2020 Texas High School Preview: District 12-6A

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District 12-6A stretches nearly 115 miles across central Texas from Copperas Cove High School in the west to Bryan High School in the east. These eight teams will be well acquainted with each other already as Bryan is the only addition to this district from the previous realignment as the Vikings join from 14-6A. Meanwhile, Waco and Waco Midway depart after they were realigned to District 11-6A. 

With a new head coach with a track record of making the playoffs in Belton, two talented sophomores leading the way in Temple, an explosive offense at Shoemaker, and the fact that five of these eight teams will be looking to bounce back after missing the playoffs last season, it is sure to be a district full of excitement.

Here is what to watch for in District 12-6A.

Belton Tigers (2937)

Last Season: 3-7

Head Coach: Brett Sniffin: 1st season as head coach

Player to watch: QB Ruben Jimenez- A true dual-threat quarterback, he is back to lead the offense once again after throwing for 1,203 yards and 11 touchdowns, while adding 823 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground a season ago.

Storylines: In a move that was announced before the 2019 season, Samuel Skidmore was promoted to the head athletic director of Belton ISD. Brett Sniffin comes over from Fort Bend Ridge Point, a program that he took to the playoffs all eight seasons that he was the head coach. Sniffin has been impressed with the Belton program so far. “The team has great senior leadership and the offseason workouts have been great as it has allowed us to start to implement our offensive and defensive schemes,” Sniffin said. Jimenez will have some weapons back at his disposal as well offensively. Senior Mike Davis, 570 rushing yards, and junior Javier Luna, 284 rushing yards, will look to create a one-two punch at running back. At receiver, senior Luke Bramlett, 305 receiving yards, and junior Seth Morgan, 246 receiving yards, will be reliable targets for Jimenez and the Tigers. Defensively, Malik Jackson, a second team all-district selection, will anchor the defensive line after racking up 11 tackles for loss last season. Edrick Holcombe, 82 total tackles, is a key returner at linebacker, while at cornerback, Trenton West had a promising sophomore year with two interceptions. The leadership of Jimenez on offense will be important as Sniffin comes in looking to continue to add to his playoff pedigree by getting the Tigers back to the playoffs after they missed out for the first time since 2013 last season.

Bryan Vikings (2397)

Last Season: 2-8

Head Coach: Ross Rogers: 9th season as head coach

Player to watch: CB/RB Du’Wayne Paulhill- At 6’1” and 205 pounds, he was a district honorable mention last year as a sophomore after picking off two passes defensively and rushing for 73 yards on 24 carries on offense. He will start at running back this season after the three leading running backs for the Vikings graduated.

Storylines: After just two wins a season ago, the Vikings will hope to take a step forward this year in this new district. Senior Nico Bulhof, 660 passing yards and 378 rushing yards, will likely lead the Vikings at quarterback. Rogers said he “should be improved from 2019” and can punt and handle kickoffs and field goal duties as well for the Vikings this year with “great range to plus 50 [yards].” Rogers said the “receiving crew needs to come on with Hunter Vivaldi, the leading JV receiver,” and he also noted that “talented sophomore receiver/quarterback Malcohm Gooden [is] expected to add speed [and] yards after catch,” to the receiving corps. Talented corner Kenny Collins “will also see time at receiver and remain a [mainstay] at corner,” according to Rogers. Up front, Rogers said the “offensive line will be young, but bigger and more physical.” On defense, seven sophomores played last season, leading Rogers to state that “hopefully defense will be a strength in 2020.” Paulhill will play some at free safety and when he does he will be joined by the aforementioned Kenny Collins and Jack Blackburn, three interceptions last season, in the secondary. 6’3” and 230-pound linebacker Nic Caraway has been catching the eye of coaches at the next level and will be one to watch as he looks to continue to develop during his junior season. The Vikings will likely lean on their defense to lead the way early on as the offense gels as Rogers said he and the team “hope to be a part of [the] playoff picture.”

