Kyle Nickell
Contributor | Cooper Sports Network

Division I

  1. Stafford – Head Coach: Ken Savanah; 2016: 9-5 DI regional finalist; Returning starters: 4 offense/5 defense; Key Players: WR/DB Jalen Curry, QB Walter White, LB Noah Nelson. Coach Savanah takes over the program reins coming off of a regional final run. The offense has plenty of firepower with Curry on the outside and White at QB. Nelson heads up an athletic group of defenders.
  2. El Campo – Head Coach: Wayne Condra; 2016: 11-1 DI area finalist; Returning starters: 2 offense/3 defense; Key Players: RB Nery Enriquez, TE Reed Spenrath, DL Jarvon Bryant. The Ricebirds won 11 games last season, but were hit hard by graduation. One of the returners is Enriquez, a tough and physical runner. Bryant leads what should be a disruptive DL.
  3. Bay City – Head Coach: Lupe Florez; 2016: 7-5 DI area finalist; Returning starters: 8 offense/8 defense; Key Players: QB Dylan Davidson, SS Taveon Roberson, WR La’Darrion Florez. The Blackcats returned to the playoffs after a long absence. Davidson and Florez will highlight an experienced offense with playmaking capability. The defense will be keyed by the secondary with Roberson leading the way.
  4. Bridge City – Head Coach: Dwayne DuBois; 2016: 9-3 DI area finalist; Returning starters: 3 offense/9 defense; Key Players: CB/RB Hunter Denton, DB Justyn Romero, RB Max Baker. The Cardinals picked up 9 wins t as they continue their renaissance under coach DuBois. The offense will continue to run the ball led by Baker and Denton. Denton will also join Romero in an active and ball hawking secondary.
  5. Silsbee – Head Coach: Randy Smith; 2016: 6-5 DI bi-district finalist; Returning starters: 6 offense/7 defense; Key Players: WR Kalon Barnes, RB/LB Adonis Thomas, LB Adam Carroll. With 13 returning starters, the Tigers are poised for another playoff run. Barnes is the star on offense with his big play ability. The linebacker corps featuring Thomas and Carroll is the standout group on the defensive side.

Division II

  1. West Orange-Stark – Head Coach: Cornel Thompson; 2016: 16-0 DII state champion; Returning starters: 4 offense/3 defense; Key Players: CB Jarron Morris, LB Davien Teate, QB Chaka Watson. The two time defending champions will need to retool, but there is still plenty of talent. Morris and Teate will be key figures on defense, while the multi-talented Watson takes over at QB.
  2. Bellville – Head Coach: Grady Rowe; 2016:10-3 DII regional semifinalist; Returning starters: 2 offense/7 defense; Key Players: DL/OL Diego Muniz, CB Stone Rowe, CB Chancellor Leaks-Gilliam. The Brahmas look to build upon their ten win season. The defense will be experienced, keyed by DBs Rowe and Leaks-Gilliam. Muniz is a OL stalwart.
  3. Liberty – Head Coach: Chad Taylor; 2016: 10-3 DII regional semifinalist; Returning starters: 7 offense/8 defense; Key Players: QB J.J. Slack, OL John Ryde Moorman, DB L.J. Domain. The Panthers are primed to match last season’s 10-3 effort with 15 returning starters. Slack is a leader on offense, and he will be protected by a stout front led by Moorman. Domain will be a big part of a very good defensive backfield.
  4. Hardin-Jefferson – Head Coach: Jared Sloan; 2016: 7-4 DII area finalist: Returning starters: 7 offense/8 defense; Key Players: ATH Mason Murray, QB Brayden Pelt, DB Grayson Kash. The Hawks look to an experienced squad to compete in a very tough district. Pelt threw 13 TDs last season, and Murray can line up at several positions. Kash will be the key playmaker for the defense.
  5. Sweeny – Head Coach: Randy Lynch; 2016: 7-5 DII area finalist; Returning starters: 6 offense/5 defense; Key Players: OL Cameron Williams, FS Jordan Johnson, DL Michael Willer. The Bulldogs continue to be one of the area’s solid programs. Both lines will be an area of strength, keyed on the offensive side by Williams and the defensive by Willer. Johnson will be a ball hawk from his safety spot.

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