2020 Texas High School Football Season Preview: District 11-6A

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It’s the District of Doom 2.0.

District 11-6A contains six schools south of Dallas and Fort Worth and stretches down I-35 to include Waco and Waco Midway. The district combines teams from three different districts from the previous realignment. Duncanville comes over from 8-6A, the two Waco schools join from 12-6A, and Cedar Hill, DeSoto, Mansfield, Mansfield Lake Ridge, and Waxahachie all are from District 7-6A.

Lake Ridge coach Kirk Thor said “District 11-6A will be one of the toughest districts in the state.”

With Duncanville looking for its third straight state title game appearance, three other teams that won a playoff game last season, and scores of NCAA talent on display, this district is going to be a gauntlet. The four teams that survive and emerge with a playoff berth will certainly be battle tested when the postseason arrives in November. 

Here is what to watch for in District 11-6A.

Cedar Hill Longhorns (2634)

Last Season: 9-3; Defeated by Denton Guyer in the area round

Head Coach: Carlos Lynn: 4th season as head coach

Non-District game to watch: 9/11 vs. Allen- Allen jumped out to a big lead last season when these two squared off in the season opener and held on for a 41-28 victory. This will be an intriguing game with plenty of talent between two teams that have high expectations for the upcoming season.

Player to watch: QB Kaidon Salter- Threw for 2,550 yards and 28 touchdowns and added 616 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. Salter is a Tennessee commit and, after being the named District 7-6A MVP a year ago, he is poised for another big season leading the Longhorn offense.

Storylines: The Longhorns were narrowly defeated 50-41 by state finalists Denton Guyer in the second round of playoffs last year, but they have plenty of talent back this year. Salter and running back Kevin Young, Jr., 751 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns, make up a backfield tandem that will both be playing on Saturdays come 2021. Three of the top four receivers from a year ago graduated, but Javien Clemmer, who has seven Division I offers, transfers in from Camden, Arkansas to provide help at that position. Looking to the other side of the ball, the Longhorns will be loaded on defense this year. Charles Esters III, a Texas Tech commit, will anchor the defensive line. There is a talented trio at linebacker who all earned district honors last season in seniors Demari Ward, Jaheim Lowe, who has an offer from UTSA, and Stefan Ingram, who also has an offer from UTSA. There is another trio to watch in the secondary made up of safety Brett Lynch, a first team selection last year, and corners Amarian Williams, a Liberty commit and first team selection last year, and Jalon Peoples, who is regarded as one of the top corners in the class of 2022 and has offers from 13 Division I schools. “[I’m] excited about the crew that we have returning,” Lynn said. “We should be one of the more experienced defenses in the district and I hope that gives us an edge.” With Salter leading the offense and plenty of Division I talent on defense, Cedar Hill is primed for a special year.

DeSoto Eagles (2925)

Last Season: 9-3; Defeated by Southlake Carroll in the area round

Head Coach: Claude Mathis: 9th season as head coach (2008-14, 2019-Present)

Non-District game to watch: 8/28 vs. Converse Judson (@Baylor University)- This will be a showdown between two top-tier programs at McLane Stadium. Judson went 12-2 a year ago, making a run to the regional finals, so DeSoto will get a good test of their playoff credentials in this one.

Player to watch: WR Jerand Bradley- A Texas Tech commit, he is a rangy receiver at 6’5” and 200 pounds. He will be a big addition for the Eagles this season after transferring in from Plano John Paul II, where he caught 96 passes for 1,595 yards and 21 touchdowns.

