Klein Oak this century has a history of making the playoffs in stretches of years — with the longest run at five years from 2004-08. Last year’s Panther squad made it three years in a row, and a lot of talent returns in 2017.
The Panthers of 2016 had an impressive resume, finishing at 7-4 with a second round playoff appearance. Klein Oak fell to Langham Creek, 29-28, in the season opener. The other two losses were in District 15-6A to Klein Collins and Stratford. All three of those teams made the postseason, with Collins going to the state semifinals and Langham Creek to the second round.
Klein Oak defeated Houston’s Benjamin Davis High School, 34-21, in the first round before falling to a very good Round Rock team, 39-22, in the Area Round. The Dragons made it to the state quarterfinals, where they lost to state runner-up The Woodlands.
Needless to say, Klein Oak has nothing to hang its head about. In fact, it’s quite encouraging as the quarterback, two running backs and top receiver return on offense while key parts of the defense are back.
ATH Brandon Blair, DL Dalton Gumina, DB Dez Andrews
Blair was the District 15-6A Offensive Player of the Year after rushing for 1,252 yard and 20 touchdowns and catching nine passes for 148 yards and another score.
Gumina and Andrew were all-district selections on the Panther defense last year.
QB CJ Ward, RB Bennie Smith, LB Hanin Rakrouki
Ward completed 66 percent of his passes for 1,550 yards and nine touchdowns and rushed for 261 yards and three more touchdowns.
Bennie Smith was second on the team in rushing last year with 662 yards and 12 touchdowns, and the return of Dorian Manuel will add more depth in the backfield. Manuel made second-team all-district last year as a sophomore.
Rodney Hudson, who led the Panthers in receiving with 29 catches and 479 yards as a sophomore, returns to lead the receiving corps.
Hanin Rakrouki was first-team all-district as a junior, and Miles Oldacre returns in the secondary.
The pieces fall together nicely for Klein Oak in 2017. While many faces return from a team that went two rounds deep in the playoffs, the schedule will again be challenging.
The Panthers will look for revenge in the season opener at Langham Creek, which snuck out a win last year. Klein Oak then has home games against Cy Creek and Spring Woods before a district clash with Collins, last year’s district champ.
More than 3,000 yards of offense comes back for Klein Oak, and key components return on a defense that allowed 20.6 points a game.
The Panthers look to make the playoffs for a fourth-consecutive season in 2017.
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