Wylie, Garland ISD squads set to battle for District 9-6A championship

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District 9-6A is located northeast of Dallas. It contains all seven Garland ISD schools and Wylie. These eight schools have played together in District 10-6A the past two years, so there will be plenty of familiarity among the teams in this district.

With arguably the best running back in the state, a team loaded with junior stars, one star quarterback looking to lead his school back to the playoffs for the first time in eight years, and a perennial contender reloading among the storylines, it is sure to be a district to watch this year.

Here are the players and storylines to keep an eye on in District 9-6A this season.

Garland Owls (2320)
Last Season: 3-7
Head Coach: Danny Russell: 5th season as head coach
Non-District game to watch: 9/4 @Richardson- The Owls scored one of their three wins last season against Richardson, etching out a 31-24 win at home. The year before, Richardson squeaked by Garland 21-19, so if history repeats itself, it should be another competitive showdown this season.
Players to watch: WR Jordan Hudson- He burst onto the scene as a sophomore last season, catching 80 passes for 1,285 yards and 19 touchdowns, earning District 10-6A Offensive Newcomer of the Year. He has 19 Division I offers currently, including ones from Alabama, LSU, and Texas, and is primed for another big season.
Storylines: Don’t let their record from last season fool you. These Owls have a lot of young talent and are going to be a dangerous team to face this season. Junior quarterback Cergio Perez threw for 2,457 yards and 29 touchdowns last season. He and Hudson could be one of the most productive tandems in the DFW area. The Owls also return their leading rusher in junior Jayshon Powers, 902 yards and five rushing touchdowns, who has picked up offers from Illinois State and Oklahoma State. Receiver Charles Allen, another junior and a second team selection last season, will complement Hudson in the passing games after racking up 370 receiving yards last season. Ellis Rogers is another player to watch at receiver, as noted by Russell. He played in just five games last year due to injury, but still racked up over 400 yards receiving and six touchdowns. “This is a dynamic group of kids. I expect this group to be even better this year,” Russell said. “We are young in the offensive line as well so that is a bit of a concern. However, the upside of this group is incredible. If we can run the ball effectively, we should be quite prolific on the offensive side of the ball.” The defense has more talented youth as well. “I also expect us to be better defensively which should create even more chances for the offense,” Russell said. Juniors DE Douglas Onchweri, 35 total tackles, and safety Da’Von Fennell, 53 total tackles, were both district honorable mentions last year. Fellow safety Chace Biddle, 43 total tackles, is highly touted and has received 13 Division I offers. CB Aaron King, two interceptions a year ago, also has two Division I offers from Kansas and Illinois State. These Owls have a chance to post one of the biggest increases in wins this season in the DFW area. A lot of these players gained valuable experience last season. This season they will be ready to compete, looking to get Garland back to the playoffs for the first time since 2015.

Garland Lakeview Centennial Patriots (2455)
Last Season: 6-5: Defeated in bi-district by Dallas Jesuit
Head Coach: Kendall Miller: 9th season as head coach
Non-District game to watch: 9/11 @North Mesquite- This game will serve as a chance for revenge for the Patriots after they were defeated by North Mesquite 33-14 a year ago. A win here and the Patriots would be able to carry some good momentum into district play.
Player to watch: RB Camar Wheaton- A 5-star prospect who is arguably one of the hottest recruits in the nation with Oklahoma, LSU, SMU, and Texas among his top considerations. He rushed for 1,142 yards and 15 touchdowns a year ago and has lightning-quick speed, evidenced by his 10.62 second time in the 100 meters.
Storylines: Wheaton was the MVP of this district last season and will be one of the favorites to win it again this year. The Patriots will have to replace their quarterback Jarret Adams from last season, but senior quarterback Michael Hierro, a star hurdler for the Patriots, could be an option behind center. Second team all-district WR Jalen Davis, 521 receiving yards and five touchdowns, and two-year starter Caleb Reed, 117 receiving yards and two touchdowns, will provide crucial experience at the receiver position for whoever is named the starting quarterback. On the offensive line, first team all-district center Ezra Dotson-Oyetade is a four-star recruit and has picked up 26 Division I offers with Arizona State, Virginia, and Vanderbilt among his top considerations. On the other side of the ball, 6’4” and 275-pound defensive tackle Ike Iwunnah will anchor the line after being a first team all-district selection the past two seasons. He has 11 Division I offers, including ones from Baylor and Texas. Iwunnah will be joined by fellow defensive lineman Jonathon Brown, who was a district honorable mention last season. Junior Isaiah Ellis is a name to watch at linebacker as he was named District 10-6A Defensive Newcomer of the Year last season. As the Patriots get their new quarterback settled in, Wheaton will lead the way on offense with Iwunnah anchoring the team on defense as these Patriots look to get back to the playoffs for the second year running.