Storylines: The Eagles are poised for a deep playoff run with the amount of Division I talent that they have on their roster. Illinois commit quarterback Samari Collier is back to lead the offense after throwing for 2,367 yards, rushing for 445 yards, and amassing 30 touchdowns a year ago. He has two extremely talented weapons in Bradley and Arkansas commit WR Jaedon Wilson, 520 receiving yards and seven touchdowns last season. Sophomore WR Johntay Cook II is one to keep an eye on as he has eight Division I offers and is prepped for a breakout season as a sophomore. Juniors Robert Richardson, 422 rushing yards, and Chris Henley Jr., 401 rushing yards, will be looked upon to lead the backfield after the Eagles top two rushers from last season graduated. On the other side of the ball, 4-star defensive end Shemar Turner, 54 tackles and eight sacks, will be an impact player on the defensive line alongside Baylor commit defensive tackle Byron Murphy II, 98 tackles and 5.5 sacks. The secondary is immensely talented too with several key players in first team all-district selection safety Devyn Bobby, Colorado State commit cornerback Lathan Adams, and sophomore Jaden Milliner-Jones, 31 tackles, who transfers in from Mesquite Horn. The Eagles are primed for a special season, and this extremely competitive district will help make them battle tested as they prepare to make some noise when November rolls around. 

Duncanville Panthers (4529)

Last Season: 15-1; Defeated in state finals by North Shore

Head Coach: Reginald Samples: 6th season as head coach

Non-District game to watch: 8/29 vs. Spring Westfield (@Georgetown, TX)- Spring Westfield went 13-2 a season ago and was defeated by Denton Guyer in the state semi-finals. This neutral site showdown will continue the Houston vs. Dallas rivalry that has seen North Shore defeat Duncanville in the last two state title games.

Player to watch: WR Roderick Daniels Jr.- A Baylor commit, he earned District 8-6A Offensive MVP a year ago after being a versatile contributor on the Panther offense. He had 749 receiving yards, 557 rushing yards, and 12 total touchdowns a year ago, and is poised for another big season for the Panthers.

Storylines: The Panthers have been to two straight state title games but have been on the wrong end of the scoreline both times against North Shore, including losing on a Hail Mary in 2018. The Panthers will have to replace graduated quarterback Ja’Quinden Jackson and running back Trysten Smith as well as quarterback Chris Parson, who transferred to Red Oak. This means quarterback and running back are question marks heading into the season. However, senior running back Keyon Pugh transfers in after rushing for 1,908 yards and 19 touchdowns for Oakdale High School (LA) last season. At receiver, Daniels is only the returnee from the three leading receivers from a year ago. Up front, there is a lot more experience as 4-star senior Savion Byrd, and highly touted juniors Cameron Williams and Jaylen Early return to anchor the offensive line. Meanwhile, the Panther defense has the potential to be one of the most talented in Texas. On the defensive line junior Omari Abor, the reigning District 8-6A Defensive newcomer of the year, Colorado State commit Tyler Quinn, 15 tackles for loss, and DE Kevon Ivy, a first team all-district selection, are all back after impressive 2019 seasons. At linebacker, Kendrick Blackshire, an Alabama target who missed last year with an ACL injury, and junior Jordan Crook, who has 18 Division I offers and transfers in from Bishop Dunne, are both primed to lead in the heart of defense. In the secondary, SMU commit Jadarius Thursby, 75 tackles and two forced fumbles, will be a key player from his position at safety. These Panthers have a couple of questions to answer offensively, but, with the talent back on defense, it would be naïve to count them out as a contender for their third straight title game appearance.

Mansfield Tigers (2451.5)

Last Season: 4-6

Head Coach: Greg George: 1st season as head coach

Non-District game to watch: 9/4 @Mansfield Summit- This Mansfield ISD rivalry showdown will take place in non-district play this year after Mansfield Summit dropped down to 5A. Mansfield Summit won last year’s edition 28-21, so Mansfield will look to bounce back in this year’s matchup.

Player to watch: RB Donerio Davenport- A first team all-district selection a season ago, he rushed for 718 yards and nine touchdowns and is set for another impressive season as the Tigers lead back.

