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06/23/20

Under The Microscope: Week 11

Cover Photo via @JaydonBlue on Twitter.

This week, we look at my favorite district from last season, 15-6A. Part of what made it great in 2018 and 2019 was the fact that there was no shortage of good teams. Coupling Klein ISD and Conroe ISD made for a few great teams at the top and an intense race to get into the playoffs.

Now that Conroe ISD has moved to occupy 13-6A, things get a little easier… but not too much easier. The two Tomball ISD schools move on in, and I expect Tomball Memorial to be in the thick of the district title race. This district figures to be every bit as competitive as it was last season, and the only reason the Klein ISD schools have any breathing room at all is the fact that the district is now composed of just seven teams as opposed to the old nine-team 15-6A.

With that being said, I see one playoff school from Klein ISD sliding out of the playoffs and a pair of newcomers entering the picture. Let’s take a look at what I think each squad could look like in 2020.

Klein

One of the teams that suffered the struggles of competing in one of the few nine-team districts in Texas was the Klein Bearkats.

Like I discussed in our 13-6A preview a few weeks ago with Conroe, a 4-4 district record didn’t cut it in terms of making the playoffs. That’s the record Klein finished with, which put them at sixth in the district by virtue of a tiebreaker loss to Conroe. Now with the Conroe schools gone, I think there is ample opportunity for Klein to make the playoffs.

The reasoning here is simple. Klein shocked Klein Oak to open district play before losing four-straight district games – including a narrow loss to district champ Klein Collins. The Bearkats ended the season on a three-game win streak, but it wasn’t enough.

Turn around some of those close losses, and Klein figures to be right in the mix now with two less teams competing for one of the top four spots. Klein returns big tight end target Mason Tharp, a Texas Tech commit, in addition to a dynamic duo at running back in Kenzo Viteri and Quinton Curtis.

Replacing Bryce Corriston at quarterback won’t be easy, but if Klein finds someone to step up in the most important role, they could be really good. Regardless, look for the Bearkats to be right in the thick of the playoff mix.

Klein Oak

After making a serious run at a district title and narrowly missing out, Klein Oak will have to find a way to retool after losing most of a talented 2019 squad.

Dwight McGlothern was a dynamic two-way player now off to LSU, and Oak will replace Montrell Bolton at quarterback as well. Those two led the Panthers to a 10-3 record and a second round playoff loss to a really good Rockwall squad last season. Without them, Oak has some work to do to replace the production.

That likely starts with running back Charles Garrett, who already has plenty of varsity experience heading into his junior year. Lance Bob and Kason Tullos return to lead the defense, but with so many other questions, I don’t know what Klein Oak will look like this season.

I want to give them the benefit of the doubt after two consecutive 10-3 seasons, and it’s no secret the playoff race in this district will be competitive. Right now I have Oak just outside at fifth because of the uncertainty I have about who fills some key roles, but don’t be surprised if they make the playoffs.

Klein Cain

Cain made the playoffs on the final day of the 2019 season by virtue of an upset against Klein Oak – it was the first ever playoff appearance for the young Hurricanes program – and the good news doesn’t stop there.

They’ll miss quarterback Luke Pardee, who, in large part led that team to the playoffs. But Klein Cain also has an embarrassment of riches returning at other key positions, and that starts with running back Jaydon Blue.

Currently ranked No. 80 in the nation for the class of 2022 by 247sports, Blue will pick pretty much any school in the nation he wants. He’s already garnered offers from the likes of Alabama, LSU and Georgia – all known for producing great running backs.

Joining him on the offense is wide receiver Matthew Golden, who has drawn college interest of his own. Paving the way up front for those explosive weapons will be John Dos Santos – a first-team all-district pick as a sophomore, and Johrdan Howard and Byron Deary, second-team all-district picks.

Isaac Hudson and Cash Saxton were second-team all-district selections last year who will return to lead the defense. Needless to say, Pardee was the senior leader of a talented but young Hurricane squad last season. If some decent talent is in the pipeline to replace Pardee, Klein Cain could be hoisting a district trophy come season's end.

Klein Collins

For Klein Collins’ district mates, it’s been a long five years… that’s how long it’s been since a team not named the Collins Tigers won the district. For perspective, the last time Collins didn’t win the district, Kyler Murray was still torching the turf in this state. If you haven’t heard, he’s now in his second year in the NFL after four years of college. It’s been a long time.

