Atlanta's J.J. Fields poses for a photo, on Wednesday July 24, 2019, at the East Texas Oil Museum in Kilgore. (Michael Cavazos/News-Journal Photo)

Atlanta is predicted to be playing late in 2019 and Jefferson is back with some to replace but a solid nucleus. A new coach joins the mix in Mount Vernon.


  5. HOOKS


Atlanta's Connor Samples poses for a photo, on Wednesday July 24, 2019, at the East Texas Oil Museum in Kilgore. (Michael Cavazos/News-Journal Photo)


Mascot: Rabbits

Coach: Matt McClure (9th year, 57-41)

All-time: 563-395-33, .584%

Stadium: Rabbit Stadium, 705 Rabbit Blvd., Atlanta, Texas 75551

2018 result: 8-6, Class 3A DI Regional finalist

Returning letterman/starters: 24/12

Lettermen lost: 17

Offense: Multiple I Back

Offensive notables: WR Kade Wood, Sr., 6-1, 175 …RB Caleb Hamilton, Jr., 5-9, 165 …RB Dra Nelson, Sr., 5-8, 190 … OL Cade Fant, Sr., 6-0, 235

Defense: 3-4

Defensive notables: LB Connor Samples, Sr., 6-1, 195 … CB Jacorian Fields, Sr., 6-1, 165 … CB Keyshawn Easter, Jr., 6-0, 165 … LB Dekorian Parker, Soph., 6-0, 185

2019 Outlook: Never underestimate those Atlanta Rabbits. During their state title run of 2003, the Rabbits finished the regular season a ho-hum 6-4, but ran the tables for a Class 3A state title. Last year’s edition opened the postseason after a rather unimpressive 5-5 regular campaign. The Rabbits upset West Rusk in bi-district 28-20 and followed that by doubling up Kemp 42-21 in area. In a third-round rematch with district counterpart Mount Vernon, Atlanta, much like it did the first contest, disposed of the Tigers, 38-14. The train finally ran out of gas in a 37-22 setback to eventual state runner-up Malakoff. Matt McClure has led Atlanta to the postseason in six of eight years at the helm. With a half dozen starters back on both sides of the leather, there’s no reason not to expect the Rabbits to make a push for their first loop title in 13 years. Kade Wood is a top-notch pass catcher and returns after a 29-catch, 416-yard season with 4 TDs. The running game is in good hands with Caleb Hamilton and Dra Nelson. As a sophomore Hamilton rushed for 1,019 yards and scored 11 TDs. Nelson, a senior, had 684 yards on the ground and 207 yards receiving and a total of 7 TDs. Defensively, Connor Samples is back and, as McClure describes, is a tough run stopper with a big motor. Samples rang up 149 tackles and 11 TFL. Defensive back Jacorian Fields is back after a 85-tackle 2018. Atlanta has arguably one of the toughest non-district menus in the state. The Rabbits open at Gilmer right off the bat, host Gladewater, visit Pleasant Grove and entertain Liberty-Eylau.

Schedule: Aug. 30 – At Gilmer; Sept. 6 – Gladewater; Sept. 13 – At Pleasant Grove; Sept. 20 – Liberty-Eylau; Sept. 27 – Redwater*; Oct. 4 – At New Boston*; Oct. 11 – Hughes Springs*; Oct. 18 – At Mount Vernon*; Oct. 25 – Jefferson*; Nov. 8 – At Hooks*

(*Indicates district game; All games start at 7:30 p.m.)


Jefferson High School Kylan Thomas (5), Jacari Mosley (50), Dee Black (21) and Landon Fuquay (18). (Cara Campbell/Tyler Morning Telegraph)


Mascot: Bulldogs

Coach: Antwain Jimmerson (4th year, 32-14 at school, 133-36 overall)

All-time: 522-404-31, .562%

Stadium: W.F. Lockett Stadium, #1 Bulldog Drive, Jefferson, Texas 75657

2018 result: 11-1, Class 3A DI Area finalist

Returning letterman/starters: 18/10

Lettermen lost: 20

Offense: Spread I


Jefferson High School Kylan Thomas (5). (Cara Campbell/Tyler Morning Telegraph)

Offensive notables: RB Dee Black, Sr., 5-6, 158 … WR Christian Shepard, Jr., 6-0, 150 … OL Justin Rogers, Sr., 6-0, 250 … WR Carlos Smith, Sr., 5-10, 150 … WR Carlos Jackson, Jr., 5-8, 130 … QB Kylan Thomas, Sr., 5-11, 188 … K Landon Fuquay, Sr., 6-0, 155

Defense: 4-3

Defensive notables: DL Jordan Friday, Jr., 6-0, 240 … DE Falando Craver, Soph., 6-0, 200 … DE Alexander Romano, Jr., 6-0, 200 … DL Carson Harper, Sr., 5-10, 300 … P Camden Simpson, Sr., 5-10, 175 … DE Tyler Cherry, Sr.