Storylines: Mansfield will be playing inspired football this season in honor of their late head coach Daniel Maberry, who passed away in February from complications linked to lymphoma. Greg George, who had served as interim coach the past two seasons, will take over and has been at the school since 2003, serving in various roles on the football coaching staff. “I am surrounded with a great football staff of intelligent and caring leaders of young men, and we, as a football staff, work diligently to be coaches of influence.  We will be a consistent voice in the lives of our student-athletes, and we will teach life lessons through the game of football,” George said. “We will coach a competitive and exciting brand of football that is built on integrity, character, servant leadership and a championship culture.” 6’3” and 200-pound quarterback Hunt Young, who threw for 1,195 yards last season and recently committed to Abilene Christian to play linebacker, is back to join Davenport in the backfield. David Godsey, 237 receiving yards, is the leading returning receiver from last season and was also a second team all-district selection at corner. UTSA commit offensive lineman River Gordan will anchor the line. On defense, James Windsor, 61 total tackles, will be a key player at linebacker. Sophomore safety Brenden Jordan, 28 tackles, had an impressive season on varsity as a freshman after being moved up from JV. “We will take pride in being a tough, swarming and punishing defense, and we will have an explosive, fresh look on offense,” George said. The Tigers have talent back on both sides of the ball and, with their determination to play in Maberry’s honor, they certainly cannot be counted out in this extremely competitive district.

Mansfield Lake Ridge Eagles (2743)

Last Season: 5-5

Head Coach: Kirk Thor: 9th season as head coach

Non-District game to watch: 8/27 vs. Tulsa Union (OK)- The third straight year these two teams will open the season against each other. Union won 36-30 back in 2018, but Lake Ridge bounced back last season, squeaking out a 47-44 victory. If history is an indication, it will be another competitive showdown this season.

Player to watch: DE Braylen Jackson- A highly recruited 3-star prospect at 6’4” and 270 pounds, who currently has 27 Division I offers. He had 50 tackles and four sacks a season ago, earning him second team all-district honors.

Storylines: Lake Ridge’s football program has been incredibly impressive since its inception back in 2012, but they missed the playoffs for just the third time in their history last season. This season will be a steep learning curve as the Eagles are set up to have an incredibly young offense. The Eagles graduated both their quarterbacks who saw playing time last season, their five leading rushers, and five leading receivers. One player to watch is junior Trevor Andrews, who is a candidate to take over at quarterback. Offensive lineman Nate Bennett is the most notable returnee offensively after earning District 7-6A Offensive Sophomore MVP honors. On the other side of the ball, four out of the five players who earned district honors on defense graduated as well. Jackson will be joined on the defensive line by fellow senior Hunter Fedon, who racked up 60 tackles last year. Senior Tanner Davis, 30 tackles, is also back and can play at both safety and outside linebacker. “We will be an inexperienced football team, but, because of the culture of the program, we expect our players to step-up to maintain the tradition of our program,” Thor said. “Our coaching staff really feels good about our team and the culture of this 2020 team. District 11-6A will be one of the toughest districts in the state, but our focus is to control what we can control and improve one-day-at-a-time.” The established culture will be crucial this year as the Eagles turn over their roster and get ready for this extremely competitive district.

Waco Lions (2223)

Last Season: 1-9

Head Coach: Kwame Cavil: 3rd season as head coach

Non-District game to watch: 9/11 vs. Manor- The final non-district game of the season sees Manor, who went 8-6 a year ago and made a run to the regional finals at the 5A level, come to town. This will be a big test for the Lions in their final tune-up before they begin district play.

Player to watch: QB Devion Long- An extremely athletic quarterback, who runs a 4.5 second 40-yard dash. He threw for 704 yards last season while splitting time with Nate Reyna.

