The Katy Tigers did it last year.
Just like their 6A predecessors, the DeSoto Eagles finished 2016 with an undefeated season, overcoming Steele in the DI State Championship. The storyline couldn’t have been more perfect for an Eagles team that went 6-6 the year before. After acquiring Denton Guyer transfer Shawn Robinson, DeSoto averaged 47.5 points per game, besting teams by an average 25.5+ win margin. A talented offensive line allowed Robinson to account for 4,463 yards of total offense; three of the lineman are now high profile and nationally ranked college commits.
The journey to DeSoto’s title game wasn’t always pretty, but the drama added to the mythos of their first championship run in school history. Down 31-21 to Klein Collins in the semis with seven minutes remaining, the Eagles finished regulation on a 21-point run and seized two consecutive fumble recoveries. Earlier in the postseason, DeSoto trailed 45-42 with time expiring, and forced a turnover to get the go-ahead score against Abilene. Even against Steele, the victory came by staving off a crucial fourth down play, batting the throw away for time to expire in Arlington.
DeSoto finished No. 6 on Super 25, No. 2 on Xcellent 25 and No. 1 on TexasHSFootball power rankings.
QB Shawn Robinson, OG Xavier Newman, WR Laviska Shenault, WR/RB KD Nixon
The departure of Robinson is clearly the biggest blow to the Eagles offensive stability. Not all teams’ success are dictated by an individual player, but Robinson’s 4-star talents made him the cohesive glue that brought the team together.
Robinson had one of the best Texas high school years ever, finishing with 3,191 passing yards for 26 touchdowns. With an o-line that made crucial blocks and opened lanes, Robinson also ran for 1,272 yards and 19 touchdowns. As an early enrollee, he inherits a TCU offense in love with the spread scheme that Robinson perfected under Coach Todd Peterman.
In an interview with TexasHSFootball, Robinson admitted that the offensive line was a big reason he was happy with the transfer. Newman is the No. 2 overall center in the country and one of nine Texas players currently committed to Colorado. Formerly a Longhorns pledge, Newman denounced the Burnt Orange to join his fellow Eagles in Boulder. At 272 lbs., Newman showed size and versatility at the offensive line and will likely develop on the interior in college.
One of the two most prized Robinson receivers, Shenault finished the year with 834 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. The receiver is part of the US National football team and grabbed a 51-yard bomb in the championship game; his best performance was a thrilling shootout in the playoffs against Cedar Hill, going off for 182 yards and a touchdown. During his junior year with former DeSoto quarterback Tristen Wallace, Shenault lead all active receivers with 477 yards – proving that he can have an efficient offensive output regardless of the playmaker.
No Eagles player statistically improved more than Nixon did this season, leading all receivers with 1,100 yards through the air for 11 touchdowns – nearly triple his previous season total. His short size (5’8) may limit him to a running back role in college, a position he’s dabbled with in the Eagles backfield where he rushed for 356 yards and five touchdowns. The four-star recruit is a Colorado commit, competed in the Under Armour All-American game and had 63 yards for one score in the championship game; his 1,884 total ranks first in DeSoto all purpose yards.
RB Kelan Walker, CB Cemon Green, WR BJ Hanspard
Walker’s peak was during a highlight reel performance against an outclassed Nimitz, where the running back stampeded over the defense for six total touchdowns. With Robinson scrambling any chance he got, Walkers’ output was often overlooked in favor of the TCU commit. Despite being second in total rushing yards, Walker still doubled his output from last season, rushing for 836 yards and scoring 16 touchdowns on the ground.
The championship game saw Walker score first on a 1-yard run, giving DeSoto a lead they they didn’t lose throughout the match. Without a quarterback next year, expect the Eagles to rely heavily on a ground-and- pound strategy that the junior would execute to perfection.
Defensive efforts during the final drive made the difference between a victory and an upset for DeSoto. Green was critical in the finale, notching five total tackles in the title game, including three pass deflections. The junior already has five college offers – the front runner being Colorado, who has already recruited numerous players from the Eagles’ roster. Green finished the season with 57 total tackles, 25 pass deflections and two interceptions.
Hanspard already has the most buzz generating from the DeSoto’s ’18 class. Power Five conferences are already planning ahead to acquire the services of the receiver, who is versatile in filling out whichever required position. Tech is a heavy favorite to snag Hanspard; his father Byron was a fabled Red Raiders player that posted records in career rushing yards (4,219), single-season rushing yards (2,084), and single-game rushing yards (287). The Eagles were infatuated with putting Hanspard on the return team and the defensive side of the ball; he accounted for 40 total tackles and 12 pass deflections.
The drawbacks of a perfect season is veteran experience – season leadership that helped attain a record without blemishes. The same was true of last year’s Katy Tigers – an eery parallel to the 2016 DeSoto championship team. Katy was arguably the best Texas high school football defense ever fielded, but after graduating 48 seniors in 2015, the Tigers succumbed to numerous chemistry and injury issues this season, inevitably sputtering against North Shore during the third round of the postseason.
This foreshadowing doesn’t bode well for the 2017-18 Eagles.
The program will graduate 67 seniors; of the top 16 receivers this year, only Walker will not graduate this year. The offense will be pocked with holes that underclassman must fill.
The Eagles’ saving grace may be their defense; of top-10 players in total tackles, only half of the defensive leaders will graduate – Ashton Brooks, Vermontes Pippen, Mike Gardner, and Brian Robinson will join Green in guiding a unit that allowed 22 points per game.
The quarterback position will be the most difficult to fill. Robinson was a unique talent that could effortlessly find opportunities in the midst of oppressive coverage. DeSoto is limited in their options at compensating for his absence.
Courtney Douglas has been a back-up for two seasons; his dual-threat abilities fits the system, but he
still wasn’t good enough to start over Wallace in 2015 – a quarterback that could barely get the Eagles to .500 despite having relatively the same roster as the championship group. Douglas skill is on the ground, where he rushed for 346 yards – averaging 9.4 yards per carry. Another option is Zyon Walton, who is smaller and less accurate than Douglas – an outside shot unless he improves over the offseason. Expect a low playoff berth for DeSoto behind the legs of Walker next year, but an early exit for the first-time champions.
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