Copperas Cove Bulldawgs (2269.5)

Last Season: 3-7

Head Coach: Jason Hammett: 1st season as head coach

Player to watch: QB/TE Russel Cochran- He threw for 176 yards, rushed for 140 yards, and caught four passes for 47 yards a season ago, contributing at both tight end and quarterback. This earned him a district honorable mention for his contributions, and he will likely play a key role for the Bulldawgs again this season.

 Storylines: Jack Alvarez departed Copperas Cove this offseason after two years in charge to take over the head coaching job at Cuero. Jason Hammett was promoted to head coach in March after serving as the assistant head coach the past two years under Alvarez. Junior Shane Richey, 656 passing yards and seven touchdowns, and Cochran give the Bulldawgs two good options at quarterback heading into the season. It gets murkier past that as the top two rushers and receivers from last season are gone. Brandon Ortega, 198 rushing yards, is the leading returning rusher and will bring key experience to the backfield. Up front, tackle McKenzie Agnello, who is catching the eyes of coaches in the college ranks, will anchor the offensive line. On the other side of the ball, Kendal Parker, 8.5 tackles for loss and 54 total tackles, and junior Benny Shumaker, 26.5 total tackles, will be key players at linebacker. On the defensive line, 6’3” and 290-pound Thomas Holman Jr. is one to keep an eye on as he looks to break out in his senior year. Hammett’s familiarity with his players will help as the Bulldawgs look to bounce back from last season and make it back to the playoffs like they did when they went 7-4 in 2018.

Killeen Kangaroos (2513.5)

Last Season: 3-7

Head Coach: Neil Searcy: 6th season as head coach

Player to watch: RB Kadarius Marshall- He is back for his third year in the backfield for the Kangaroos. After rushing 1,237 yards as a sophomore, he had 1,376 total yards and 17 touchdowns as a junior last season, earning first team all-district honors. He will be a player to watch as arguably the top running back in the district.

Storylines: Marshall will be relied upon to be a leader on offense again, especially after Kangaroos lost their starting quarterback and top tight end and receiver to graduation. Senior Davontay Monroe will provide some experience at receiver for the Kangaroos. On the other side of the ball, junior Jahymeer Larkins will be a key player off the edge at 5’11” and 275 pounds. In the secondary, Jayden Hill, who can also play receiver, and Imek Berkley are two key returnees, while senior Siolosega Tauiliili is a player to watch at linebacker. Marshall will be the key for the Kangaroos as he looks to be the catalyst offensively and lead the charge to get the Kangaroos back into the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

Killeen Ellison Eagles (3211.5)

Last Season: 3-7

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

Player to watch: RB Damashja Harris- A second team all-district selection as the lead back for the Eagles last season. He runs a 4.42 second 40-yard dash and will be an electric option for the Eagles again this season.

Storylines: The Eagles must replace their extremely athletic quarterback Breezion Spiller after he graduated, but Harris is back alongside 5’10” and 220-pound fellow running back Ezekiel Sheridan. These two will look to form a productive backfield tandem. Key receiver Traelen Williams, who was a second team all-district selection last season, is also back as is tight end Christopher Uresti Jr. to provide reliable targets for the new starting quarterback. On defense, all five players who were named first or second team all-district graduated. James Williams, who picked up an offer from Southwest Minnesota State University in May, returns for the Eagles at linebacker. The Eagles must replace Spiller and fill some holes on defense, but with Harris and Williams leading the way on offense, the Eagles will hope they can take a step in the right direction as they look to compete for their first playoff berth since 2017.

Killeen Harker Heights Knights (2844.5)

Last Season: 4-7; Defeated by Rockwall in bi-district

Head Coach: Jerry Edwards: 8th season as head coach

Player to watch: S Savonte Sanford-Paige- After earning district newcomer of the year in 2018, he earned first team honors last season as a junior. He recently picked up offers from Air Force and UL-Monroe and will be a player to watch in the secondary as he looks to have a big senior year.

