Under The Microscope: Week 20
Cover Photo from The Houston Chronicle.
Well folks, we’re finally here. We’ve previewed every team in the Greater Houston Area, and we’re down to one more district. Originally when we planned this out, this weeks’ 24-6A preview would’ve led right into games kicking off across the area on Thursday and Friday night. Because of COVID-19, we’ll have to wait a little longer to see our 5A and 6A schools start their seasons.
With that being said – for the final time this summer – let’s put 24-6A under the microscope.
Back-to-back 10-win seasons and district championships are no easy feat, but put Dickinson down for three straight.
The loss of former all-state quarterback Mike Welch won’t help their quest for a third-straight district title, but whoever steps into that vacated spot will have plenty of weapons at the skill positions.
The Gators return their top three running backs, all of whom played fairly equal snaps last season. The biggest help will come in the form of their big tight end Donovan Green. Widely considered one of the best weapons in all of Texas – he’ll be able to have his choice of any college he wants to continue his playing career. But he still has two more years as a Dickinson Gator and that's good news for Head Coach John Snelson.
The defense will be young but returns Kyron Smith and Keith Cooper to lead the way. Overall, Dickinson doesn’t have many starters coming back, but the ones they do return are really good, and the Gators have excelled at talent replacement in recent years. I expect another district championship for Dickinson in 2020.
If anyone can challenge Dickinson for a district title, it very well may be Clear Falls, who finished with a 7-3 record last season.
The Knights will return one of the best players in the entire district in the versatile Quinn Bowen – who played at running back and wide receiver last season. Bowen will need to lean on that running back experience this season, because last years’ starter at that spot, Pierson Morelli, will likely shift over a spot to start at quarterback. That could mean more time for Bowen in the backfield rather than out wide.
The secondary will be a strength for the defense featuring Tristan Zarella and Kaleb Baylis. The Knights best defender is linebacker Kannon Garza, who will be tasked with leading the unit. I think this district is Dickinson’s for the taking, but watch out for Clear Falls.
While Clear Falls could challenge Dickinson for a district title, I think Clear Springs could be right on the heels of those teams at the top of the district.
The Chargers finished at 6-5 last season with a hard-fought first round playoff loss to Pearland Dawson. They don’t have a returning quarterback, which is why I put them at the No. 3 spot – but they have plenty of returning talent outside of that.
The offense brings back Kaleb Hymes and Marquis Johnson at wide receiver while Ky Woods returns in the backfield after rushing for more than 1,000 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. Any good team needs a good quarterback to lead them, and if Clear Springs can find one, the Chargers could be plenty dangerous.
On defense, the line will be one of the best in the district – featuring Christian Cardenas and Zaelyn Smith. In addition to that, Michael McBride was an all-district selection as a sophomore in the secondary. The defense will likely be leaned on early in the season as the Chargers break in a new signal caller on offense.
Just like the rest of the teams I’ve mentioned so far, Clear Creek will have to break in a new quarterback.
Clear Falls has a slight leg up given that a returning starter will fill that QB spot, which is why I have Springs and Creek at third and fourth respectively. Nonetheless, Clear Creek will have some offensive weapons surrounding the new starter at quarterback just like the other three squads.
It starts with a solid one-two punch at running back in Rayfield Conley and Jeremiah Crum. The duo combined for more than 1,800 with more than 1,000 of that coming from the dynamic Conley. As for quarterback, Dante Fredrick is one of the candidates to fill the spot. Fredrick is just a sophomore, but I think he’s a solid choice: It would give the Wildcats a two-year starter at the most important position on the field as he heads into his senior year in 2022.
The defense will need to replace some starters, but the unit will be led by Kaleb Matthews at defensive back and Daqari Tuckson at linebacker. I think Springs and Falls are a little above where Creek is at, but I still think Clear Creek will have a solid season and I see a playoff appearance in the cards.
A 2-8 season for Clear Brook in 2019 wasn’t what they wanted to see, but help is on the way.
