Some preseason prognosticators, including those in Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine, tabbed Coolidge as the favorite in District 14-1A Div. I over defending champ Abbott.
And Abbott coach Terry Crawford has no problem with that.
“I think it’s a fair assessment, the way it ought to be,” he said. “Coolidge had some young kids last year and they’re all back, and on paper they ought to be the team to beat.”
While that Abbott-Coolidge contest on Nov. 3 most likely will determine the title, none of the teams in this well-stacked loop can be overlooked. Every team in the district finished with an overall record of .500 or better in 2016, the only league in all of Class 1A that can make that claim.
Aquilla and Gholson are breaking in new coaches, while Randall Ballew remains a fixture in Penelope, which opened last season with six straight victories.
- LAST SEASON — 9-3 (4-0)
- RETURNING STARTERS — 4 offensive, 2 defensive
- COACH TERRY CRAWFORD — 177-57 at Abbott
Playoff history: 34-18 in 20 trips, most recently 2016; 1 state championship (2015)
Outlook: Terry Crawford felt that Abbott’s offense would be ahead of the defense. What he saw early on in two-a-days backed up that feeling. But it makes sense because the Panthers have more to replace on that side of the ball.
Abbott returns four offensive starters and two defensive starters from last year’s area finalist team.
“My biggest concern overall is that we just don’t have depth,” the Abbott coach said. “Our numbers are down. We’re used to just plugging people in. We’ve got to get six really tough minded, physically in-shape players that can go for long periods of time.”
Matthew Urbanovsky returns after rushing for 597 yards and six scores while recording 90 tackles. Those totals make him the team’s leading rusher and tackler.
“We have a lot of new players this year and we have a decent amount returning,” Urbanovsky said. “I think it will be a pretty good season.”
DL/OL Jared Pavelka has “unlimited potential,” Crawford said, and can take over games defensively. Abbott will also benefit from the return of QB Paxton Miller, who has made great strides after “taking his licks last year.”
The good news for Crawford is that 100 percent of the freshmen boys signed up for athletics are playing football. The bad news is that it’s a small class.
9/2 vs Strawn (at Hico) 11:00
9/8 Mount Calm 7:30
9/15 at Hill Country Christian 7:30
9/22 at Blum 7:30
9/29 Cranfills Gap 7:30
10/6 Oakwood 7:30
10/13 Aquilla 7:30*
10/27 at Penelope 7:30*
11/3 Coolidge 7:30*
11/10 at Gholson 7:30*
Coolidge Yellow Jackets
- LAST SEASON — 6-5 (3-1)
- RETURNING STARTERS — 4 offensive, 5 defensive
- COACH WAYNE WARE — 6-5 at Coolidge
Playoff history: 5-12 in 13 trips, most recently 2013; 0 state championships
Outlook: Coolidge’s hopes of extending its season deep into December — and it’s not a flimsy hope by any stretch — rest on the back of sophomore all-purpose back Torrey Hoover.
Hoover exploded onto the scene last season, blowing up defenses on his way to a state-best 2,789 rushing yards and 37 touchdowns as well as 897 passing yards and 17 TDs. He averaged 253 rushing yards a game.
Yet he’s not the only Yellow Jacket who can sting you. OL/DL Colby Casarez possesses the kind of unique size, at 6-5 and 265 pounds, seldom seen in six-man football. RB/DE Jordan Brown chipped in 713 rushing yards and 11 TDs of his own last year.
8/31 at Rockwall Heritage 7:30
9/8 Calvert 7:30
9/15 Trinidad 7:30
9/22 at Oakwood 7:30
9/29 at Jonesboro 7:30
10/6 Kopperl 7:30
10/20 at Gholson 7:30*
10/27 Aquilla 7:30*
11/3 at Abbott 7:30*
11/10 Penelope 7:30*
- LAST SEASON — 5-5 (1-3)
- RETURNING STARTERS — 1 offensive, 2 defensive
- COACH JOSH BALL — 0-0 at Aquilla
Playoff history: 12-13 in 14 trips, most recently 2014; 0 state championships
Outlook: Aquilla has a new man in charge, and he has a vested interest in carrying on the tradition of Cougar football. That’s because Josh Ball is a former Super Centex center at Aquilla, graduating in 2005.
RB/LB Zack Winder gives Ball a nice piece upon which to build. Winder won first-team all-district honors on both sides of the ball as a sophomore. Other key returnees include RB/LB Jacob Felan and QB/DB Connor McCurdy.
In Ball’s senior year, Aquilla won its first district championship since 1989, so he’d love nothing more than to restore some of that past luster.
9/1 Covington 7:30
9/8 Walnut Springs 7:30
9/15 Mount Calm 7:30
9/22 at Avalon 7:30
9/29 Milford 7:30
10/6 at Bynum 7:30
10/13 at Abbott 7:30*
10/20 Penelope 7:30*
10/27 at Coolidge 7:30*
11/3 Gholson 7:30*
- LAST SEASON — 5-5 (2-2)
- RETURNING STARTERS — 3 offensive, 3 defensive
- COACH MICHAEL BRAND — 0-0 at Gholson
Playoff history: 0-1 in 1 trip (2015); 0 state championships
Outlook: After reaching the playoffs for the first time in the program’s short history in 2015, Gholson fell a win shy of that mark last fall.
But the new coach in town, Michael Brand, knows something about reaching the postseason. He comes to Gholson from Whitharral, which reached the playoffs in 1A Division II last year. Brand likes what he has seen from running backs C.J. Hutchison and Hayden Holecek-Newsome. Tight end Jaedon Blair could make a big impact in the passing game.
Defensively, Gholson will look to Daniel Roush, Brett Castanon and J.J. White to make plays. “We have an exciting group of young players who are excited about this year,” Brand said.
9/1 Avalon 7:30
9/8 Oglesby 7:30
9/15 at Milford 7:30
9/22 Walnut Springs 7:30
9/29 at Bynum 7:30
10/6 Cranfills Gap 7:30
10/13 at Penelope 7:30*
10/20 Coolidge 7:30*
11/3 at Aquilla 7:30*
11/10 Abbott 7:30*
- LAST SEASON — 6-4 (0-4)
- RETURNING STARTERS — 5 offensive, 5 defensive
- COACH RANDAL BALLEW — 7-33 at Penelope
Playoff history: 3-4 in 4 trips, most recently 2010; 0 state championships
Outlook: A blazing fast start flickered out once Penelope reached the rigors of district play, as the Wolverines shot out to a scorching 6-0 record before dropping their final four games in district.
The district slate doesn’t figure to get any easier, but the good news for Penelope is this: Numbers are as high as they’ve been in years. Head coach Randall Ballew said that 19 players showed for the first day of practice, and the team had the possibility of adding three more.
“We’re sitting pretty in that regard, especially when you think that just three short years ago I started the year with seven and finished with seven,” Ballew said.
8/31 Cranfills Gap 7:30
9/8 at Morgan 7:30
9/15 Bynum 7:30
9/22 Mount Calm 7:30
9/29 at Kopperl 7:30
10/6 at Covington 7:30
10/13 Gholson 7:30*
10/20 at Aquilla 7:30*
10/27 Abbott 7:30*
11/10 at Coolidge 7:30*