Storylines: The Knights started 0-4 last season but rattled off four straight wins in district play in order to get into the playoffs. They have three quarterbacks returning who saw playing time last season in junior Terrance Carter, 667 passing yards and 347 rushing yards, senior Shaun West, 867 passing yards, and La Princeton Dixon, who also played at receiver and racked up over 100 receiving yards. “We are very excited to have two guys, West and Carter, who both have the ability to lead our offense.  Both have unique characteristics that we can utilize depending on our game plan each week,” Edwards said. “Dixon will move to wide receiver and provide a big target.  All three are great competitors and all three will be featured and in the game at the same time much of the season.” The Knights must replace both their leading rusher and receiver from last season, but junior receiver Marcus Maple, 170 receiving yards, is back after being a district honorable mention last season and Malik Francis, 169 rushing yards, will bring varsity experience to the running back position. On defense, the Knights lose five players who were first or second team all-district. Sanford-Paige will be the player to watch in the secondary, while Mika Setefano will anchor the defensive line after being an honorable mention there a year ago. The Knights will rely on the depth at their quarterback position and for Sanford-Paige to quarterback the defense as they look to get back to the playoffs for the second year running.

Killeen Shoemaker Grey Wolves (2539)

Last Season: 7-4; Defeated in bi-district by Mesquite

Head Coach: Toby Foreman: 4th season as head coach

Player to watch: QB Ty Bell- He earned first team all-district honors last season after throwing for 1,656 yards, rushing 699 yards, and compiling 29 total touchdowns. He is back to lead the Grey Wolves again this year and has a lot of skill players back at his disposal.

Storylines: The Grey Wolves are primed to have an explosive offense this season with a large amount of returnees who played key roles last season. Bell is joined in the backfield by utility player De’Andre Exford, 749 rushing yards and 499 yards receiving, and Devin Brown, a second team all-district selection in 2019. Out at receiver, Monaray Baldwin, 554 receiving yards and five touchdowns, is back along with 6’3” Trent Hudson, a second team selection last season, and Omari Evans, who has offers from Arkansas, SMU, and New Mexico, and can play quarterback in addition to receiver. On defense, linebackers Za’Veon Cummings and Keith Cunningham III will be a talented duo after both were second team all-district as juniors last season, while Brandon Cray is a player to watch in the secondary. Shoemaker will look for their immensely talented offense to lead it this season as the Grey Wolves look to turn some heads in this district and get back to the playoffs for the second year running.

Temple Wildcats (2333.5)

Last Season: 8-3; Defeated by Longview in bi-district 

Head Coach: Scott Stewart: 5th season as head coach

Player to watch: LB Taurean York- Had a breakout season his freshman year at linebacker, racking up 80 tackles, including seven tackles for loss. He earned District 12-6A Defensive Newcomer of the Year and should be a playmaker for the Wildcats on defense for the next three years.

Storylines: The Wildcats have eight players that earned district honors on offense who graduated, but the defense has plenty of promise. Offensively, the Wildcats will have to replace their quarterback as well as RB Anthony Jackson and WR Quentin Johnston, who were each first team selections. However, District 12-6A Offensive Newcomer of the Year running back Samari Howard, 971 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns last year as a sophomore, returns along with receiver AJ McDuffy, a Texas Southern commit who caught 22 passes for 364 yards last season. On defense, there are a lot of key players returning. Mikal Harrison-Pilot burst onto the scene and earned second team all-district honors at safety last season as a freshman, but he will likely compete for the quarterback job offensively this season. Eric Shorter, 57 tackles and three sacks, and Jayven Taylor, 66 tackles and four sacks, will be two key playmakers on the defensive line after being second team all-district selections last season. York will be a key playmaker at linebacker again this season. The Wildcats have plenty of young talent that gained experience last season. They’ll expect those players to take another step forward as they look to get back to the playoffs and improve off of last year’s first round exit. 

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