to steady the O-line, a group Longstreet said is a point of concern. Longstreet is also hoping for a faster start after the team had to rally from a 2-4 start in 2021 to make the playoffs.
The bad news for Pasadena is it has just four wins since 2016. The good news is the Eagles have a solid shot of snapping an ugly 19-game losing skid as 18 starters are back, nine on each side of the ball. Experience is a strength. Senior RB Ruben Lara (845 yards, 2 TDs) will be the Eagles’ workhorse back. Junior 6-foot-1, 165-pound QB Cameron Murray (374 yards, 3 TDs passing; 224 yards, TD rushing) is due for a breakout year. Senior 6-foot-1, 245-pound OL Humberto Baez and junior OL Fernando Villegas are rocks up front. Sophomore DB Richard Solis (45 tackles) has quickly emerged as a leader following an impressive freshman campaign.