This week we’re going to be covering one of the most wide-open districts in the area; one that was dominated by a singular team a season ago.That team was Atascocita, who ran through the district by winning every game against teams in the current 22-6A by at least 47 points – the Eagles ran through the district absolutely uncontested. But now Atascocita has moved over to 21-6A, leaving this district open for the taking.I think there are four – maybe five – playoff contenders and a few teams who could claim the now-vacated district title. Let’s put 22-6A under the microscope.
Dobie was one of the best stories in the Houston area last season in my opinion, finishing with a record of 9-2.
That’s a pretty impressive season in its own right, but perhaps even more so when factoring in that the two losses came against Atascocita in the regular season and North Shore in the playoffs – two teams that were mainstays in the top 10 in the state-wide rankings.
Factor in that Dobie returns 13 starters from that squad and the Longhorns could be in for a special season. That returning talent is led by quarterback Cameron Gray, who can really do it all. Gray finished the 2019 season with nearly 1,000 passing yards and another 400 on the ground.
Jeremiah Ballard will help facilitate Gray’s success as a dynamic receiver in his own right, and the defense has some playmakers as well. Alex Garcia and Johnathan Baldwin return to lead a Longhorn defense that held every opponent not named North Shore or Atascocita to under 30 points last year.
While there will be plenty of challengers, I like Dobie to claim the 22-6A title.
Chief among Dobie’s challengers for the district championship will be Deer Park.
Like Dobie, the Deer lost to North Shore and Atascocita last season – but they also lost to Katy Taylor and La Porte. Overall, a 7-4 season isn’t bad and Deer Park returns plenty of starters including an experienced quarterback.
Matt Potts is back after throwing for nearly 2,000 yards in 2019 and he’ll be joined by fellow 2019 starter Dylan Madden at running back. Those two will operate behind perhaps the best offensive line in the district, one that returns all five starters from last season.
Zach Frazee and Garrett Bedford will lead a seasoned defense that has plenty of experience playing against explosive offenses. The Deer will need to find playmakers to step up at receiver, but they figure to be every bit as good as Dobie and the rest of the teams challenging for a district championship.
Memorial continues the trend of teams in this district that return a boatload of starters.
The Mavericks closed strong after a 1-5 start, but an overall record of 4-6 wasn’t good enough for a playoff berth. Like the previous two teams, Memorial returns 13 starters including its quarterback.
Luke Giron threw for nearly 1,000 yards last season despite starting just six of Memorial’s 10 games. Xavier Lerma returns returns next to Giron in the backfield and that duo will operate behind a solid offensive line led by the dominant Ivan Robles.
The good news doesn’t stop there either; the Mavs defense returns eight starters from last season – more than nearly any other unit in the district. That defense will be led by Kolbey Taylor, who picked off four passes last season.
I don’t know if Memorial will wind up in third, but I think the Mavs factor into the playoff picture somewhere for sure.
The theme of the district is returning starters including the quarterback and Channelview keeps pace with the competition in that category.
The Falcons return half their starters from a year ago including Demetrius Charles, who captained the offense. He’ll have some solid returning weapons with Charles Kirtley and Josiah Prince at wide receiver.
Charles threw for 1,300 yards and 20 touchdowns last year in his first year of varsity play as a sophomore. Expect an improved Charles at quarterback to have the Falcons offense humming along. For the defense, Cinque Marshall is a force from his linebacker spot and Arthur Boutte will anchor a good front seven on the line.
I think Memorial and Channelview could flip flop at the third and fourth spots by the end of the season, but I have the Falcons in fourth for now. In any case, I think this is a solid group of four but there is one team I think could potentially shake things up.
The team that could shake things up and leave Channelview or Memorial out of the playoff picture is South Houston.
Normally I would have the Trojans in the thick of the playoff conversation, but the four teams I have in the playoffs all benefit from something the Trojans don’t have – a returning starting quarterback.
They'll employ MarQualyn Anthony at wide receiver and Kendarius White at running back to give the new signal caller some solid options at the skill positions. Julian Betancourt is one of the best offensive lineman in the district, but South Houston will need relace starters elsewhere on the line.
The defense is probably the strength of the team. Jeffrey Gamboa played well as a sophomore last season and will look to dominate at his defensive end spot once again. Gamboa is joined by Jeremiah Sheppard on the line to make up a solid unit. Throw in Fidel Vizcaino at linebacker and the Trojans defense will look to keep their young offense in games by holding the score down.
Because South Houston needs to figure out the quarterback spot, I have them just outside the playoffs – but look for the Trojans to make some noise if they find a capable replacement.
In a district chock-full of returning talent, Pasadena leads the way with 15 returning starters.
Somehow, the quarterback spot is not among those 15 returning starters. The offense returns just five of those, and the Eagles will need to figure out what they’re doing at quarterback. Whoever steps in will have a solid offensive line for protection, and Keemon Haywood is a dynamic wide receiver that will help the QB transition as well.
The defense returns 10 out of 11 starters and will be the strength of the team. Jose Ruiz is the Eagles best defender from his spot at linebacker and he’ll lead the veteran unit.
The bad news is Pasadena hasn’t made the playoffs in 24 years and I think it’s going to take some luck for them to get in this season. Figuring out the offense will be key to the Eagle success in 2020.
Like half of the other teams in this district, Rayburn returns 13 starters from last years’ squad.
The bad news is those starters have never won a game. The Texans are 0-30 since the class of 2021 entered high school, but I think that drought comes to an end this season.
Brayan Aguirre enters his senior season at quarterback with plenty of experience – he’s started since he was a freshman – and he’s got some nice weapons returning with him. Julian Falcon will line up next to Aguirre in the backfield, and the three-year starter will be throwing to David Pena out wide. Those three will be protected by a good offensive line.
The defense employs Alexis Telles at linebacker and Je’lin Samuels on the line, and that unit will need to get a little better this season if Rayburn wants to win a game. Samuels and Telles will absolutely help that cause.
Obviously Rayburn isn’t ready for a playoff run, but I really like a three-year starter at quarterback leading the team. I think 2020 is the year Rayburn breaks its long losing streak and gets on the board for a few wins.
Team and Player to Watch
As usual, my last order of business is my team and player-to-watch.
My team-to-watch for 22-6A is the Channelview Falcons. I think they have the most to gain and the most to lose as my fourth team in the playoffs. With a solid coach in Averion Hurts at the helm and a good amount of returning talent, I think Hurts and quarterback Demetrius Charles will lead the Falcons to the playoffs – but where they wind up is totally up to them.
I think Channelview is good enough to rise to the three-seed, but they could also slip out entirely if South Houston pulls off some upsets. In any case, watch out for Channelview this season.
My player-to-watch is Dobie quarterback Cameron Gray.
The Longhorns impressed last season but always had Atascocita standing in the way of a district title. The Eagles are gone now and I think the district crown is Dobie’s for the taking – and Gray will be the one to lead them there.
Gray put up impressive numbers as a sophomore and he can only improve on that. There will be stiff competition from Deer Park, but I think Gray is the catalyst for a Dobie district title – making him my player-to-watch for 22-6A.
Be sure to check back next week as I preview a loaded 23-6A before rounding out our season previews with 24-6A the following week.