For Dallas Jesuit, 2016 was a tale of taking your lumps early in the season and then turning on the jets once they got into district play. They certainly did that in the early part of the season losing to DeSoto (state champions), Plano East (playoff team) and Lake Travis (state champions).
It was a different story once the Rangers got into District 9-6A, where blew away their competition. They finishing 7-0 and ended up winning a second straight district title. How did they do it? In part, by putting up ridiculous numbers on offense and maintaining a tough defense.
In district play, the Rangers averaged nearly 55 points a game and won every game by double digits during that stretch. In fact, they haven’t lost a district game since Halloween of 2015. Now as we enter 2017, the Rangers will look to replace some key losses and add a third straight District 9-6A title for a team and perhaps add on to the 15-game winning streak.
QB Jacob Palisch, RB Evan Jackson, RB/WR John Wunderlick, DL Andrew Miskell
The Rangers got it done primarily on the ground in 2016, thanks to two 1,000 yard rushers in Evan Jackson and John Wunderlick. Jackson, who signed with Brown, finished with 1,166 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground earning him Offensive Player of the Year Honors in District 9-6A.
His teammate, Wunderlick, also was a force to be reckoned with, rushing for 1,080 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also displayed his versatility as a receiver, finishing with 56 catches, 657 yards and two touchdowns. The first team all-district selection proved to be a valuable weapon for quarterback Jacob Palisch.
The left-hander and District 9-6A Player of the Year proved to be a very good leader of the offense, finishing with 1,843 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was also a key contributor in the running game, finishing with nine rushing scores. These three proved to be quite the dynamic trio for the Rangers and their production will be tough to replace.
On the defensive side of the ball, District 9-6A Defensive MVP Andrew Miskell was simply all over the place for the Rangers, earning seven sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble. He, along with Jack Metz and Jordan Rice, made life difficult for opposing quarterbacks in 2016.
QB Parker Towns, RB Hank Clements, WR Fletcher Rosenbleeth, DB Hank Bitterman, LB Nicky Pendergast
As the Rangers reload on offense, Parker Towns appears to be next in line to take over as the starting quarterback. The rising senior started two games last season and his experience and familiarity under head coach Brandon Hickman’s system should help the Rangers keep the momentum going in 2017. Towns will have a good receiver in Fletcher Rosenbleeth (25 catches, 576 yards, 4 TD) to go to as his big-play target.
As for who takes over for Jackson, Hank Clements also appears to be slotted in as the lead running back in 2017. He had a breakout game against Dallas W.T. White (15 carries, 115 yards, 1 TD) and should take advantage of this opportunity as the featured back.
On defense, Hank Bitterman will take charge in the secondary. The rising senior finished with 39.5 tackles and two interceptions as a defensive back and will be leaned on even more in 2017 along with linebacker Nicky Pendergast. Pendergast was third on the team with sacks (5.5) and he’ll also be looked on as a leading producer next season.
This is a team that flies under the radar in Dallas. They’ve proven to be a solid playoff contender and have taken care of business in district. The question for the Rangers is how far can they go as they’ve only made out of the area round just one time (2013).
They play the same tough non-district schedule again in 2017, but that should set the Rangers up well to make the playoffs again in 2017 and possibly make a run. It’s a team that’s replacing a lot of talent, but don’t be surprised if the Rangers turn some heads, especially after a game at Coppell on September 29 that may very well decide who wins District 9-6A.