SEASON PREVIEW: DFW-area programs set to clash for District 3-6A championship

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District 3-6A takes us into the DFW area.

There are a lot of new faces in this district as San Angelo Central and Abilene moved into District 2-6A, while Richland dropped down to 5A. This allows for four new additions to this district this year as Boswell and Chisholm Trail come up from 5A, while North Crawley and Paschal come over from 4-6A.

With Division I prospects, explosive playmakers, and the fact that only two of these teams made the playoffs last season, opportunity abounds in District 3-6A. Here’s what to watch for in District 3-6A this season.

Boswell Pioneers (2229)
Last Season (5A): 4-6
Head Coach: John Abendschan: 15th season as head coach
Non-District game to watch: 8/28 vs. Wichita Falls Rider- A good test for the Pioneers to open the season with after Rider went 9-5 a year ago and made a run to the regional finals. These two squared off last year in the season opener with Rider coming out victorious 47-34.
Player to watch: QB Gavin Mathis- Abendschan has high hopes for Mathis and believes he will star for this Boswell team. The sophomore will have to step up and replace quarterback Brayden Thomas, who graduated after starting behind center for four years.
Storylines: This was an incredibly senior heavy team last year. The Pioneers graduated Thomas, their top two rushers, and three leading receivers from a year ago. “The key [will be] learning and growing up fast,” Abendschan said when asked about replacing this departed talent. Pofele Ashlock, who had 261 receiving yards last year, and 5’8” slot man Nikolas Foisy, who had 164 receiving yards himself, will provide some experience at the receiver position. Joshua Mulero will also return at running back after rushing for 120 yards after getting moved up to varsity midway through last season. Abendschan also noted that the experience on the offensive line will be crucial as seniors Garrett Palmer and Breyden Blackwell and junior Chris Lister return to anchor the line. On defense, the story is the same as all five players who earned first or second team honors last season graduated. Abendschan said that “outside linebacker senior Parker Anderson [and] inside linebacker junior Jorge Alvarez will be the leaders on a young defense.” Overall, the key for the Pioneers this season will be how their young players step up as they deal with the roster turnover from a year ago.

Fort Worth Chisholm Trail Rangers (2245)
Last Season (5A): 4-6
Head Coach: Byron Bode: 5th season as head coach
Non-District game to watch: 8/28 vs. Wichita Falls- The Rangers will look to start off their season on the right note with this home contest against a Wichita Falls team coming off a run to the third round of the playoffs. These two played out a tight contest last season with Chisholm Trail coming out 29-21 winners.
Player to watch: DB Jaden Fisher- An explosive playmaker who burst onto the scene as the 3-5A Defensive Newcomer of the Year last season. He can make an impact on special teams as well and had a kickoff return for touchdown last season.
Storylines: QB Garrison Haskell is back to lead the Ranger offense after throwing for over 2,000 yards a year ago and rushing for 300 more. Haskell was the team’s leading rusher last season, and although the second, third, and fourth leading rushers have graduated, junior Moise Mpala does return at running back after rushing for over 150 yards as a sophomore last year. Senior Isaiah Ortega will be a good target for Haskell at receiver after earning second team all-district honors last year. Meanwhile, Fisher will continue to be looked upon to make big plays to lead the defense. “Jaden is not only a high character kid, he is an unbelievable competitor, dating back to his middle school days,” Bode said. “Whether it’s track or football, he has always had a second gear when it comes to competing.  The kid simply hates to lose.” Another key returner on that side of the ball is LB Jordan Nunn, who was named second team all-district last year after finishing the season with 66 total tackles. As Chisholm Trail makes the move up to 6A, Haskell, Fisher, and the other returning lettermen will be the key to lead the Rangers into this competitive district.

