2018 Region Outlooks — 4A Division II Region II: Gilmer is close to being back on top and can Texarkana Pleasant Grove defend the crown?
AS WE LOOK AHEAD TO THE 2018 TEXAS HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL SEASON, DCTF'S MATT STEPP TAKES A LOOK AT HOW EACH REGION SHOULD SHAKE OUT WHEN FALL ROLLS AROUND.
Today’s spotlight: Class 4A Division II Region II
Region II looks very similar to the configuration from the previous two years, but there are some notable differences to keep an eye out for. District 5-4A Division II remains fairly intact with Sunnyvale up from Class 3A replacing Ferris who moved over to Region I.
6-4A Division II, which is based in East Panama is another district that held form for the most part, Atlanta and Gladewater both dropped to Class 3A and down from 4A Division I is Texarkana Liberty-Eylau. 7-4A Division II is based mostly around the Tyler area with Brownsboro, Bullard and Canton all within about 30 minutes of the Rose City (give or take), Wills Point who went west closer to Dallas last alignment moves east, while Rusk who went south deep into East Panama last cycle heads north on Highway 69.
8-4A Division II has the looks of a very deep and very tough district mostly based around the Waco area, the notable addition to this district is Madisonville who moves north along I-45.
On the surface, a 10-3 season seems like a tremendous year, but in Gilmer it’s not good enough. Such is life for a name program that’s had so much recent success. Head coach Matt Turner’s squad will still be solid, but the big question will be who takes over at QB after the departure of a record setting QB? Versatile Bran Webb is a big time playmaker and will be key for the Buckeyes on both sides of the ball and WR Tra Fluellen is another versatile player who will see time in the secondary. Gilmer has players in the pipeline as the JV posted a strong 8-1 record, so we’ll anticipate a few early hiccups but by playoff time this team will be one of the favorites in Region II.
Texarkana Pleasant Grove
The Hawks earned their first state title in school history a year ago but an outstanding group of seniors loaded with talent has moved on. RB Bruce Garrett (1,031, 10 TDs) had a big sophomore year and will likely take over as the feature back in the Wing-T offense. QB Ben Harmon threw for over 300 yards in the state title game and 28 total TDs returns as well but he’ll have to work in a new core of receivers. The Hawks’ defense will be led by two sophomores who played big roles on the title team as Landon Jackson and Marcus Burris combined for 128 tackles and 14 sacks a year ago. Head coach Josh Gibson hopes the extra six weeks of work his younger players got in 2017 will pay big dividends in 2018.
The Mustangs broke out in a big way last year under second-year head coach Rusty Nail posting an 11-2 mark and taking eventual state runner-up West Orange Stark to the brink in the third round. 18 senior starters are gone, but the blueprint is in place for this to be a run of sustained success for the Mustangs. RB/LB Aaron Nellums (386 rushing, 7 TDs) averaged nearly nine yards per carry as a backup, while also starting at LB will team with RB/DB Uriel Willis (533 rushing, 6 TDs) to pace the MHS offense. The defense needs to stay healthy as there are several players who will be two-way starters, but the JV team was a perfect 10-0 and in a wide open region, the Mustangs feel like they can still be a contender.
If you are looking for a team that’s under the radar but could take a real step forward in 2018, the Pittsburg Pirates could be just the team that fits the bill. Head coach Brad Baca’s squad returns 15 starters from a 6-5 squad last year and some of their playmaking talent is the best in East Panama. WR/DB Keontae Burns holds multiple FBS offers and will be a force on both sides of the ball and in the return game as well. QB Jaylon Jimmerson and WR/DB Keithlen Griffin also are more than capable of big plays as well, so the Pirates have a trio of dangerous weapons. LB Mason Monts (94 tackles) and Camryn Edney (94 tackles) will lead what should be a much improved defensive unit. Pittsburg plays in a brutal five-team district and if it can survive that gauntlet, the Pirates will be a tough playoff out.