2020 Texas High School Football Preview: District 8-6A

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District 8-6A consists of seven schools in the Dallas suburbs of Arlington and Grand Prairie. It is a combination of two districts from a year ago as the Arlington ISD schools come over from District 4-6A, while the Grand Prairie ISD schools join from District 7-6A.

With a lot of potential Division I talent on display and the fact that five out of these seven teams made the playoffs last season, it is set up to be an extremely competitive district.
Here is what to watch for in District 8-6A this year as these seven teams battle it out for the four coveted playoff spots.

Arlington Colts (2808.5)
Last Season: 9-4; Defeated by Denton Guyer in regional semifinals

Head Coach: Scott Peach: 18th season as head coach

Non-District game to watch: 9/4 vs. Cedar Hill- The first home game of the season for the Colts will be an intriguing showdown as they take on a Cedar Hill team that went 9-3 a year ago and made it to the area round where they were also defeated by Denton Guyer.

Player to watch: RB BJ Rogers- Rushed for 1,242 yards and 11 touchdowns last season on his way to earning second team all-district honors. He has picked up seven Division I offers, including ones from Sam Houston State and Incarnate Word.

Storylines: The Colts backfield is going to be a nightmare for defensive coordinators to scheme against this season. “BJ Rogers is the ultimate competitor. He wants the ball in his hands every play so that he can impact the game,†Peach said. “He is our hardest worker in the weight room and on the track, which correlates to his strength and speed on the field. Joining Rogers in the backfield is senior dual threat quarterback Kris Sims. He threw for 2,394 yards, rushed for 519 additional yards, and totaled 43 touchdowns a season ago. Kris Sims is the best leader at Arlington High School. He has a will to win and plays his position at a very high level,†Peach said. “He has become so much stronger with his arm and so much faster from a year ago. I can’t wait to watch him compete this season.†The top two receivers from last year graduated, but Les Odimara, who can also play corner, is back after racking up 417 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns a year ago. Safety Richard Toney Jr. could be a star in the secondary after earning second team all-district honors last season. He also currently has five Division I offers. OLB Malakhi Kellough, who has offers from UTSA and Columbia, LB Trevor Bragg, and DB DeMarea Turner all return after being district honorable mentions last season to provide experience on defense. Peach believes Rogers and Sims “have a chance to be one of the best backfield tandems in the state of Texas this year.†If they can live up to that potential, with the talent back on defense, these Colts will be a team to watch when November rolls around.

Arlington Bowie Volunteers (2689.5)
Last Season: 8-4; Defeated by Amarillo Tascosa in area round

Head Coach: Danny DeArman: 8th season as head coach

Non-District game to watch: 9/3 vs. DeSoto- The first home game of the season for the Volunteers sees a fellow 2019 area round finalist come to town in Desoto, who also finished 9-3 last season. This will be a good test for two teams that will have playoff aspirations this season.

Player to watch: WR Jimmy Valsin- He is coming off a season where he caught 33 passes for 670 yards and earned first team all-district honors. He has 23 Division I offers, including ones from Houston, Colorado, and Kansas State, and will be one of the most highly touted receivers in the district heading into the season.

Storylines: The good news for Valsin, and frightening news for opposing defenses, is that quarterback Drevonn Ponder, another first team selection, also returns after throwing for 1,297 yards, rushing for 1,200 yards, and scoring 32 touchdowns last season. Ponder currently has offers from Navy and Incarnate Word. “Both Drevonn and Jimmy have the ability to turn nothing into something with their tremendous size and speed. Jimmy is 185 [pounds] and runs a 4.5 [second 40-yard dash] and Drevonn is 225 [pounds] and runs a 4.5 [second 40-yard dash],DeArman said. I think both of them are still coming into their own and have not reached their full potential. It is going to be exciting to see them against some of the best players in the state. RB Kameron Sanders, 144 rushing yards, and receiver Trint Scott, 244 receiving yards, both return after being district honorable mentions to provide additional talent for this high-powered offense. OT Devon Campbell, a highly rated recruit with 25 Division I offers, will provide protection for these skill players up front. On the other side of the ball, DE Renard Gwynn is a key addition after transferring in from West Memphis, Arkansas. He has four Division I offers from Memphis, Rutgers, Tennessee, and Tulane. DE Austin Nkwoparah will be another threat along the defensive line after being a first team selection last season. Safety Trelyn Martin, who has an offer from Valparaiso, and linebacker Drew DeArman, who has offers from Illinois State and San Diego State, are both back after being second team all-district selections. This Bowie team has a lot of talent back on both sides of the ball and will certainly be one to keep an eye on come playoff time in November.