Storylines: Cavil looks to have the Lions steadily moving in the right direction after they scored their first district win since 2017 last season, upsetting Belton 24-21. There will likely be competition at the quarterback position again as Long, a junior, and Reyna, a senior, are both back after splitting time last season. The Lions lose their leading rusher and receiver from a year ago, but Xavier Williams and Remond O’Neal Jr. should provide crucial experience at the receiver position. On defense, defensive end Tyron Minnitt Jr., who won a state title at Waco La Vega before transferring to Waco High, is a key playmaker on that side of the ball. Jaelyn Rhynes is a name to watch at corner as he returns for another year on varsity. Cavil will hope the foundation has been laid and that these Lions can take another step forward after just two wins in the last two seasons.

Waco Midway Panthers (2443)

Last Season: 10-4; Defeated by Spring Westfield in regional finals

Head Coach: Jeff Hulme: 5th season as head coach

Non-District game to watch: 9/4 @Odessa Permian- Midway makes the nearly 350-mile journey to Odessa to square off against a Permian team that went 7-5 a season ago. The triple option attack run by Permian will be a good test for Midway’s defense before they head into district play.

Player to watch: LB ZaCobie Haverly- Had a breakout season at linebacker, racking up 68 solo tackles during the regular season last year as a sophomore. This earned him District 12-6A Co-Defensive Newcomer of the Year and he will be a name to watch again this year on the Midway defense.

Storylines: Waco Midway has established themselves as perennial playoff contender and there’s no reason to believe that will change this season. Senior Jared Moore, 1,132 passing yards during the regular season, is back to lead the offense and also has his number one target back as well in 2019 first team selection Jaylon Gibson, 360 receiving yards during the regular season. Fellow receiver Zach Stewart, 325 yards and two touchdowns in the regular season, is also back to give Moore another experienced target. At running back, the Panthers lose 1350-yard rusher Will Nixon to graduation. However, Jaden Johnson, 129 rushing yards and three touchdowns, and Dhamir McDonnaugh will be two key players in the backfield. McDonnaugh, who currently has four Division I offers, is primed for a breakout season after he transferred in from Philadelphia last year. On defense, Haverly is joined by Reid Cromie, 72 solo tackles during the regular season, and fellow junior Gavin Hamlin, 43 solo tackles, at linebacker. Second team all-district selection DE Max Martinez, 48 total tackles during the regular season, is also back to anchor the defensive line. The Panthers have plenty of talent back on both sides of the ball and, with the pedigree of their program, they will be a favorite to be right in the mix for a playoff berth.

Waxahachie Indians (2495)

Last Season: 2-8

Head Coach: Todd Alexander: 3rd season as head coach

Non-District game to watch: 9/11 @Ennis- The annual Battle of 287 will take place in Ennis this season. Ennis won last year’s meeting 21-13 to knot the all-time series up at 48-48-2. Waxahachie will be in for a big test as they look for revenge against an Ennis team that went 12-2 a year ago.

Player to watch: WR Brandon Hawkins- Earned first team all-district honors last year after an impressive season where he caught 91 passes for 1,201 yards and 14 touchdowns. He has an offer from Austin Peay and is primed for another big season.

Storylines: The Indians offense has the pieces back to have a good year this season. Hawkins and Kieran Page, 579 receiving yards and a second team selection, will form a talented one-two punch at receiver. Jaden Basham, an explosive return man who earned second team honors on special teams, and Taevion Wofford, 156 receiving yards, both also return to complete this quartet of talented receivers. “We have a seasoned core of receivers coming back this year,” Alexander said. “We are excited about the experience they have in our system and hope they do great things.”  The question is who will throw the ball to these receivers after both quarterbacks who saw significant time last season graduated. However, running back Derrick Jackson will bring experience to the backfield after rushing for 503 yards last season. On defense, corner Preston Hodge will look to shadow other teams’ top receivers after being a first team selection last season. DE Jh’Marques Head and safeties Jace Robinson and Quincy Johnson are all back after being defensive honorable mentions last season. With this talent back, especially offensively, the Indians will look to take a step forward this season in this extremely competitive district.

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