Class 3A has a new member this year in the mix, and they happen to be the back-to-back state champions from Canadian; who are riding a 31-game winning streak and returning some deadly players at critical positions for this fall’s run at a title. There are other teams in 3A DII that may put up a challenge to the Wildcats, and a plethora of teams in 3A DI that will be key cogs in the playoff mix for 2016. So, let’s get to it. Here are the top ten teams coming into 2016’s football season.
#1. CANADIAN WILDCATS
DISTRICT 1-3A DII: PROJECTED DISTRICT FINISH: 1ST
31 consecutive wins. Two straight 2A DI titles. Over 30+point victory margin in every game. Folks, that is called dominance and domination. Expect the same in 2016 from the Wildcats as they will breeze through their district besides a tough game with Childress to determine the winner of 1-3A DII. Corbin Douthitt, Cameron Copley, Manny Ramsey, Holton Hufstedler and the 2015 defensive MVP of the 2A DI title game, Cade Throgmorton, return for Coach Koetting’s attack on both sides of the ball in 2016. They might not see a real game until they wind up against Cisco in the Regional round, and even then I presume they win that game as well. The ‘Cats just reload man. They are walking history…
#2. CHILDRESS BOBCATS
DISTRICT 1-3A DII: PROJECTED DISTRICT FINISH: 2ND
The Bobcats of Childress may be the team to surprise us all. A very good team with 16 returning starters to a squad that went to the playoffs last year sets them up well. Luke Darter will lead the team at quarterback this fall, moving over from the safety spot to lead the Bobcats. He has some help right behind him with Bo Lott and two excellent receivers in Alfonso Salinas and Garrett Stephens to spread out the attack. Also, he has two returning all-district lineman with Cam Garcia and Rhett Buckley. Defensively, they have one of the best linebacking cores in 3A led by Caleb Tucker, who had 92 tackles last year. Can they win the district, maybe not. But they will be a force in the playoffs as they will likely see Roosevelt in the first round of the tournament.
#3. MULESHOE MULES
DISTRICT 1-3A DI: PROJECTED DISTRICT FINISH 1ST
The Mules are back and ready to make some ruckus for 2016. Can they make enough to get past the Regional Round this fall? Dagen Dunham, who will be on a Division One roster come this time next year, will cause havoc this fall for opposing teams! Dunham will be counted on to deliver pressure as a defensive end, and make some big plays in Wes Wood’s “NASCAR” offense. He will. Beto steps in a quarterback with a new number (12) and a new attitude. Jason Florez is another all-state caliber weapon at the disposal of the Mules along with Donovan Gutierrez; who had 140 tackles in the middle linebacker spot last year! They have some depth and a rigid non-district schedule to get them ready for the end of the year. Don’t be surprised if they take on Brady in the Area Round, followed by Wall in the Regional Round.
#4 IDALOU WILDCATS
DISTRICT 2-3A DII: PROJECTED DISTRICT FINISH 1ST
The Wildcats were one defensive stop away in the 3A DII Semifinals from beating Waskom and going to the title game in Houston. In 2016, Idalou will have a completely different roster as they will only have three returning starters to Coach Lofton’s attack. Jonathan Pacheco will be the quarterback for this fall’s team and will be relied on heavily for the bulk of the offense. But, if you know Idalou, you know they make their living on defense. I honestly feel like their defense won’t be dropping off at all this year. Idalou will win their district, and may go a couple of rounds deep in the playoffs as well.
#5. SHALLOWATER MUSTANGS
DISTRICT 1-3A DI: PROJECTED DISTRICT FINISH 2ND
Coach Chad Terry is here, and brings in some energy to the Mustang Nation. After losing Coach Maxfield to Brownwood, they have found a pretty damn good replacement in Terry. Cutter Sparks will need some experience on the Varsity level, but if we see what we saw out of him on the Junior Varsity team this year in any capacity, lookout! Braxton steps in for Cooper Ogle at tailback and won’t be expected to put up those numbers he did, but he will do a good job nonetheless. The wildcard for this team is Brody Hendrick. Brody is a bad dude on both sides of the ball and will be used effectively at cornerback and slotback/receiver for Shallowater. They only return five starters in 2016, but they are built on tradition and hard work. I don’t see them falling too far off the championship pace they have kept in that program for years.
#6 SPEARMAN LYNX
DISTRICT 1-3A DII: PROJECTED DISTRICT FINISH 3RD
The Lynx have been the example of excellence the last two years as a football program; churning out great players and a great product for every team they have faced. This year, they have a gauntlet of a district in 1-3A DII and should finish third in the standings. Trenton Baird returns to the backfield and should put up even more yardage this year after his 1,072 yards and 15 scores last year. On the defensive side, they lost a lot but have great pieces returning with the likes of Alvaro Chavez, Cobee Harrison, Lane Farrah and Everado Flores. Payton Smith will be the key at quarterback and at cornerback for the Lynx who will be in the playoffs again in 2016.
#7 LITTLEFIELD WILDCATS
DISTRICT 1-3A DI: PROJECTED DISTRICT FINISH 3RD
Littlefield is going to do two things every year: play hard-nosed defense, and hit you square in the mouth with a deadly running game that can attack in various ways; in every hole on the offensive line too. Losing Bryson Calaway and Nate Herrera in the backfield will hurt the Wildcats, but not as much as everyone may assume due to Chris Douglas returning with his 975 yards and 15 scores he amassed last year. They will tread lightly in a district that is all of a sudden very tough with Muleshoe, Shallowater, Friona, River Road and themselves making the playoffs in 2015. They may surprise some people and will be battle-tested with their tough non-district schedule. Littlefield will be good again come late October.
8. ROOSEVELT EAGLES
DISTRICT 2-3A DII: PROJECTED DISTRICT FINISH 2ND
The Eagles have been a little bit disappointing the last two years and should have made the playoffs in both of those seasons under Coach John Contrucci. With Contrucci’s departure comes a change in philosophy and style. Under Coach Quisenberry, the Eagles will play a lot more pro-style offense instead of the spread. Defensively, they have the tools to make it difficult for opposing offenses to muster up success with players like Teagan Cooksey and Garrett Heatley roaming the field, and a great all-state lineman in Kevin Shoemaker to block for Isaia Montgomery this fall. A tough district awaits the Eagles in 2016, and a likely meeting with Spearman in the first round of the playoffs too.
9. SLATON TIGERS
DISTRICT 1-3A DI: PROJECTED DISTRICT FINISH 4TH
Coach Stacey Martin comes over from Odessa Permain to lead the Tigers, who lost their AD and head coach last year. Slaton went to the playoffs in 2015 before being eliminated by Muleshoe, 76-25 in the bi-district round. 15 starters are back for the Tigers including all-everything, Desreal Williams to the fold. Ryan Sykora will be an even better at quarterback than he was in 2015, and I also like his swagger. He gets it! They will make an impressive leap this year, just not enough to get out of a first round game with Wall; who will be state title good again.
#10 AMARILLO HIGHLAND PARK HORNETS
DISTRICT 1-3A DII: PROJECTED DISTRICT FINISH 4TH
The hornets are going to be good in a great district this year. Highland Park will lean on great defense with players like Omar Arreola and Diamond Drone that return this fall. Their offense will need to put up some points to hang with teams like Canadian and Childress in their district. Honestly, finishing in fourth place behind Canadian, Childress, and Spearman can’t be that bad..Right??