Clear Brook brings in a coach with championship pedigree in former Duncanville defensive coordinator John Towel – who coached in the last two 6A Division I state championship games.
The offensive line will need to be rebuilt, but the rest of the offense is in pretty good shape. The Wolverines return a talented backfield that includes Cameron McCalister, who threw for nearly 1,400 yards as a sophomore, and Trent Lacy, who saw plenty of time at running back as a fellow sophomore. Jaylen and Jaysen Price return at wide receiver to give McCalister two solid options.
In stark contrast, the defense will be super young and needs to replace plenty of starters. Kam’rin Devault will lead that unit from his spot at defensive line, and youth could be a good thing for Clear Brook in 2020. A strong sophomore class from a year ago has varsity experience, and if they can replace talent – Clear Brook could shock the district.
After making the playoffs in 2018, Clear Lake fell off to a 3-7 record last season.
The offense will need to be almost entirely rebuilt after returning just three starters from a year ago. Tyler Durst saw some time at quarterback and figures to fill in there, and his top targets will be Brendon Lyon and Rodney Searles – but the strength of the team will be the defense.
Mark Wilson will be one of the most dominant defensive players in the district, and he’ll anchor the defensive line along with Hayden Burton. Meanwhile, Eric Hunter and Julian Humphrey will lead what should be a strong secondary.
Clear Lake has talent, but the lack of returning offensive production leaves me with too many questions to see the Falcons seriously challenge for a playoff spot this season.
The Danny Youngs era got off to a rocky start after an 0-10 season, but the good news is the only way to go is up.
Youngs is a solid coach and Brazoswood players have now spent a full year in his program, so I expect some improvement out of the Buccaneers this season. The offense will need to replace the quarterback, but whoever fills that spot will benefit from a strong line led by Cade Stroud and Trevor Dyson.
At the skill spots, Cameron Whipple returns at running back while Damian Leal will be one of the top receiver targets – if he’s not spending too much time at safety.
Speaking of which, the defense will be led by the safeties – Leal and Reid Mitchell. While safety may be the best defensive unit for the Bucs, Kaleb Manning is certainly their best defender at his spot on the defensive line.
The goal for Brazoswood this year will be to put up some wins and hopefully gain some steam heading into 2021.
Team and Player to Watch
I wrote my first team and player-to-watch for the private schools all the way back in mid-April. Four months later, we’ve previewed every single team in the Houston area. It’s been a lot of fun and thank you for reading if you’ve made it this far! For the final time, here is my team and player-to-watch.
My team-to-watch is the Clear Springs Chargers.
This district reminds me a little of 23-6A, which we previewed last week. I had three teams bunched up between second and fourth, and I didn’t know how to order them. This district is similar in that I think the two and three seed could go either way, and the four seed will be good but I do think Clear Creek finishes fourth – so not quite the same as 23-6A.
But as I said – the two and three seeds could go either way. I have Clear Springs at three, so they’re my team-to-watch because they could make some serious noise. I put Clear Falls at the two spot because they have an experienced player sliding into the quarterback spot while Clear Springs will have to find someone brand new – but finding a good quarterback could give the Chargers the edge over Clear Falls, and perhaps the rest of the district as well.
My player-to-watch is Dickinson tight end Donovan Green.
I almost always go with a quarterback in this spot, so the lack of returning talent at that spot in this district gave me the perfect opportunity to pick a tight end – which I’ve yet to choose for a player-to-watch.
I got the opportunity to watch Green in person last season when Dickinson visited Allen. Green is one of the most dominant pass catchers I’ve seen. He’s a mismatch for most defenders at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, but he’s uber-athletic and possesses the ability to play a little wide receiver if needed.
Green will be a much appreciated weapon as Dickinson goes through a quarterback transition, and I think he’s the most talented player in the district.
That’s all I’ve got for this summer. It’s been a blast previewing the Houston area and I can’t wait for the season to finally kick off, no matter what it looks like. Once again, thank you all for reading! At least for 4A and below, it’s go time!