Last year four of the five head coaches in the district were rookies, the exception being Malcolm Cole at Avalon. Now those four men are back for their second go-round, and all say that there’s a better comfort level in Year 2.

“We’re definitely off to a better start than last year,” second-year Blum coach Cooper Thornhill said. “The kids understand better what we’re doing this year. We had 11 seniors last year, some pretty hard-headed kids, and it took a long time to adjust to our system. But this group seems to have bought in.”

Avalon’s players undoubtedly shop at Target, because the Eagles have a bull’s-eye on their backs after sweeping their way to the district title last fall. Expect Blum, which hasn’t missed the playoffs since 2011, to challenge for the crown.

Meanwhile, the players at Covington, Kopperl and Bynum would love to tell their grandchildren 50 years from now that they made history by snapping their respective schools’ playoff droughts. Kopperl last played in the postseason in 2003, while Covington (last trip: 1997) and Bynum (1992) haven’t advanced that far in the new millennium.

Blum Bobcats

  • LAST SEASON — 6-5 (3-1)
  • RETURNING STARTERS — 4 offensive, 2 defensive
  • COACH COOPER THORNHILL — 6-5 at Blum

Playoff history: 10-14 in 14 trips, most recently 2016; 0 state championships

Outlook: Thornhill has a three-member senior class, compared to 11 last year, and as such he thinks the season will be a work in progress. “But by the end of the year, I think we’re going to be a pretty good ball club,” he said.

Gone is Super Centex running back Dawson Vardeman, but his younger brother Dylan Vardeman remains as the lone returning starter. The sophomore will play QB/CB and carry a hefty load on both sides of the ball. “Dylan isn’t built the same as his brother, but he has the same motor,” Thornhill said.

Thornhill is also counting on senior DE/OL Nathan Moses and sophomore CB Blain Garza to be big-time playmakers.

Blum has aspirations of a district championship after slipping up (literally) against Avalon last year. After fumbling just 13 times in the first nine games of the year, the Bobcats lost 11 fumbles against Avalon amidst a torrential downpour.

Schedule

9/2 vs FW THESA Homeschool (at Hico) 6:30

9/7 Bluff Dale JV 7:30

9/15 Lingleville 7:30

9/22 Abbott 7:30

9/29 at Johnson County Homeschool 7:30

10/6 Live Oak Classical 7:30

10/13 at Kopperl 7:30*

10/20 Bynum 7:30*

11/3 at Covington 7:30*

11/10 Avalon 7:30*

Covington Owls

  • LAST SEASON — 2-7 (2-2)
  • RETURNING STARTERS — 4 offensive, 5 defensive
  • COACH CHARLES STEELE — 2-7 at Covington

Playoff history: 3-5 in 5 trips, most recently 1997; 0 state championships

Outlook: Continuity is a sacred word in Covington, considering its scarcity. “This is the first time in a while these kids have had the same coach two years in a row, so they know what’s expected now,” second-year coach Charles Steele said.

It’s important to have leaders, and Steele believes he has a pair of keepers in senior C/NG Caleb Marbut and RB/S J.J. Salas. “Those are two big leaders for our team, kids we’re going to look to a lot,” he said.

Despite a 2-7 record, the Owls lost three games by a touchdown or less last year and missed the playoffs by just one win. So the climb to the postseason isn’t an Everest-like hike, Steele said.

“This group is excited about being the group that breaks that barrier,” he said. “That’s a huge motivation.”

Schedule

9/1 at Aquilla 7:30

9/8 Oakwood 7:30

9/15 at Oglesby 7:30

9/22 Moran 7:30

9/30 Walnut Springs 7:30

10/6 Penelope 7:30

10/13 at Avalon 7:30*

10/20 Kopperl 7:30*

10/27 at Bynum 7:30*

11/3 Blum 7:30*

Kopperl Eagles

  • LAST SEASON — 2-8 (1-3)
  • RETURNING STARTERS — 6 offensive, 4 defensive
  • COACH JOHN WOOD — 2-8 at Kopperl

Playoff history: 0-1 in 1 trip (2003); 0 state championships

Outlook: Last year in John Wood’s first season at the helm in Kopperl, the Eagles dropped each of their first three district games by the 45-point mercy rule. But Kopperl closed the year with a mercy-rule victory over Bynum, giving the team something on which to build for the offseason.

A second year in Wood’s system should reap benefits, as well as the return of RB Ethan Scallion, the district’s top returning rusher with 1,198 yards and 19 touchdowns last year. However, Scallion — who opened his season with a 408-yard, eight-touchdown performance against the Zephyr JV — played in just seven games due to injury. OL Colten Ratliff is back after achieving all-district recognition.

Perhaps just as significant a return is Wood’s second year as head coach. It marks just the second time in the past seven years that Kopperl has entered a season with the same coach as the year before.

Schedule

8/31 at Zephyr JV 7:30

9/8 Iredell 7:30

9/15 at Walnut Springs 7:30

9/22 Oglesby 7:30

9/29 Penelope 7:30

10/6 at Coolidge 7:30

10/13 Blum 7:30*

10/20 at Covington 7:30*

10/27 Avalon 7:30*

11/10 at Bynum 7:30*

Bynum Bulldogs

  • LAST SEASON — 0-10 (0-4)
  • RETURNING STARTERS — 5 offensive, 5 defensive
  • COACH BRANDON GILMORE — 0-10 at Bynum

Playoff history: 1-3 in 3 trips, most recently 1992; 0 state championships

Outlook: After fielding a young team last fall, Bynum should capitalize on the experience those fresh-faced players gained. Second-year coach Brandon Gilmore has a roster of nine players, but several received valuable playing time a year ago.

QB/C Dakota Mynarcik runs the offense, and Gilmore has a lot of trust in his ability and leadership. RB/C Francisco Franco picked up all-district honors last season, and will also stand out as a team leader, as Bynum’s lone upperclassman.

Bynum’s last trip to the playoffs came in 1992, long before any of the current players were born.

“It’s been a while, but that’s one thing we’re trying to accomplish, to start some new traditions at Bynum,” Gilmore said. “Before our sophomores graduate, we want to get into the playoffs.”

Schedule

9/1 Morgan 7:30

9/8 Huntsville Alpha Omega 7:30

9/15 at Penelope 7:30

9/22 at Parkview Christian 7:30

9/29 Gholson 7:30

10/6 Aquilla 7:30

10/20 at Blum 7:30*

10/27 Covington 7:30*

11/3 at Avalon 7:30*

11/10 Kopperl 7:30*

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