2020 UIL Texas High School Preview: 4-6A District

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District 4-6A takes us north of Fort Worth to Keller ISD, Fort Worth Northwest ISD, and Southlake Carroll ISD.

This district includes seven of the eight teams from District 5-6A last year with only Denton Guyer switching districts, so there will be plenty of familiarity between these schools. There are plenty of storylines with three new head coaches in Keller ISD, a team with state aspirations, and plenty of Division I talent on display. Here is what to keep an eye on in District 4-6A this season.

Byron Nelson Bobcats (2559)
Last Season: 1-9
Head Coach: Travis Pride: 5th season as head coach
Non-District game to watch: 9/3 vs. Flower Mound Marcus- This will be a huge test for the Bobcats at home against a team coming off an 11-2 season and a regional semi-finals appearance.

Player to watch: RB Max Modeste- A UConn commit, he is coming off a junior season where he ran for 793 yards and 9 touchdowns, earning him second team all-district honors.

Storylines: Modeste will be joined in the backfield by quarterback Hudson White, who is back for his third year as the starter after throwing for 1,337 yards and 8 touchdowns a year ago. Fellow UConn commit OG Femi Sakiri along with OL Caden Bogan will be anchors on the offensive line to protect the talent in the Bobcats backfield. Slot receiver Cooper Stillwell, who led the Bobcats with 472 receiving yards a year ago, is also back to provide White with an experienced target. On defense, Gavin Roark is a name to watch after a solid sophomore season at linebacker last year. There are a lot of pieces back on offense for the Bobcats as they look to make some noise in this district and aim for a return to the playoffs for the first time since 2017.

Keller Indians (3158)
Last Season: 7-4; Defeated in bi-district by Flower Mound

Head Coach: Carl Stralow: 9th season as head coach

Non-District game to watch: 8/27 vs. Abilene Cooper- Cooper is coming off an impressive 11-2 run a season ago in which they made a run to the regional semifinals. These two squared off last season with Cooper squeaking out a 21-20 victory.

Player to watch: QB Hayden Anderson- Was a first team all-district selection last year after throwing for 1,259 yards and rushing for 373 yards. He has picked up offers from Lamar University and Arkansas-Monticello and will be a leader for the Indians offensively this season.

Storylines: Anderson will be the man leading the offense again for the Indians. “Hayden is [a] very athletic kid. He could play several positions. He has a great arm as well,” Stralow said. “He makes good decisions on and off the field and is a leader in our program and an all around great kid.” However, the team will need senior RB Bryce Dealey, who rushed for 279 yards a year ago, to step up and fill the hole left by graduated RB Enoch Ntchobo, a one thousand yard rusher last season. WR Loden Atkison, a second team all-district receiver, is the top returner at that position after having 256 receiving yards a season ago. On defense, 6’4” DE Nick Ravalico has picked up an offer from UMass and will be an anchor on the line for the Indians. At defensive back, Zac O’Day is a name to watch after he had 60 tackles and 2 interceptions last year in his sophomore campaign. With Anderson leading the way on offense, Keller will have their sights set on making the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year.

Keller Central Chargers (2563)
Last Season: 7-4; Defeated in bi-district by Flower Mound Marcus

Head Coach: Mike Sports: 1st season as head coach

Non-District game to watch: 9/10 vs. Flower Mound Marcus- Nothing like a chance for revenge. The Chargers will have a chance in front of their home fans to get back at Marcus who dispatched them 34-7 in the first round of playoffs last year.

Player to watch: QB/WR Landon Walker- An athletic player and track star for the Chargers who will battle for the quarterback position. He had 190 receiving yards last season and also threw 16 passes throughout the season. His experience will be crucial in whatever position he ends up playing for the Chargers.