Garland Naaman Forest Rangers (2260)
Last Season: 4-7; Defeated by McKinney in the bi-district round
Head Coach: Jesse Perales: 2nd season as head coach
Non-District game to watch: 9/4 vs. Flower Mound- Naaman Forest’s lone home game on their non-district slate sees a Flower Mound team come to town that went 8-4 and won their first ever playoff game in school history last season.
Player to watch: TE/DE Devean Deal- A big-bodied option in the passing game at 6’4” and 225 pounds. He was a first team all-district selection on both offense and defense after catching 40 passes for 519 yards, while also racking up 12 tackles for loss on the other side of the ball. He has picked up offers from 17 Division I programs, including Kansas, Northwestern, and Syracuse.
Storylines: This was a young Rangers team last season that remarkably turned a 0-5 start into a playoff berth. The promising thing for the Rangers is they have a lot of key players back this year. “We return the entire offensive unit to include several back-ups. Our expectation is that they are very comfortable with the offense now and they are not having to think as much,” Perales said. “Now they can use their talent and rely on experience to play fast, dynamic, and smart.” The Rangers have a trio of quarterbacks back who saw playing time last year. Francisco Beltran, a two-year varsity letterman, started one game before injury. Then Austin Valdez started seven games, throwing for 896 yards and six touchdowns, while junior Jaden Flores also started three games, throwing for 371 yards and three touchdowns. At running back, junior Kingsley Bennett returns to be the main back after rushing for 899 yards and ten touchdowns last season. Seniors Aden Gonzalez, 273 receiving yards, and Brison Huey, 195 receiving yards and second team all-district honors, each return alongside Deal to provide reliable targets in passing situations. Deal will also be a threat on the other side of the ball alongside fellow defensive lineman and two-way player Tommy Dunn, who also can play tight end. Dunn had 45 tackles a year ago and has picked up six offers, including ones from Kansas, UTSA, and Rice. In the secondary, Matua Mauga is a key player and hard hitter at safety, totaling 56 tackles a year ago. The Rangers have several key players back on both sides of the ball and will be looking to build off their first season under Perales as they aim to make it back to the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year.

Garland Rowlett Eagles (2509)
Last Season: 4-6
Head Coach: Doug Stephens: 8th season as head coach
Non-District game to watch: 9/4 @Plano- The lone road game for Rowlett in non-district play. They will be out for revenge against a Plano team that went 5-5 last season and defeated the Eagles 55-34 when they squared off a year ago.
Player to watch: RB/WR- Colton Yarbrough- His versatility will help offensively as he can play both running back and slot receiver for the Eagles. He earned a district honorable mention last season after rushing for 414 yards and racking up 100 yards receiving as a sophomore.
Storylines: Rowlett was left out of the playoffs last year for the first time in fifteen years after being on the short end of a three-way tiebreaker. This year, in addition to Yarbrough, D’Wonyae Newton, 351 rushing yards and four touchdowns, also returns at running back for the Eagles. They must replace their starting quarterback after Alex Routt graduated, but senior Tre Carr started in the final game of last season due to an injury to Routt and accumulated 325 total yards of offense in an agonizing 42-40 loss. The Eagles also must find some replacements at receiver after Tre’von King and Antonio Hull both graduated after combining for 1,028 receiving yards last season. On defense, six out of the seven Eagles who earned district mentions last season graduated. DE Michael Ibukun-Okeyode is the lone returnee after being an honorable mention as a sophomore last year. Senior linebacker Cameron Kongamnach, who just picked up an offer from Division III Occidental College, will look to have an impact on defense at linebacker. The Eagles will hope Carr can fulfill the promise he showed in the final game of last season and elevate their talented backfield while they fill holes at receiver and on defense as they aim to get back to their tradition of making the playoffs.