I say all that to make a point: Collins is losing some talent heading into 2020. I’m not sure how much I care about that.

KC has long proven it’s among Houston’s most elite when it comes to replacing talent. The most recent example of that was just last year when Braelon Bridges fit seamlessly into the running back spot vacated by Isaiah Spiller after Spiller went off to Texas A&M. Nobody outside the program necessarily expected Bridges to be as good as he wound up being last year.

Replacing him won’t be easy, but neither was replacing Spiller – yet the Tigers did it and still won the district with plenty of other good teams vying for the title. Quarterback Colby Powers returns to captain the offense and he’s getting tons of college interest as a tight end.

Donald Lee and Trent Ward return to lead a defense that gave up more than 14 points just four times in 13 games last season. I’m confident in the Tigers defense being just as good this season, but Powers will need significant help on offense if Collins is to compete for a sixth-straight district title.

However, as I mentioned, KC is elite at talent replacement. Until someone else proves they can de-throne the Tigers… give me Klein Collins to win the district yet again.

Klein Forest

For the final Klein ISD school we have to discuss, there is good news and bad.

The good news is Klein Forest returns Ahmonte Watkins, one of the best running backs in the state who holds offers from the likes of Arkansas and Houston, in addition to several others. The bad news is the Eagles went 0-10 last year and have a lot of work to do to become competitive.

Delvin Jones returns at quarterback to make up a solid backfield with Watkins. Jones will need to find some good weapons out wide, but this offense could be alright this fall. The defense worries me though.

I think Klein Forest can compete with several teams in this district, but they have to learn how to win. Look for the Eagles to try and win a few games next season to try and build up some momentum for a playoff push in 2021.

Tomball Memorial

One of the two newcomers to the district, it isn’t quite as easy to see how Memorial stacks up because they didn’t play the other 15-6A schools last season.

However, Memorial had quite an impressive season in their own district. The Wildcats were young in 2019, yet they found themselves with a 10-2 record and a playoff loss to state semifinalist Spring Westfield when it was all said-and-done.

They return most of the offensive talent from that team as well. Colton Marwill is back at quarterback and he’ll have his top target returning as well in SMU commit Joseph Manjack. Joining Marwill in the backfield will be Carbrey Barnes, who will give the Mustangs a multi-faceted attack.

There are some questions on defense, but I fully expect Memorial to be in the thick of the district title race. Between district champion mainstay Klein Collins and a loaded Klein Cain squad, Memorial completes a trio of great teams vying for a district title in 15-6A.

Tomball

The Cougars went 5-5 for a second-straight regular season in 2019, but this time around, it didn’t yield a playoff appearance like 2018 did.

Unfortunately, I think it will be tough for Tomball to climb into the playoff race in such a loaded district. Quarterback Hunter Dunn is gone and so are most of his top targets. Tomball returns Jermaine Mays at running back, and they return a good portion of a strong offensive line to run behind – but there are plenty of questions outside of that.

While Tomball could certainly compete for a playoff spot, I have them a step behind Klein and Klein Oak, who I think battle it out for the final spot.

Team and Player to Watch

As I just mentioned, I think the final playoff spot comes down to Klein and Klein Oak, behind a strong top three of Collins, Memorial and Cain, which I think could go in any order.

That makes Klein Oak my team-to-watch. After a successful 2019 season, I’m interested to see how the Panthers replace talent and if they can grab a spot in the playoffs in yet another talented district. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt, but I think the top three teams are clear-cut and I give Klein the leg-up on the final playoff spot due to returning talent.

I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Oak make the playoffs, but right now I have them fifth. In any case, it only takes an upset or two to get in… keep a close eye on Klein Oak this season, because they have the ability to shake up the entire playoff race. Let’s see who steps up.

My player-to-watch is the talented young back from Klein Cain – Jaydon Blue.

Cain took a big step last year by making the playoffs for the first time in school history. Now, I think the Hurricanes have the talent and ability to win their first ever district championship, but it won’t be easy.

As I talked about, I think Collins is the favorite until someone proves me otherwise. That someone could be Tomball Memorial, but it very well could be the Blue-led Hurricanes. If Klein Cain is to unseat Collins and survive a challenge from Memorial, Blue will be the one to take them there.