Storylines: Mike Sports, who had been the DC at Keller Central since 2010, was promoted to head coach this offseason as the Chargers’ previous head coach Bart Helsley was promoted to be Keller ISD’s assistant AD. The Chargers have some holes to fill after they lost their starting quarterback, leading rusher Andrew Paul, who transferred, and Oklahoma commit RB/WR/DB DJ Graham from last year’s team. Sports said that Walker and Trent Smith, a starting safety and receiver from last season, will battle for the quarterback position. Furthermore, Sports said that “Preston Hall will receive a long look at the running back spot,” after Hall served as the starting free safety for the team a year ago. At the receiver position, Sports noted that seniors Paolo Venezuela, who had 215 receiving yards last year, and Kingston Crichton-Alfaro “will be productive receivers in 2020.” Defensively, there’s more work to be done after five Chargers who were named first team or second team all-district graduated. 6’2” 230 pound junior LB Tyler Balsarick, who also wrestles for the Chargers, will return along with fellow junior prospect LB Darius Graham, the younger brother of DJ, who will be one to watch as he develops. In addition to those two players, Sports also added that LB Grant Woodson and DL Austin Korbe are two more key players that will be back on defense this season. Overall, Sports and his Chargers have talent back, but they will need to fill the holes left by their departing players quickly as they look to return to the playoffs for the second straight year.

Keller Fossil Ridge Panthers (2297)
Last Season: 1-9

Head Coach: Derek Ramsey: 1st season as head coach

Non-District game to watch: 9/3 vs. Ennis- The first home game for Ramsey will be a big test against an Ennis team, which is coming off a 12-2 record last season and a regional finals appearance.

Player to watch: WR Russell Wilkerson- A second team all-district selection last season after compiling 35 touchdowns for 452 yards and three touchdowns. He will be a key target for the Panthers this season.

Storylines: Ramsey comes over from Denton Guyer, where he was defensive coordinator the past 12 seasons. He replaces Tony Baccarini who retired and had been the Panthers coach since 2007. On the field, Colby Coppinger will be an option to take over as starting quarterback after throwing for 190 yards in three appearances last season. Running back is a question mark too as no player with over 100 yards rushing last year returns. Wilkerson will anchor the receiving corps and junior Daniel Cobbs will complement him after having 143 receiving yards and two touchdowns a year ago. Defensively, there is more talent back. John Vawar, who had 115 total tackles last year, and Jordan Ederson, who has offers from Texas Southern and Prairie View A&M, both return at linebacker. The defense also returns second-team all district defensive end Alexander Kateba, who had 14 tackles for loss and 5 sacks a year ago and will be a threat to other teams’ backfields this season. Ramsey has plenty of talent to work with on defense, but it may be how the offense gels that determines how this season goes for the Panthers.

Keller Timber Creek Falcons (3216)
Last Season: 3-7

Head Coach: Marshall Williams: 1st season as head coach

Non-District game to watch: 8/28 vs. Rockwall-Heath- The first game of Williams’ tenure will come against a team who went 5-5 last season. The Falcons will be out for revenge after they were defeated 38-10 when they traveled to Rockwall-Heath to open the season a year ago.

Player to watch: RB Kaden Bess- A speedster at running back for the Falcons. He runs a 4.33 second 40-yard dash and is coming off a season where he ran for 623 yards and 8 touchdowns. He also just picked up his first offer from East Texas Baptist University and will certainly be a threat out of the backfield for the Falcons this year.

Storylines: Williams comes over from Southlake Carroll where he served as the offensive coordinator the last two seasons. “My first impressions have been extremely positive. We have great kids that are eager to learn the new offensive system and have been open to the several changes that I have made in the program as a whole,” Williams said. “We will have multiple positions on the offensive side of the ball including the QB position that will have healthy completion into August. A lot of positions are open to see who will step up and get those spots. ” For that Falcons offense this year, there are some key returning figures from last season. Bess will be a leader in the backfield, while TE Mason McCrary, who had 230 receiving yards and was named second team all-district a year ago, will be an option in passing situations. TE Jacob Bowersock, who had 122 receiving yards and two touchdowns last season himself, will make the Falcons a threat when they run two tight end sets. On defense, DE/DT Mike Sandjo-Nijiki will lead the defensive line after being a first team all-district selection last year, while CB Cameron Minix will be a leader in the secondary after being a second team selection. “We have a strong senior class coming back to the 2020 football season,” Williams said. “Now it is time to be great teachers as coaches and get our kids to play fast and execute. Our football team will have a strong defense coming back next year but we are very excited to put this offense in play with our team speed.” Williams has returning talent to work with on both sides of the ball as he takes over a Falcons program looking to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