Fort Worth Paschal Panthers (2442)
Last Season: 2-8
Head Coach: John Killough: 1st season as head coach
Non-District game to watch: 8/28 @ Granbury- The Panthers will open the season with a road test against a Granbury team coming off a playoff appearance after a 6-5 year.
Player to watch: QB Connor Culp- He returns after splitting time with now graduated Elliott Titus. After throwing for 475 yards and 4 touchdowns last season, his experience will be vital to a Paschal team that has to replace numerous graduated players from last season.
Storylines: John Killough comes over from The Colony where he had served as the offensive coordinator for the past eight years. He takes over a Paschal team that must replace 12 players that were named on the all-district team or were honorable mentions last season. This includes its top three rushers and receiver from last year. Culp will likely be given the keys at quarterback and will have Gareld Massey back after he caught 13 passes for 184 yards last season. On special teams, the Panthers have another weapon in K/P Hunter Bertlesen, who was a second team all-district selection a year ago. Killough will need young players to step up as he gets to work, looking to turn around this program that has not made the playoffs since 1995.

Haltom Buffaloes (2717)
Last Season: 4-6
Head Coach: Jason Tucker: 7th season as head coach
Non-District game to watch: 8/28 @Richland- This annual rivalry will take place in non-district play this season after Richland dropped down to 5A. The Buffaloes will be out for revenge after falling to Richland 28-17 at home last season.
Player to watch: WR Jace Washington- A big bodied receiver at 6’4” and 202 pounds. He will be the leader in the receiving corps this season for the Buffaloes after catching 52 passes for 872 yards and 8 touchdowns last year.
Storylines: Washington will be one of the keys to this Buffalo offense. “Jace’s demeanor along with his intelligence and work ethic are invaluable to our team,” Tucker said. “Those qualities will really help us with the new faces he will have around him this fall.” In addition to Washington, 6’3” WR/TE Dereck Ocasio, who had nearly 300 yards receiving last year, also returns, giving the Buffaloes plenty of height at receiver. This experience at receiver will be vital because, as Tucker alluded to, the Buffaloes will have to replace their starting quarterback and leading rusher after both graduated. Defensively, DB Johnny Smith-Rider is immensely talented and had 82 tackles, three interceptions, and four forced fumbles a year ago. Junior DT Tito Tejeda will be a key piece on the defensive line after being named second team all-district last year. The Buffaloes also have a special teams weapon in kicker Hunter Villavicencio, a first team all-district selection a year ago. With Washington leading on offense and Smith-Rider on defense, the Buffaloes will look to make it back to the playoffs like they did in 2018 when they went 13-1 and made a run to the regional finals.

L.D. Bell Blue Raiders (3087)
Last Season: 3-7
Head Coach: Mike Glaze: 6th season as head coach
Non-District game to watch: 9/4 vs. North Garland- L.D. Bell’s lone home game in their non-district slate. North Garland is coming off a 6-4 season where they narrowly missed out on the playoffs and will be a good test at home for the Blue Raiders.
Player to watch: RB Alama Lilo- He was the starting running back for the Blue Raiders last year but suffered a season-ending injury in week 3. Now that he is back to full health, he will be a key piece in the Blue Raiders’ triple option attack this year.
Storylines: Four out of the top five rushers from last season for the Blue Raiders have graduated, including their quarterback and leading receiver. Xavier Hall is the lone returning rusher from those five after rushing for 493 yards and four touchdowns a year ago. However, this is a deceptive statistic as, in addition to Lilo, back-up running back Cameron Johnson also suffered a season-ending injury in week 5. “They are both back from injury, so if they stay healthy then we are right back where we were at the beginning of last season,” Glaze said. Glaze also noted that senior quarterback Alec Esquivel will be looked upon to lead the offense as he comes up from JV, while sophomore running back Jalen David will be another productive option out of the backfield. “This is our second year in this system,” Glaze said. “We got guys that are coming back and guys moving up that will allow us to be successful running the option this year.” On defense, S Kyle Kamerer will be a key piece of the secondary after notching 77 total tackles a year ago. Marc Hernández also returns on the defensive line after compiling 59 tackles and 4 sacks last season as a sophomore. As the Blue Raiders continue to adapt to this new system, they will be a team to watch as they look to turn the program around and get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2013.