Arlington Lamar Vikings (2969)
Last Season: 10-2; Defeated in area round by Midland Lee

Head Coach: Laban DeLay: 6th season as head coach

Non-District game to watch: 8/27 vs. Euless Trinity- This game should be a thrilling rematch after Arlington Lamar edged Trinity in the bi-district round of playoffs last season 37-34.Â

Player to watch: WR Cam Brady- A good target at 6’3â€, Brady is coming off a season where he caught 37 passes for 573 yards and six touchdowns, earning second team all-district honors. He recently committed to UCF and will be a reliable target for the Vikings new starting quarterback this season.

Storylines: The Vikings graduated their star quarterback Jack Dawson last year after an extremely successful career as the Lamar starter. However, there is still plenty of talent returning for this offense. We are excited about the quarterbacks battling for the position, and the returners from our offensive line, running backs, and receivers with experience will be vital to assisting the growth of our younger players at positions vacated by graduation, DeLay said. In addition to Brady, there are two 500-yard rushers back at running back in seniors Anthony Williams, 532 rushing yards, and Caleb Phillips, 734 rushing yards. The Vikings also return two offensive linemen who received district honors in center Gavin Kelley and junior tackle Jaquerrious Brown. Our offensive staff does a tremendous job of balancing our run/pass attacks, and their ability to put our players in position to be successful is off the charts, DeLay said. Our expectations are the same since our arrival at Lamar: protect the ball, move the chains, [and] keep our defense hungry by staying on the sidelines. The staff, players and community are all excited for another season of Lamar Football.†On defense, there is a talented tandem at safety in Harold West, who has nine Division I offers, and Harrison Griffith, a second team all-district selection a year ago. Junior Jerry Hood, a returning second team selection, will bring experience at linebacker this year for the Vikings. Lamar will need to find Dawson’s replacement, but there is a lot of talent returning elsewhere, meaning the Vikings should be in playoff contention again as they look to make it to the postseason for the fourth year running.

Arlington Martin Warriors (3674)
Last Season: 11-2; Defeated by Duncanville in regional semi-finals

Head Coach: Bob Wager 15th season as head coach

Non-District game to watch: 8/28 vs. Lake Travis- The Warriors will welcome state semifinalists Lake Travis to town to open the season. These two have opened the season against each other the past two years, splitting the games at one each. This game will be a good test for two teams that always have high hopes for football season.

Player to watch: LB Morice Blackwell- A University of Texas commit who was the District 4-6A MVP last season. He had 128 total tackles and 13 tackles for loss a year ago and will be one to watch as one of the top players that will take the field in the entire district.

Storylines: Martin is a perennial contender and that is not going to change this year. Senior quarterback Zach Mundell, the District 4-6A Offensive MVP last year, is back to lead from behind center after throwing for 1,501 yards and rushing for 742 yards last season. Mundell 742 rushing yards led the team last season, but the next three leading rushers after him graduated, so running back is a position that will need to be filled. Leading receiver Cal Robinson is back after catching 30 passes for 488 yards and nine touchdowns a year ago. The amount of returners on defense is going to be daunting for opposing offenses. Junior DE Ernest Cooper racked up 14 tackles for loss last season and currently has 23 Division I offers from an array of power five schools. He will line up alongside DT Marquis Evans, a first team all-district selection a year ago. At linebacker, there are two tackling machines in Blackwell and Trevell Johnson, 99 tackles last season, who has six Division I offers himself. The secondary is anchored by safety Placide Djungu-Sungu, who has 17 Division I offers and was a first team all-district selection. Lenard Lemons is extremely versatile, playing corner and running back last year, as he earned first team honors as a utility player. This Martin team is incredibly talented defensively with a large number of Division I athletes. With that defense leading the way, they will be favorites to make the playoffs for the 15th year running.

Arlington Sam Houston Texans (4204)
Last Season: 3-7

Head Coach: Anthony Criss: 10th season as head coach

Non-District game to watch: 8/27 vs. Lakeview Centennial- The season opener for the Texans will see a playoff team from a year ago come to town as they square off against a Lakeview Centennial team that went 6-5 a year ago and has one of the best running backs in the state in Camar Wheaton. This will be a good test for a Texans team looking to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

Player to watch: CB Javione Carr- Named first team all-district at safety last season but can play cornerback as well. He has picked up six Division I offers, including ones from Texas Tech, Kansas State, and Arizona, and will be one to watch as he does battle with some of the top receivers in the district this year.