2019 Outlook: Hit hard by graduation, Jefferson’s Antwain Jimmerson must replace a half dozen offensive and defensive starters from last year’s 11-1 area finalist. Jimmerson also has to account for three players that transferred out. The ’Dawgs, who have gone 30-6 the past three years, don’t rebuild inasmuch as they reload in this old historic city. Jefferson rolled to a perfect 10-0 regular season and secured its second district championship in three years. After throttling Mineola in bi-district 41-22, the ’Dawgs stumbled in a 31-21 loss to Malakoff in area. Defending the district dominion will be no easy task this season. But expect a banner year from senior halfback Dee Black. The 5-6, 158-pound water bug ravaged defenses for 1,773 yards and scored 20 TDs. Christian Shepard along with Carlos Smith and Carlos Jackson have mighty big shoes to fill at wide out. The trio has the unenviable task of stepping in and stepping up for T.Q. Jackson, who has taken his immense talent to the Ozarks to play for the Arkansas Razorbacks. Kylan Thomas settles in at QB for Jefferson after totaling 486 passing yards mad 5 TDs last fall. Defensively, senior Tyler Cherry represents the team’s leading returning tackler with 113 stops and 7 TFL, while junior Alexander Romano and sophomore Falando Craver are expected to push for playing time. Jefferson opens the season with a Thursday night tilt against Pittsburg.

Schedule: Aug. 29 – Pittsburg**; Sept. 6 – At Center; Sept. 13 – At Arp; Sept. 20 – North Lamar; Sept. 27 – New Boston*; Oct. 4 – At Hughes Springs*; Oct. 11 – Mount Vernon*; Oct. 25 – At Atlanta*; Nov. 1 – Hooks*; Oct. 8 – At Redwater*

(*Indicates district game; **Indicates 7 p.m. start, all other games start at 7:30 p.m.)


Mascot: Tigers

Coach: Art Briles (First year at school, 166-46-4)

All-time: 491-414-28, 541%

Stadium: Don Meredith Stadium, 1 Tiger Drive, Mount Vernon, Texas 75457

2018 result: 9-4, Class 3A DI Regional semifinals

Returning letterman/starters: 22/10

Lettermen lost: 18

Offense: TBD

Offensive notables: WR Boston Morris, Jr., 6-2, 190 … WR Max Rutledge, Sr., 6-3, 185 … OL Alan Quiones, Jr., 6-1, 265 … OL Gunner Fielden, Jr., 6-0, 220 … RB Zander Reader, Sr., 6-0, 190

Defense: TBD

Defensive notables: OLB Max Rutledge, Sr., 6-3, 185 … OLB Zander Reader, Sr., 6-0, 190 … OLB Boston Morris, Jr., 6-2, 190 … CB Kedris Chandler, Sr., 5-10, 160 … CB Jose Arzola, Sr., 5-7, 150

2019 Outlook: Shockwaves reverberated across the Lone Star landscape Memorial Day weekend when Mount Vernon hired former Baylor coach Art Briles. The controversial Briles, who is a Texas high school coaching legend, left Baylor under a cloud of turmoil in 2014. No question the Rule, Texas native can coach, but the baggage he brings could prove calamitous. Only time will tell. The Tigers, under the direction of Josh Finney, advanced to the third round of this past season after a district championship 11-1 run in 2017. Finney returned to his hometown of Winnsboro, leaving the door open for Mount Vernon to reel in Briles, who coached Stephenville to consecutive state championships in 1993 and 1994 and again in 1998 and 1999. Most recently Briles has been plying his trade in Italy where he took Estra Guelfi to the Italian version of the Super Bowl, which the season didn’t end until early July. By getting a late start, Briles might be behind the eight ball implementing a drastic change to the offense. Finney was old-school with the Wing-T, while Briles is considered one of the architects of Air Raid. Players to count on making the smooth transition include two-way talents Max Rutledge and Zander Reader. Rutledge is the Tigers’ top returner in receptions and tackles. He amassed 111 tackles, 18 TFL with four forced fumbles and one recovery. Reader, meanwhile, played a slot back last year in the run-centric attack. He also rang up 103 tackles, 17 TFL and one interception. All eyes around the state will be on Bonham when Mount Vernon kicks off the Briles’ era.

