Texas High School 2020 Season Preview: District 13-6A

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District 13-6A is located north of Houston stretching along I-45 from Willis down to The Woodlands area. This season, Grand Oaks is playing in its first ever season in a UIL district and joins the other four Conroe ISD schools along with Willis, which moves up from 5A, to complete this six team district. 

With The Woodlands reloading and looking to make it to the playoffs for the 26th year in a row, Grand Oaks competing in a UIL district for the first time, and the other four schools looking to end multi-year playoff droughts, it is sure to be a competitive district.

Here is what to watch for in District 13-6A.

College Park Cavaliers 

Last Season: 5-5

Head Coach: Lonnie Madison: 4th season as head coach

Player to watch: LB Dylan Hazen- A Wake Forest commit, he recorded 101 total tackles, eight sacks, and two forced fumbles last season on his way to earning first team all-district honors. He should be a key playmaker yet again this season for the Cavaliers.

Storylines: The Cavaliers have been close to getting back to the playoffs for the first time since 2015, going 6-4 and 5-5 the past two seasons. Junior Ty Buckmon, who is also a basketball star for the Cavaliers, and senior Hank Hudson are options at quarterback after they were involved in a three-man rotation at the position last season. Dylon DeAngelo returns at running back after seeing playing time as a sophomore, while Cody Mladenka should be a key player at tight end after being a first team all-district selection as a sophomore. Defensively, the Cavaliers have a lot of talent back. Hazen returns alongside senior Nick Vetere, a second team selection last season, at linebacker. Senior Grant Ferguson, another second team selection, should be a key player on the defensive line. And in the secondary, Curt Evangelister, who currently has offers from Incarnate Word and Air Force, is primed for another big season after totaling 42 tackles and four interceptions a year ago. The Cavaliers have a lot of pieces back to work with, and they will have their eyes set on ending their playoff drought that dates back to 2015.

Conroe Tigers

Last Season: 5-5

Head Coach: Cedric Hardeman: 3rd season as head coach

Player to watch: LB Layne O’Dell- A key player for the Tigers last season at linebacker. He earned first team all-district honors and will look to anchor the Tiger defense again this season.

Storylines: The Tigers’ five wins last season are tied for the most they’ve had since the 2009 season when they went 5-6. The Tigers have to do some rebuilding on offense though this year as quarterback Christian Pack, last season’s District 15-6A MVP, and first team receivers Michael Phoenix II and Marcus Thomas graduated. “It will very difficult to replace them. That senior class did a wonderful job of displaying what level of preparation is needed in order to produce at that level,” Hardeman said. “It’s going to take that same level of perpetration with this group in order to give themselves a chance to match last year.” Jalen Williams was a key receiver for the Tigers last season and can also play quarterback. Reciever Joshua Denman, who also stars in baseball, is back for his third season at receiver on varsity for the Tigers. On defense, O’Dell will be joined by middle linebacker Tyler Trantham, a second team all-district selection a year ago. In the secondary, Jaden Williams is a key player at corner after a breakout season last year with 37 tackles and nine pass breakups as a sophomore, earning second team all-district honors. The Tigers had a promising season last year and have talent back on defense, but they will need key players to step up and replace the graduates on offense as they head into the season.

Grand Oaks Grizzlies 

Last Season: 6-4 

Head Coach: Mike Jackson: 3rd season as head coach

Player to watch: RB Micah Cooper- Rushed for 1,024 yards and 10 touchdowns a year ago and will be a key player for the Grizzlies in the backfield in his senior year.

Storylines: After two years of independent play, the Grizzlies will compete for a playoff spot in a UIL district for the first time. Hudson Hamilton impressed with his quarterback play last year as a freshman and will be an option to start under center this season. Sean Zver also saw playing time under center and at receiver, throwing for 116 yards, rushing for 184 yards, and catching 9 passes for 136 yards. Whoever ends up starting at quarterback will have the reliable presence of Cooper alongside them in the backfield. Out at receiver, Brett Wilson and Jaden Chalk were two key players for the Grizzlies last year and will look to be key targets again this season. Defensively, Noah Clark and Jack Manning are back at linebacker after being two of the leading tacklers for the Grizzlies last season. On special teams, the Grizzlies will be anchored by talented long snapper Noah Sterenberg and kicker Grant Nickel, who has hit field goals from 50 yards in practice this offseason. “We understand that taking the step to 6A is going to be a huge challenge and we’ll be the underdog every week this year,” Jackson said. “Our kids are excited for the challenge and look forward to competing against great coaches and players in the district.” There are a lot of unknowns about the Grizzlies as they step up to compete in their first ever full season as a 6A program, but the first senior class in Grand Oaks history will be aiming to make this year a memorable one.