Garland Sachse Mustangs (2851)
Last Season: 8-3; Defeated by Allen in bi-district
Head Coach: Mark Behrens: 19th season as head coach
Non-District game to watch: 8/28 @Coppell- This showdown to open the season should be a good one as the last two meetings between these two have been decided by a total of five points. Coppell won 30-28 in 2018, but Sachse got their revenge last year in a 33-30 victory. It will be a good road test for the Mustangs to open the season.
Player to watch: QB Alex Orji- A transfer in from Bishop Dunne, who threw for 116 yards in limited action last year. He will be a likely favorite to take over the starting job and is a highly watched, dual-threat prospect, who has 7 Division I offers, including ones from Oklahoma, Baylor, and Texas Tech.
Storylines: Sachse has a lot of key players to replace due to graduation and transfers. Leading rusher Shon Coleman, leading receiver Jordan Nabors, and leading passer Parker Wells all transferred and the other quarterback that saw time, Xavier Forman, graduated, so the Mustangs will be searching for replacements leading into the season. Orji transferring in at quarterback will help behind center. Junior Brian Okoye was the third-leading rusher a year ago with 244 yards and three touchdowns and will bring valuable experience to the backfield. The team’s seven leading receivers are gone too due to transfers and graduation, so the receiving room will see intriguing competition. All six players who earned first or second team all-district honors on defense also graduated. Kori Jones, a safety who earned a district honorable mention and can also play running back, and linebacker John Onaiwu, 32 tackles, return to provide what will be valuable experience to a young defense. “We will be young in some spots but I feel we will be more athletic. Spring football was going to be big, so getting the reps we need early will be the key to our success,” Behrens said. “We feel we have a good program, and all good programs just reload and keep rolling.  We believe in the players we have.”  Behrens and the Mustangs will be a team to watch as they look to replace key players at several positions, but with the pedigree of the Mustangs program, they certainly cannot be overlooked.

North Garland Raiders (2756)
Last Season: 6-4
Head Coach: Joe Castillo: 9th season as head coach
Non-District game to watch: 9/4 @L.D. Bell- The lone road game on the Raiders non-district slate. L.D. Bell went 3-7 a year ago and run a triple option attack, which will be a good test for the Raiders run defense before they hit district play.
Player to watch: RB Dexter Davis Jr.- He was a district honorable mention last year after rushing for 312 yards and two touchdowns. He will be relied upon by the Raiders to step up and help fill the hole left by Sabron Woods, who graduated after rushing for 1,349 yards and 25 touchdowns on his way to being named District 10-6A MVP last season.
Storylines: The Raiders will have some rebuilding to do after 15 players who earned district honors last season graduated. On offense, the Raiders lose their quarterback, two of their top three running backs, four receivers, a tight end, and five offensive linemen that all earned district honors. Davis and 6’2” and 225-pound tight end Kameron Wheeler are two key returnees on an offense that will be desperate for varsity experience. On the other side of the ball, Wheeler will also be a threat off the edge from his defensive end position. Senior Rodney Gibson is another talent on the line at defensive tackle and has picked up offers from Missouri Baptist and Carthage College. Isaiah Watkins is a name to watch in the secondary after he was an honorable mention last season. The Raiders came up just short of the playoffs last season, but there is work to be done leading into this one as they turn over their roster from a year ago.

