Photo by
Ginger Wilson @gingwilson
September 1, 2016

The Texas Panhandle is home to several solid programs and Amarillo is no exception. With one team in the 6A ranks and three in 5A, talent is plentiful throughout the city. From seasoned coaches on the sidelines to new faces, the heart of the Panhandle could represent well in the postseason.

In 2015, Amarillo Tascosa was poised to be the Cinderella story of the season before they were defeated 41-34 in the regional round by Denton Ryan. Tascosa (2-6A) lost the bulk of the defense, but return six on offense, including wr/db Bert Morris and linebacker Preston Bradic, both who played key roles in the Rebels playoff march in 2015.

The Rebels have plenty of speed and a whole lot of depth. Mix that with a taste of what it’s like to have a good playoff run and Tascosa could very well surprise a lot of people this year. Replacing the play caller for the Rebels will be tough in an offense that put up 4,835 yards last year while averaging 47.9 points per game. A plus on offense is a brutal offensive line which boasts linemen over 300 pounds.

In a district with San Angelo Central, Odessa Permian, Wolfforth Frenship, Midland, Midland Lee and Odessa, the Rebels have a bit of an advantage as they only play three of those games on the road this year. Picked to come in second in their district, it will be interesting to see how the Rebels non-district schedule will help prepare them for a tough district schedule.

Realignment was good to the Amarillo Sandies (3-5A) as they dropped a classification in February. However, the Sandies will replace all but one on their offense as they lost 10 starters on that side of the ball. They fared better on the defensive side, returning five starters. The Sandies will have the home field advantage in eight games this season, only taking a short road trip to Hereford and Plainview.

Amarillo is a storied program with tradition on their side and coach Mel Maxfield will look to linebackers Max Maxfield and Garrett Payne as well as defensive end Ellis Newkirk to set the tone on defense. Filling the gaps on offense will be a test for Maxfield’s Sandies, but with a staunch non-district schedule, he should know early on who will step up and fill the gaps. The Sandies made it to the area round last season in 6A, so fans are hoping the drop to 5A will bode well in their favor.

The silver lining in Amarillo Caprock’s (3-5A) team this year is returning quarterback Zac Encinias. In 2015, he threw for more than 2,000 yards. Encinias will likely look to connect with wideout and defensive back Alex Cantu, who has proven to be dangerous on both sides of the ball. Running back Kaleb King will balance out the Longhorn’s running attack after a successful 2015 season in that position. With a line touting sizable lineman such as Raymond Regalado, King could find a lot of yardage.

Caprock is in a tough district featuring Canyon Randall, Amarillo High, Canyon, Dumas, Plainview, Amarillo Palo Duro and Hereford. Winning won’t come easy in this district, but third year coach Dan Sherwood has some good talent to work with this season.

Returning four players on defense, Caprock will build on their experience and try to fill positions with upcoming talent. Most notable on defense is linebacker Marco Ortiz who boasts quickness and a nose for the ball. Picked 7th in their district, Caprock would like nothing more than to shock their district and capture that 4th playoff spot.

The Palo Duro Dons (3-5A) welcome new coach Chris Fisher to the program this season and hope to forget their 1-9 finish in 2015. Fisher has a vested interest in the program as he is a PD alum, so look for Palo Duro to use returning starters to give new life to the program.

Wide receiver Nathan Stotts has a blazing 4.4 40 time and could be difficult for opposing defenses to cover if thrown the ball. There could be a battle at the quarterback position, but Noah Coronado returns after a season where he threw for 1,280 yards and nine touchdowns. Tyreeke Shepherd could prove to be a weapon at quarterback, but if he doesn’t take that position he will be utilized elsewhere in Fisher’s scheme. Defensively, defensive end Chris Thornton will step up for the Dons after picking up 62 tackles and six sacks in 2015. Helping Thornton out on defense are linebackers Dunyea Hollings and Aye Aye Maung, who combined for 115 tackles last season.

The Dons face a tough non-district schedule, which should have them ready to compete in a very tough district.

Will Tascosa shake up the playoffs again this season? Will the storied Sandies get on a roll and get past the second round? Keep your eye on these two teams as they both have the potential to represent the Panhandle well this year.