Oak Ridge War Eagles 

Last Season: 3-7

Head Coach: Mark Schmid: 2nd season as head coach

Player to watch: RB Alton McCaskill- Rushed for 792 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, earning first team all-district honors. He is a highly touted prospect with 31 Division I offers, including ones from Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, and Virginia Tech.

Storylines: Mark Schmid removed the interim tag from his position as head coach this past offseason and will lead the War Eagles against familiar opponents in this district after 14 successful seasons at district rival The Woodlands. The War Eagles haven’t been to the playoffs since 2017, but they’ll fancy their chances this season. McCaskill will be the star player on offense and could be joined in the backfield by senior quarterback Nick Osborne, who threw for 276 yards last season while splitting time with now graduated Kavon Townsend. Jahron Jonas, who can play at both running back and receiver, is a promising junior and had 84 receiving yards and 45 rushing yards in limited action last year. On defense, KC Ossai, the younger brother of Texas Longhorn linebacker Joseph Ossai, is the leading returning tackler after racking up 59 total tackles last year. He has offers from 11 Division I programs, including Arizona, North Texas, and UTSA. Dexter Green, a second team selection last year as a sophomore, is a key returnee in the secondary after having two interceptions and 33 tackles last year. Meanwhile, honorable mentions DB Adam Hershmann, 34 tackles, and LB Matthew Humplik, 36 tackles, will bring further experience to the War Eagles defense. With Schmid’s coaching experience, McCaskill’s playmaking ability on offense, and key returners on defense, this War Eagles team will be one to watch in district play as they look to compete for their first playoff berth in three years.

The Woodlands Highlanders 

Last Season: 8-5; Defeated by Prosper in regional semi-finals

Head Coach: Jim Rapp: 3rd season as head coach

Player to watch: WR Teddy Knox- A Mississippi State commit, he caught 22 passes for 303 yards and a touchdown last season, earning second team all-district honors. He will be a key target again for the Highlanders this season in the passing game.

Storylines: The Highlanders have to find a new starting quarterback and replace their five leading rushers and star receiver Malik Johnson, three offensive linemen that earned district honors, and nine players that earned first or second team honors on defense. But as a perennial contender with 25 straight playoff appearances, the Highlanders know how to reload. Knox and promising junior Ben Ferguson, 18 catches for 247 yards as a sophomore, are two key returners at receiver. Up front, Titan Tucker and MJ Ruhman return on the offensive line after earning district honors a year ago. There are a lot more holes that will have to be filled on defense as the Highlanders lose 11 of their 13 leading tacklers. This leaves linebackers Noah Polotko, 34 tackles, and Pablo Amaya, 26 tackles, as the only returnees among those players.  One big help will be the addition of Martrell Harris, who had to play JV football last year due to transfer rules. He has five Division I offers, including ones from Baylor, Texas, and Texas A&M. These Highlanders have a lot of roster turnover to deal with, but this is a program that has a history of reloading year after year, so they certainly should not be underestimated.

Willis Wildkats 

Last Season: 3-7

Head Coach: Michael Wall: 3rd season as head coach

Player to watch: QB Steele Bardwell- Back for his third season on varsity after an impressive junior year where he threw for 2,058 yards and earned second team all-district honors. His leadership behind center will be crucial as the Wildkats make the step up to the 6A level.

Storylines: The Wildkats make the move up to 6A and will be one of the smallest 6A schools after just being three students above the realignment cutoff. Luckily for them, Bardwell is back and so is running back Johnny McHenry, who earned a district honorable mention last year as a sophomore. Out at receiver, 6’4” Ja’Kobe McCoy will be a big target for Bardwell in passing situations. On the other side of the ball, the Wildkats have talent back in their secondary as Tallas Harrison, 48 tackles, one interception and three forced fumbles, and Jadarius Brown, a second team selection last season, both return after impressive sophomore seasons. At linebacker, Jace Halbaedier will be a key returnee. “We do have some experienced talent coming back on the offensive and defensive skilled positions,” Wall said. “These guys will have to make plenty of plays this year as we head into a challenging district at the 6A level.  They bring the experience and leadership to the team, as we rebuild our defensive line after losing all four to graduation.  It will be a fun year.” In the final phase of the game on special teams, Christian Pavon will be a reliable presence at kicker and punter after being a second team all-district selection at punter last year. The Wildkats have talent back on both sides of the ball and they will hope to make their first year as a 6A program a memorable one and compete for their first playoff berth since 2016.

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