Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Area football teams ready to blitz the field

With football season right around the corner, local athletes are gearing up for what should be another great season on the gridiron.

Last year, four of the seven southern Denton County programs made the playoffs, and in 2021, there could be even more.

Guyer reached the state semifinals in 2020 and came up just short against Cedar Hill in a season where the Wildcats were plagued by injuries.

Coach Rodney Webb, in his second season at the helm for the Wildcats, said he is optimistic about Guyer’s chances in 2021.

“We feel like we have a chance to be really good if we can stay healthy,” Webb said. “We have an extremely difficult schedule that will help forge us into a championship-caliber team come playoff time.”

Jackson Arnold is the likely replacement for Eli Stowers (Texas A&M) at quarterback, and other players to watch for the Wildcats offensively include Grayson O’Bara and Jace Wilson at receiver, Joe Radovan and Nathan Penny on the offensive line, BJ Phillips at running back, and Si Stovall at tight end.

On defense, look for Rowan Briggs at defensive end, a strong linebacker group that includes Brooks Etheridge, Carson Parham, Jaden Powell, and Wally Sagui and defensive backs Marquan Pope and Peyton Bowen, to lead the way in the secondary.

Guyer finished 11-3 last season and returns 13 starters.

The Wildcats are the presumptive favorites to win district 5-6A this season, and Webb said to repeat on last year’s success, it will take a couple of things.

“We have to stay healthy and focused on being the best version of ourselves late in the season when it matters most,” Webb said.

Over in Flower Mound, Coram Deo Academy is looking to get things back on track after going 1-6 overall last season and finishing last in TAPPS Division II, District 2.

The Lions, who carry an impressive team GPA of 3.75, are hoping to make “some serious improvements this season,” according to coach Sean Riley.

“First and foremost, we will need to stay healthy,” Riley said. “If we stay healthy, we will be a force to be reckoned with.”

The Lions lost 13 seniors from last year’s squad, but do return some offensive fire power in DI prospects Sam Gerth (WR) and John Raybuck (RB).

“Gerth is a force on both sides of the ball,” Riley said. “John has numerous P5 coaches on his trail. John runs hard, but also has some nasty cuts that leave defenders defenseless.”

Other players to keep an eye on this season for the Lions include Nolan Marshall, Keegan Luna, Zach McCalley, Carson Schmitz, Jackson Corley, Brock Holton and quarterback Luke Newton.

Coram Deo returns five offensive starters and three defensive starters from last year’s team and Fort Worth Christian and Fort Worth Southwest Christian seem to be the teams to beat in TAPPS Division II, District 2.

Following a 4-6 season in 2020, the Flower Mound Jaguars are looking to get things back on track and claim one of the top four spots in district 2021.

“We are excited about the upcoming season,” coach Brian Basil said. “We were pleased with our players’ progress during offseason, spring football and through our summer strength and conditioning program. We have put in the work to allow us to compete for a district championship.”

Among the players from whom Basil expects strong seasons in 2021 include quarterback Nick Evers (2,514 passing yards and 20 TD’s – Elite 11 Finalist this summer), receivers Parker Clark (690 yards receiving and 6 TDs) and Cade Edlein (454 yards receiving and 4 TDs), linebacker Ryan Brubaker (45 tackles, 5 pass breakups) tight end Caden Jensen (23 receptions as a sophomore starter), and receiver Walker Mulkey (371 yards receiving and 2 TDs).

Marcus, Lewisville, Coppell and Hebron look to be the teams to beat this season in district 6-6A, and to grab one of the top four spots, Basil said it will take his veteran players stepping up.

“We will need to rely on our senior leadership to set the example for the work ethic and commitment that it takes to compete in a very tough district,” Basil said.

The Jags return seven offensive starters and five defensive starters from last year’s team.

Over at Marcus, the Marauders are hoping to pick up right where they left off last season, finishing up with a 9-1 record last season and winning a district championship.

“I am feeling good about the season and I like what the team has done this summer,” coach Kevin Atkinson said. “They have been working very hard.”

Offensively, expect for quarterbacks Jaxxon Warren and Cole Welliver to see substantial playing time and look for receivers Dallas Dudley and Ashton Cozart, tight end Connor Vaughn and running backs Gabe Espinoza and Walker Wells to lead way, while linemen Bennett Castleberry and Ja’Den Rush hold it down up front.

Defensively, expect strong seasons from linebackers Emmerick Dopona and Zane Benson, lineman Chris Walstead, Bryson Barber, Walker Bergeson and Jacob Geddes, and look for cornerback Zach Morris to anchor the secondary.

Marcus returns six offensive and three defensive players from last year’s team, and Atkinson said his team will also rely on veterans setting a good example to lead the way to success.

“It will come down to senior leadership and if we can eliminate mistakes on all three phases,” Atkinson said.

In Justin, the Northwest football team is coming off of a 7-4 season in 2020 and third place finish in district 3-5A.

Coach Bill Poe he has been impressed with what he has seen so far from his team and anticipates a good season.

“We have a great core of experienced players coming back,” Poe said. “This is a great group of players that have great chemistry and believe in each other. We feel good about our chances of doing as well as we did last year, if not better. Our goal is to finish higher in the district race and further in the playoffs.”

Players to watch for the Texans include quarterback Jake Strong (197-306 for 2319 yards, 29 TD, 5 INT), running back Kyle Cummings (134 rushes for 868 yards, 8 TD), receiver Kenan Reil (15 catches for 200 yards, 4 TD) linebackers Ashton Peterson and Tyran McGee, safety Preston Scrivner and defensive end Carl Ferris.

Northwest returns six offensive and seven defensive starters from last year’s team and Abilene Cooper, Azle and Brewer should be the teams to beat.

To make the playoffs in 2021, Poe said it will take two things.

“We have to stay healthy and have great execution on both sides of the ball,” Poe said.

Up in Argyle, the Eagles brought home their second state championship in school history in 2020, with a 49-21 victory over Lindale in the state championship game.

Coach Todd Rodger’s team comes into the season as the top-ranked 4A DI team according to Dave Campbell’s Texas Football, and Rodgers said he is excited about that distinction.

“That’s based on the number and quality of the returning starters,” Rodgers said. “We have a very experienced team, and we must utilize the preseason schedule to build depth for a tough district schedule.”

Rodgers said the strength of Argyle’s offensive unit is their offensive line, which includes Sheridan Wilson, Nick Rubien, Austin Criswell and Wes Tucker. Defensively, Grant Mirabel, Jett Copeland and Will Ramsey will lead the defensive unit “that has very talented players at each position.”

Argyle went 16-0 last season and returns five offensive and six defensive starters, which Rodgers said he will need to repeat upon last year’s success.

“We must stay healthy as a team to make a long playoff run,” Rodgers said.

Expect Melissa, Paris and Kaufman to be the Eagles toughest district opponents.

Down the road at Liberty Christian, the Warriors went 1-4 in district competition and will look to former Dallas Cowboys standout and new head coach Jason Witten to help lead the team back to its winning ways this coming season.

Players to watch for the Warriors include receivers Christian Driver and Elijah Williams, and a strong offensive line, which includes Kayden Taylor, Dominick Taylor and Gabe Moore.

Defensively, look for lineman Triston DeLaRosa and backer Devin Strange to lead the way.

“The team will be led by a very hard working and talented senior class. We have had a great summer of workouts and the level of commitment to our program has never been higher. We are looking forward to the things God will do in our upcoming football season,” said Johnny Isom, Athletic Director.

Parish Episcopal and Plano Prestonwood appear to be the teams to beat in TAPPS Division I, District 1 this season.

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