Schedule: Aug. 30 – At Bonham; Sept. 6 – At Farmersville; Sept. 13 – Canton; Sept. 20 – Winnsboro; Sept. 27 – Hughes Springs*; Oct. 11 – At Jefferson*; Oct. 18 – Atlanta*; Oct. 25 At Hooks*; Nov. 1 – Redwater*; Nov. 8 – At New Boston*

(*Indicates district game; All games start at 7:30 p.m.)


Mascot: Mustangs

Coach: Chris Edwards (13th year, 87-50)

All-time: 442-430-34, .507%

Stadium: Mustang Stadium, 701 Russell, Hughes Springs, Texas 75656

2018 result: 5-6, Class 3A DI Bi-district

Returning letterman/starters: 18/13

Lettermen lost: 11

Offense: Slot-T

Offensive notables: Isaiah Bolden, Sr., 5-10, 180 … QB Andrew Gaul, Sr., 5-11, 170 … C Tanner Byrd, Jr., 5-10, 195 … TE Collin Cook, Jr., 6-2, 180 … OL Hudson Brabham, Sr., 6-2, 215

Defense: 3-4

Defensive notables: LB Jace Ratley, Sr., 5-10, 210 … LB Tyson Daigle, Jr., 5-10, 180 … LB Gustoavo Soto, Sr., 5-10, 190 … DE Patrick Boyd, Soph., 6-0, 195 … DL Nacorey Lee, Sr., 5-7, 180 … DL Trayvonn Kennedy, Jr., 6-2, 220

2019 Outlook: One of the best-kept secrets in East Texas is that Chris Edwards is a darn good football coach. Eawards has taken Hughes Springs to the playoffs in 10 of his 12 seasons in charge. The Mustangs have won four district titles in that stretch. With 18 lettermen back in the fold, Edwards has no reason to think this will be 11 of 13 years to the dance. Hughes Springs, despite its 5-5 record, played a good Gladewater team to a 35-21 loss in bi-district. The Ponies welcome back seven offensive holdovers and a half dozen on defense. The talented Isaiah Bolden should get plenty of touches in the Slot-T attack. Bolden racked up 715 yards and scored nine times last year. QB Andrew Gaul is a year older and hopefully a year wiser. The senior signal-caller completed 31 of 63 passes for 367 yards with 4 TDs. Tight end Collin Cook could be a popular target when Gaul does look to pass. LB Jace Ratley returns after 89 tackles last year. Trayvonn Kennedy promises to make life tough on opposing quarterbacks. As a sophomore Kennedy totaled eight sacks and 64 tackles. Edwards see his Ponies stronger this fall and credits the high number of returning starters. By the same token, he sees the district as a whole stronger, too.

Schedule: Aug. 29 – Vs Hamshire-Fannett^^; Sept. 6 – Arp; Sept. 12 – At Waskom**; Sept. 20 – Tatum; Sept. 27 – At Mount Vernon*; Oct. 4 – Jefferson*; Oct. 11 – At Atlanta*; Oct. 18 – Hooks*; Oct. 25 – At Redwater*; Nov. 1 – New Boston*

(*Indicates district game; ^^Indicates game at Lufkin with 7 p.m. start; **Indicates 7 p.m. starts; All other games start at 7:30 p.m.)


Mascot: Hornets

Coach: Chris Birdwell (5th year, 24-20)

All-time: 394-336-14, .539%

Stadium: Hornet Stadium, 601 East Ave., Hooks, Texas 75561

2018 result: 4-6

Returning letterman/starters: 15/11

Lettermen lost: 14

Offense: Spread

Offensive notables: ATH Mason Vasquez, Sr., 5-11, 195 … WR Marquiz Estell, Sr., 6-2, 182 … OL Matthew Estes, Sr., 6-3, 295 … OL Dawson Adams, Jr., 6-4, 295

Defense: 4-3

Defensive notables: S Marquiz Estell, Sr., 6-2, 182 … DL Matthew Estes, Sr., 6-3, 295 … DL Dawson Adams, Jr., 6-4, 295 … LB Benji Johnson, Jr., 6-3, 187