North Crowley Panthers (2684)
Last Season: 3-7
Head Coach: Courtney Allen: 3rd season as head coach
Non-District game to watch: 8/27 vs. Crowley- These two Crowley ISD schools square off for bragging rights for the first time since 2015, when North Crowley won 40-27.
Player to watch: S Ronald Wilson- A ball hawk at safety for the Panthers and a University of New Mexico commit. He had seven interceptions and six forced fumbles last season and was a 6A All-State honorable mention.
Storylines: North Crowley has a lot of athletes back on both sides of the ball as it heads into the season. Athletic quarterback Quinton Jackson will lead the way on offense after throwing for 726 yards, rushing for 442, and totaling 16 touchdowns in just seven games after battling injuries. Chance Beachum, who just picked up his first Division I offer from Valparaiso, took over for Jackson at QB but will likely star at his primary position of receiver this season. Junior RB Tristan White is a speedster, running a 4.4 second 40-yard dash, and is a threat out of the backfield both as a rusher and receiver. “We have some very talented players here at North Crowley.  I actually think we are better offensively because we have established some depth at some key positions,” Allen said. “The trio of Jackson, White, and Beachum will be good for us because those are some of our hardest working kids and they believe.” Allen also said that 6’1” 210 pound RB Adam Powell, who rushed for 379 yards back in 2018, is back this season and QB Chandler Pullam has transferred in from Denton Guyer. Allen also added that he is expecting growth on the offensive line after three sophomores started on it last season. Defensively, Wilson could be one of the best defensive backs in the DFW area this year after forcing 13 turnovers last season. Coryon Francis, who has three Division I offers, will join him in the secondary after being named second team all-district last season. This team has a lot of athleticism and talent on it and will certainly be a program to watch as they move over from 4-6A into 3-6A.

Euless Trinity Trojans (3618)
Last Season: 9-2; Defeated in bi-district by Arlington Lamar
Head Coach: Chris Jensen: 6th season as head coach
Non-District game to watch: 8/27 @ Arlington Lamar- A rematch of last year’s bi-district showdown which ended in a 37-34 heartbreaking defeat for Trinity. It will be played at Globe Life Park, a great venue for what should be an exciting game.
Player to watch: RB Ollie Gordon: He rushed for 679 yards and 11 touchdowns last year as a sophomore, but he will be relied upon more this year to help fill the gap left by the graduation of last year’s leading rusher Zechariah Moore, who ran for 1,285 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Storylines: The Trojans love to run the ball and Gordon will be joined in the backfield by senior quarterback Valentino Foni, who is a dual threat after gaining 581 yards on the ground last season. Foni will also have to contribute more in the passing game this season after the starter from last season, Marcus Ervin, graduated. “Both Ollie and Tino are players we want on the field at all times and touching the ball as much as possible,” Jensen said. “[They are] old-school “sandlot” ball players who got picked first every time on the playground at recess, regardless of the sport.”  TE Xavior Kautai will be a weapon in the passing game after being a second team all-district selection a year ago. On defense, DE Tonga Lolohea is attracting attention at the college level and has six Division I offers including ones from FIU and UNLV. Linebackers Josh Taylor, LD Martin, and Sateki Wolfgramm all return to provide crucial experience at that position after earning all-district honors a year ago. The Trojans will be ones to watch as they have plenty of pieces back as they look to build off their district title from a year ago.

Weatherford Kangaroos (2279)
Last Season: 7-4; Defeated in bi-district by Arlington Bowie
Head Coach: Billy Mathis: 4th season as head coach
Non-District game to watch: 8/28 vs. Aledo- There’s no better way to test your players than by inviting the two-time defending state champion to town to open the season. This showdown against Aledo will be a big time matchup for the Kangaroos at home in front of their own fans.
Player to watch: RB Dezmond Forrest- He put up absurd numbers a year ago including 476 total yards and 9 touchdowns in the season opener against Granbury. He finished the season with 1,502 rushing yards, 759 receiving yards, 37 touchdowns, and first team all-district honors.
Storylines: The Kangaroos will have to replace their starting quarterback from last year but Forrest will lead the way after leading the team in both rushing and receiving yards. Junior WR Seth Robertson is coming off a solid season and will be a weapon for the new starting quarterback after compiling 390 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns last year. Forrest might be the leader of the offense, but S Cisco Caston, a Baylor commit, should be a leader on the defensive side of the ball. He will be joined by LB Koby Kidd, who had 158 total tackles last season as a sophomore, and fellow safety Gabriel Alexander, who finished last season with 89 total tackles. These Kangaroos have talent on both sides of the ball and will be hungry to make a run in the playoffs after narrowly falling to Bowie in the first round last year.

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