2018 Region Outlooks: 5A Division I Region I — Lubbock Coronado and Denton Ryan reload after big-time seasons
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 5A Division I Region I
The Class 5A landscape across the state has been completely altered with the split division concept and now there are several regions where the title could be completely up for grabs due to some of the changes.
In Division I Region I, the first big change is out in El Paso where a brutal six-team district awaits. Included in that mix are 6A drop-downs El Paso Eastwood and El Paso El Dorado along with powerful 5A programs in El Paso Del Valle, El Paso Eastlake and El Paso Chapin. There’s another power district out west as the large schools from Amarillo ISD and Lubbock ISD have merged into a deep District 2-5A Division I group.
There’s a nine-team district on the western edge of DFW that includes Saginaw Boswell among others. Then to the north you have an eight-team grouping in 4-5A Division I that combines two-time regional champion Denton Ryan and Denton ISD bunkmate Denton High along with Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD, Grapevine-Colleyville ISD and Birdville.
The Mustangs had a record setting season in 2017 going 13-1 and advancing to the regional finals before falling to Denton Ryan. Gone is QB Qua Gray and most of his cast of playmakers out wide who terrorized defenses on the South Plains the past couple of years. The Mustangs bring back WR Blair Conwright who hauled in 25 touchdowns a year ago along with RB Kaleb Manuel who ran for nearly 1,300 yards as a sophomore. The real strength for Coronado in 2018 could be a defense that returns nine total starters. LB Trey Stephens (198 tackles) and DE DJ Davis (13 sacks) lead what looks to be a ferocious defense. If unproven but talented sophomore QB Sawyer Robertson can steer the ship, the Mustangs are poised to contend once again.
BLOW SAND BLOW! That’s been the battle cry for Amarillo High fans for generations and the last few years, the Sandies have blown past people with a bruising Wing-T offense. Those days are now gone as new head coach Chad Dunnam fresh off leading Dumas to a district title comes in with new energy, passion and a power spread offense that still takes advantage of Amarillo’s usual skill set but gives the Sandies a new weapon through the air. Amarillo High took some heavy graduation losses but there’s a lot of young talent in the pipeline and the extra energy around the program is very evident. Look for the Sandies to still run the ball quite a bit behind returning backs Rhett Maynard and Eugene Mutware. If their defense can take a step forward this will be a team, especially later in the year, that will be a real difficult matchup.
Joe Willis’ squad didn’t shy away from competition in non-district lining up Aledo and Southlake Carroll among others, but that trial-by-fire could have the Panthers ready for a playoff run after falling in the third round of the playoffs to Lubbock Coronado. QB Drew Sanders and WR Kam Brown will be one of the state’s most lethal combinations in the passing game and the offensive line looks to be rounding into form. The Panthers will go as far as their defense will take them and at times that unit struggled a year ago including a humiliating loss in the playoffs. Coach Willis knows that in order for his team to take the next step and win a region and compete for a state title they’ll have to trend upwards on defense.
Don’t feel too sorry for Denton Ryan. The Raiders, who the last three years are 41-3, lose four-year starter Spencer Sanders at QB and a host of other talented seniors, but expectations are still high for Dave Henigan’s squad. RB Emani Bailey could be a vital cog in the Raiders reloading as he returns after rushing for 1,244 yards and 15 TDs. WRs Jamarion Robertson and Billy Bowman had 13 receiving touchdowns and the coaching staff has confidence in new QB Ian Henigan. The Raiders had a young defense a year ago, but look to be rounding into 2016 form, especially up front with the return of Del’shun Neal, Anthony Flemings, Jacquez Flemings and J.C. Coleman. That foursome combined for twenty sacks a year ago. FS Tra Smith had four interceptions a year ago and is a game changing safety for the Ryan defense.