Storylines: The Texans were pretty decimated by graduation at the skill positions with their top two rushers and top two receivers each graduating. Dual threat quarterback Omari Milton is back for another year behind center after throwing for over 800 yards and rushing for nearly 300 more last year as a junior. Junior Justin Tone also played at quarterback last season, throwing for 430 yards, and will likely be utilized in some role offensively. WR Juan Garza, who is also a track star for the Texans, is the leading returning receiver after totaling 136 receiving yards a year ago and earning a district honorable mention. There is more talent to work with back on defense. In addition to Carr, junior linebacker Jacoby Hildreth and senior safety Tyris Simon return after being second team all-district selections a year ago. Junior DT Moses Luke will anchor the defensive line after being an honorable mention last season. “My defense should be the strength of the team, Criss said. We will be fast and quick. We will have a lot of experienced players on that side of the ball. With that talent and experience returning on defense, the Texans will aim to quickly fill the holes on their offense as they look to compete for their first playoff berth in six years.

Grand Prairie Gophers (2979)
Last Season: 1-9

Head Coach: Anthony Tademy: 3rd season as head coach

Non-District game to watch: 8/27 @South Garland- Both of these teams will be motivated as each went 1-9 a year ago. This will be a crucial game as both will be desperate to start the 2020 season on the right foot.

Player to watch: WR Savion Red- A second team all-district selection a year ago, he has offers from Baylor, Kansas, Mississippi Valley State, and SMU. After racking up 475 receiving yards and two touchdowns a year ago, he is regarded as one of the top junior receivers in Texas.

Storylines: The Gophers will have to replace last year starting quarterback Hugo Vidal and running back Tylexis Straughter. However, out at receiver, they return Red, Corey Jackson, a second team all-district selection last season as a sophomore, and senior Matthew McGhee, 166 receiving yards, to serve as reliable pass catchers. and 220-pound fullback Jacob Juarez, 76 receiving yards, is another key returning member of the offense after earning second team all-district honors. On defense, Christian Cross returns after being a key playmaker at linebacker for the team and earning a district honorable mention. Fellow junior Alex Torres is another key returnee alongside Cross at linebacker. Safety Lamar Champ will lead the secondary after being a second team all-district selection a year ago. In the end, the Gophers will rely on these returning players on both sides of the ball to take another step forward and help right the ship for this program that has only won three games in the past two seasons.

South Grand Prairie Warriors (3340)
Last Season: 5-6; Defeated in Duncanville in bi-district round

Head Coach: Brent Whitson: 10th season as head coach

Non-District game to watch: 8/28 @Prosper- A tough road trip to open the season against a Prosper team that went 11-3 a season ago and made a regional final appearance. The Warriors will have a good idea of how they stack up against playoff-caliber opposition after this showdown.

Player to watch: CB Jalon Williams- He will be a key player in the secondary for the Warriors this season after being a first team all-district selection last year as a junior. He has plenty of speed and can run the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds and the 100 meters in 10.7 seconds. His speed and defensive ability has caught the eyes of many, leading him to receive 22 Division I offers.

Storylines: The Warriors have to replace their starting quarterback Drake Logan after he graduated. The Warriors™ new starter, Sean Stegall, 386 passing yards in limited action, has the coaching staff encouraged and will give the Warriors a genuine run/pass threat for 2020, according to Whitson. Stegall will have an assortment of talented skill players at his disposal. Running back Javarius Crawford, 460 rushing yards and four touchdowns, returns for his third year as a contributor on varsity. Tight end Ladarrian Hights is also back after being a second team all-district selection last year. At receiver, Utah commit Deamikkio Nathan, who had 47 catches for 582 yards and 4 touchdowns a year ago, Kansas commit Kelan Robinson, who had 14 catches for 242 yards, and Joshua Nicholson, a second team-all district selection last season after totaling 390 receiving yards, all return to provide the pieces for what could be a high-octane offense. “Those skill guys make us explosive offensively but our offensive line will be the key, Whitson said. Right tackle Zuriel Lopez returns and is a technician with lots of experience. In addition to Williams on defense, the Warriors return another first team selection in LB Marsel McDuffie, who has 12 Division I offers, including ones from Baylor, Georgia Tech, and Kansas. Jaden Robinson, Kelantwin, will be one to watch in the secondary and can play at both safety and corner. The Warriors have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball and, if Stegall can step in and fill the hole left by Logan, they will look to push for another playoff berth in this extremely competitive district.

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