Northwest Eaton Eagles (2593)
Last Season: 4-6

Head Coach: Ellis Miller: 4th season as head coach

Non-District game to watch: 8/27 @ Frisco Lone Star- A massive test for the Eagles as they open up the season on the road against a 5A-1 state semifinalist from a year ago in Frisco Lone Star.

Player to watch: DE Jayden Gray- Holds offers from 11 Division I programs including Iowa State, Northwestern, and Virginia Tech. He had 54 tackles and 8 sacks a year ago and will lead the Eagle defensive line this season.

Storylines: The Eagles have talent back on both sides of the ball but especially on offense. “We have huge expectations. We played with a lot of young players last year and really they started clicking late in the season,” Miller said. “We have to address our ability to score in the red zone, but I think with the experience we have, our confidence to score points will be very high.” Braden St. Ama had 801 yards and 10 total touchdowns last season operating as a quarterback, rusher, and receiver. With last year’s starter Amari Blount graduating, St. Ama will definitely be an option for the Eagles under center. Leading rusher Jahbez Hawkins returns after rushing for 942 yards and 6 touchdowns a year ago as does the team’s second leading rusher Isaac Jones, who compiled 315 yards on the ground last year. Max McCuiston, a second team all-district selection, will be a reliable option at receiver after catching 18 passes for 421 yards and 5 touchdowns a year ago. This offense will have plenty of protection up front too as Miller noted that “our O-line will be one of the biggest and most dominant in the state.” On defense, Gray will anchor the defensive line, while S Jalen Thompson is one to watch in the secondary after he was a district honorable mention a year ago. “We have 10 guys returning on offense that started at least one varsity game last year,” Miller said. “Our young players have really developed and are going to add depth as well as wrinkles that no one has seen. I can’t wait until August.” The Eagles are loaded on offense and primed for a breakout season as they look to get to the playoffs for the first time since 2017 as they enter just their fifth season as a varsity program.

Southlake Carroll Dragons (2786)
Last Season: 13-1; Defeated in regional finals by Duncanville

Head Coach: Riley Dodge: 3rd season as head coach

Non-District game to watch: 8/28 vs. Austin Westlake- A star-studded father-son matchup to open the season between two of Texas’ finest at AT&T Stadium. Southlake coach Riley Dodge will lead his Dragons against his dad, Todd Dodge, and his Westlake team that is coming off a state title last season.

Player to watch: QB Quinn Ewers- Burst on to the scene after earning the starting job last season as a sophomore. He threw for 4,003 yards, rushed for 568 more, and totaled 54 touchdowns. This breakout season earned him 28 Division I offers including ones from Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, and Ohio State.

Storylines: This Dragons offense is going to be terrifying for defenses to face this year. Ewers is back and his backfield mate RB Owen Allen is even younger after rushing for 1,266 yards and 23 touchdowns as a freshman last year. [Ewers and Allen are] very mature for their age,” Dodge said. “They understand how to work; that’s a testament to how they are raised. They both grew together last year, [and I’m] very excited to have these two in our backfield.”At receiver, Minnesota commit Brady Boyd will lead the way after catching 66 passes for 972 yards last season, while second team all-district receiver junior Landon Samson is also back. Defensively, the Dragons lost 11 seniors who were first or second team all-district to graduation. However, Hawaii commit Cinque Williams will step in at safety after having to play at the JV level last season due to transfer rules. Junior defensive back Avyonne Jones is another rising star and recently picked up an offer from Rutgers. The Dragons are loaded on offense and if they can fill the holes left by graduates on defense, they could be in store for a special season after making it to the regional finals a year ago.

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