South Garland Colonels (2151)
Last Season: 1-9
Head Coach: Damaso Martinez: 2nd season as head coach
Non-District game to watch: 8/27 vs. Grand Prairie- Grand Prairie comes to town for the season opener after going 1-9 last season as well. Both these teams will be desperate to win this one in order to gain some crucial momentum and confidence for the season.
Player to watch: QB/RB Jalil Brown- A very athletic player who will run the Colonels’ spread offense. He had a breakout year as a sophomore, rushing for 1,315 yards, throwing for 542 more, and totaling 14 touchdowns, which earned him second team all-district honors.
Storylines: Martinez is looking to turn around a program that has not been to the playoffs since 2012. Martinez said that the coaching staff will “expect a lot from our young core here at South.” Brown put up big numbers last season and will be a key player on offense for the Colonels. Martinez also said that he expects “a breakout campaign by sophomore running back and linebacker Jayllen Chambers,” who started at running back last season after Brown transitioned to quarterback full-time. Junior wide receiver Ty Key, 296 receiving yards last season, is another weapon back and the coaching staff believes he will make a “heavy impact” on both sides of the ball. Senior WR/TE/LB Dayvaun Gilmore, 13 catches for 100 yards last season, is an “extremely versatile player” and a “great blocker at all offensive positions.” He can play in a variety of positions on both sides of the ball, according to the Colonels coaching staff. Up front, 6’4” and 310-pound offensive lineman Diego Escalante is a third year starter and coaches expect him to “[bring] a veteran presence to a young and powerful offense.” On defense, 5’10” and 220-pound senior linebacker Michael Gonzalez will be one to watch after leading South Garland in tackles last season. Junior Jacob Crim will be a reliable presence in the secondary as he enters his third year as a starter on varsity. “While we do expect a lot of help from returning senior starters Diego Escalante, Michael Gonzalez, and Dayvaun Gilmore, we also expect a solid season from our younger group that includes junior Ty Key, [and] junior Jacob Crim,” Martinez said. There is a lot of promise for the Colonels heading into the season. Expect a heavy dosage of Brown making plays with the football as the Colonels look for this young core to develop and build off of Martinez’s first season at the helm.

Wylie Pirates (2823)
Last Season: 6-5; Defeated in bi-district by Prosper 24-0
Head Coach: Jimmy Carter: 1st season as head coach
Non-District game to watch: 9/4 vs. Keller Central- The only home game for the Pirates in non-district play comes against a Keller Central side that went 7-4 a year ago and also were eliminated in the bi-district round. If the Pirates win this one, they’ll have a good chance to head into district play at 3-0.
Player to watch: QB Marcus McElroy- He’ll have full control of the offense this season after splitting time with now graduated quarterback Mason Lang last year. McElroy threw 877 yards and 6 touchdowns, and earned first team all-district honors in District 10-6A.
Storylines: Jimmy Carter was promoted from defensive coordinator to head coach this past offseason after Bill Howard retired after 14 years at the helm. The Pirates will be glad to have McElroy back after their leading rusher and three leading receivers graduated. 6’0” and 195-pound Trey Adams, who plays a variety of positions including linebacker, and 5’8” and 155-pound William Perry will be good complements at running back after each rushed for just over 250 yards last season. Seth Kramer is the leading returning receiver after a promising sophomore campaign where he caught 10 passes for 159 yards. On the other side of the ball, eight Pirates who earned first or second team all-district honors on defense graduated. Dezmond Adamson, 94 total tackles, and Dawson Cox, 34 total tackles, will be two important returnees at linebacker after being named district honorable mentions a year ago. Kicker Andrew Cunningham will be a weapon on special teams after earning first team all-district honors the past two seasons. The Pirates have potential on offense and, if they can fill the holes left on defense by their graduating players, they will be contenders for their third consecutive playoff berth.

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