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07/28/20

Under The Microscope: Week 16

Cover Photo via @BertEmanuel3 on Twitter.

Somehow we’ve got just four weeks left on this here program as we preview District 20-6A this week, featuring Fort Bend ISD schools and George Ranch.

This district features some really good teams, but also loses as much collective talent as just about any other district. Travis will have to find a new path forward after graduating nearly all the offensive production from a 10-0 squad, and Ridge Point has some questions to answer on its defense.

Those two were the top teams a year ago, but 2020 could bring a district mix-up with new talent coming in. Let’s put 20-6A under the microscope.

Ridge Point

For the first time since moving up to Class 6A, Ridge Point failed to win its district.

That was because Travis had one of the best collections of offensive talent in the area and was able to outlast the Panthers by a score of 27-23. But Ridge Point returns eight starters on offense and could wind up back on top of the district standings.

John Paul Richardson will look to become the next great wide receiver to come out of Oklahoma State University, but he’ll look to put Ridge Point back on top of the district standings first. Bert Emanuel Jr. has some varsity snaps under his belt at quarterback and will start full time at the position this season.

Keith Jackson returns at running back and Parker Menefee is back at tight end to give the Panthers what could be the best offense in the district, but the defense will need to fill some holes. The good news is Ridge Point is known for good defense, and they return D.K. Kalu on the defensive line after Kalu impressed as a freshman – he’ll lead what will be a pretty young unit.

Mix in new head ball coach Rick LaFavers – a friend of the show – and I think Ridge Point slides back up a spot to reclaim its reign of terror on the district.

Travis

As I mentioned, Travis had a record setting offense last season – but it’s pretty much all gone.

Parker Washington was one of the best wide receivers in Houston last season, and his efforts earned him a scholarship to play ball at Penn State. Eric Rodriguez was lethal at quarterback and earned one of our MVP bobblehead awards last season. Kaelen Shankle is off to Kansas State as a walk-on after an impressive season at running back.

All of that is to say, at least Travis returns a solid offensive line – but it’s quite obvious the skill positions will need to be nearly entirely rebuilt. Aundre Smith should be the offensive MVP at running back after eight touchdowns as a backup to Shankle last year.

A duo of Cameron’s – Oliver and Moore – will lead a solid group of defensive backs. Other than that, the front seven will have talent to replace as well. Coach Trey Sissom has plenty of work to do in replacing talent, but I’m confident Travis will be good again and I can’t wait to see who steps up.

Bush

Bush made yet another playoff appearance in 2019, but couldn’t get past Mayde Creek in round one.

Fortunately, plenty of talent is back that could put Bush in a position to redeem itself with a playoff win in 2020. Anthony Herrera and Donovan Nixon are back at wide receiver and running back respectively to give a new starting quarterback good weapons to work with.

The defense is where the best talent returns, with two all-district linebackers returning in Charlton Bibb and Brandon Chambers, while Henry Tatum will lead the secondary.

The success of the Broncos will depend on who steps up at quarterback – because it’s tough to win without a good signal caller – but I expect Bush to secure a playoff spot once again this season.

Elkins

Similar to Bush, I think Elkins will be right at the back end of the 20-6A playoff conversation.

The offense will be young but the defense is full of seasoned vets and returns eight starters. That unit will be led by Malik Rugby and Taurean Crawford on the line and Blake Thompson in the secondary. The offense, however, is a different story.

Savion Sims and Jordan Roberson will be solid options at wide receiver, but who gets them the ball is a total mystery. The most intriguing questions for Elkins is seeing who will step up at quarterback. Like Bush, the answer to that question could make or break the Knights playoff hopes.

If the offense is able to figure things out, I absolutely think Elkins grabs a playoff spot because the defense will be solid – but that’s a big if.

George Ranch

The playoff hopes of Bush and Elkins won’t be aided by the addition to George Ranch, who I honestly think slots in at second behind Ridge Point.

The Longhorns return most of their offensive skill players, including quarterback Sam Miller, who threw for 20 touchdowns last season. Javon Gipson caught nearly half of those scoring passes and he returns at wide out in addition to Hymond Drinkard in the backfield. Those three figure to put up plenty of points.

If the offense returning eight starters isn’t enough, the defense will return seven including Dave Babalola on the line. Throw in a solid group of linebackers and Jeffery Ugochukwu in the secondary, and George Ranch should have the best collection of returning talent in the district.

Pencil in George Ranch for a playoff spot – and a shot at a district title.

Clements

Points were tough to come by for Clements last season and the Rangers could benefit from some change.

The offense failed to score more than 20 points in any game last year, but that offense returns just two starters. With so many potential new faces, there’s room for improvement for that offense.

They’ll need to figure out the quarterback spot, but whoever takes over will have a solid trio to throw to in Patrick Smith, Chase Bell and David Kasemervisz.

The defense returns a solid amount of talent and will likely be the strength of the team. Matt McGinnis will highlight that talent at linebacker and is the leader of the unit. I don’t see Clements making the playoffs in this district, but that doesn’t mean the Rangers can’t make a push.

Dulles

Most teams in the Houston area will return more offensive starters than Clements (2) and Dulles (1) will return combined. Unlike Clements, the Vikings will have to retool nearly the entire defense as well with just three returning starters. That’s just four of 22 starters from last season returning.

For the offense, Ryan Alaniz saw time at wide receiver and could become the No. 1 option for whoever takes over at quarterback, while Gerald Hayes will help out at running back. The Vikings return a solid linebacker corps that includes Jaxon Tilley and Chris Smith, but the rest of that unit will need some help.

Dulles has some major rebuilding to do after losing greater than 80 percent of the starters from a two-win team last season. However, the thing I always like about teams returning minimal talent is the opportunity for fresh faces to step up. Dulles has so many unknowns this season, and that could be a good thing. What if those unknowns turn out to be better than anyone expected?

Austin

Another team that could compete at the back end of the playoff picture is the Austin Bulldogs, who narrowly missed a playoff spot last season.

The big offseason storyline is the loss of wide receiver Troy Omeire, who joins the eighth-best recruiting class in the nation for the class of 2020 at the University of Texas. But the Bulldogs have players ready to step up in Jamal Franklin and Daniel Oloso at that spot which will help replace Omeire’s production.

In addition to that, Braeden Abboud started at quarterback as a sophomore last season and should be better this year after a year of experience in the position. Tack on a solid defense led by lineman Chase Meyers, and it’s a recipe for a potential path to the playoffs.

However, 20-6A has plenty of talented teams. I think there’s a clear cut top-three of Ridge Point, George Ranch and Travis. Beyond that, I think Bush, Elkins and Austin will battle for the final spot, and I have that spot going to my team-to-watch.

Team and Player to Watch

And that team is… the Bush Broncos!

I have Bush slotting into fourth because I like the returning talent more for the Broncos than I do for Austin and Elkins. Nevertheless, I think it’ll be a great race between those three.

Bush should be able to lean on an experienced coaching staff that has been to the playoffs plenty of times, including last season. I think they’ll be able to draw on recent success more than the other two to snag the final spot.

With that being said, my player-to-watch is a young man that I think holds the keys to a district championship in his hands.

George Ranch is going to be a solid squad and Travis has a history of being able to replace talent. If Ridge Point wants to get back to the top of the district, it’s going to rest in the hands of Bert Emanuel Jr.

Beyond a district championship, I think Ridge Point has the resources necessary to make a decent playoff run this season. There’s experienced players on offense, and a solid defense led by an outstanding young sophomore. Coach Rick LaFavers turned around Lamar Consolidated and is one of the better coaches in the area in my opinion. Give the Panthers a good quarterback and I think it could be game over for everyone else – and I think they have just that in Emanuel Jr., my player-to-watch for 20-6A.