2019 Outlook: After taking Hooks to three straight playoffs, Chris Birdwell saw his fourth edition narrowly miss out. Birdwell won a district crown in his first season of 2015, but the Hornets suffered four straight setbacks to end the regular season and started basketball earlier than usual. Seven starters are back on offense, but Birdwell must replace seven spots on defense. It’s nice to have a talented player like Mason Vasquez to lean on. The senior standout could see time at running back, but most likely will lead the Hornets from the QB position. Vasquez rushed for 1,306 yards and scored 15 TDs. He’s also a mainstay on defense for Hooks with 72 tackles from his safety position. Another talented two-threat is senior Marquiz Estell. The 6-2, 182-pound Estell excels at wide receiver with 20 catches for 301 yards and 7 TDs. He also managed 78 stops and picked five passes from his safety post. The offensive and defensive lines are in the capable hands of senior Matthew Estes (6-3, 295) and junior Dawson Adams (6-4, 295). If the Hornets are to avoid another late-season meltdown, they’ll have to stay healthy. If Vasquez and Estell remain hardy, the Hornets might work themselves back into postseason after a one-year absence.

Schedule: Aug. 30 – At Linden-Kildare; Sept. 6 – Paul Pewitt; Sept. 13 – At Queen City; Sept. 20 – Cooper; Oct. 4 – At Redwater*; Oct. 11 – New Boston*; Oct. 18 – At Hughes Springs*; Oct. 25 – Mount Vernon*; Nov. 1 – At Jefferson*; Nov. 8 – Atlanta*

(*Indicates district game; All games start at 7:30 p.m.)


Mascot: Dragons

Coach: Tommy Graf (8th year, 28-33)

All-time: 152-287-3, .347%

Stadium: Dragon Stadium, 221 Redwater Blvd., Redwater, Texas 75573

2018 result: 1-9

Returning letterman/starters: 12/8

Lettermen lost: 17

Offense: Flex Bone

Offensive notables: RB Malcom Brown, Soph., 6-2, 175 … QB Preston Davis, Jr., 6-2, 215 … RB Garrett Johnson, Sr., 5-9, 170 … OL John Collier, Soph., 5-7, 190

Defense: 4-3

Defensive notables: DL Carlos Rojas, Jr., 5-8, 190 … DL Nick Parker, Sr., 6-0, 220 … LB Matt Williams, Sr., 5-10, 185 … DE Noah Fernandez, Sr., 5-10, 180

2019 Outlook: After stringing together eight consecutive playoff squads, the Redwater Dragons failed to breathe fire in 2018 and plummeted to an 1-9 debacle. It was Redwater’s worst showing since a 0-10 season in 2006. There’s nowhere to go but up for veteran coach Tommy Graf in 2019. Unfortunately, seven positions on both offense and defense need to find replacements. QB Preston Davis is back for his senior season after being injured all of last year. Redwater scrimmages out of the Flex Bone and Malcom Brown will also contend at QB after totaling 214 yards through the air a year ago. Garrett Johnson, another backfield component, rushed for 230 yards on 28 touches last season. Johnson was also the top receiver for the Dragons with 48 yards on six catches and one score. Linebacker Matt Williams spearheads the Redwater 4-3 scheme. Williams tallied 55 tackles to led the way for a defense that surrendered on average 48 points per game. Senior Noah Fernandez is penciled in at defensive end after making 30 stops last season. Graf knows the climb is going arduous to return to the playoffs this year. He points to the loss of 17 lettermen and a stronger district as major obstacles.

Schedule: Aug. 30 – At Waskom; Sept. 6 – Tyler Grace; Sept. 13 – At Paul Pewitt; Sept. 20 – At T.K. Gorman; Sept. 27 – At Atlanta*; Oct. 4 – Hooks*; Oct. 18 – At New Boston*; Oct. 25 – Hughes Springs*; Nov. 1 – At Mount Vernon*; Nov. 8 – Jefferson*

(*Indicates district game; All games start at 7:30 p.m.)


Mascot: Lions

Coach: Justin Waltz (2nd year, 0-10)

All-time: 391-475-16, .452%

Stadium: Lion Stadium, Sunset St. & College St., New Boston, Texas 75570

2018 result: 0-10

Returning letterman/starters: 18/12

Lettermen lost: 8

Offense: Wing-T

Offensive notables: ATH Kyle Atkinson, Jr., 6-0, 155 … RB Treycyn Thomas, Sr., 5-7, 145 … FB Kevon Thompson, Jr., 5-8, 185 … OL Cody Rutherford, Jr., 6-0, 300 … QB Tyler Strain, Sr., 5-10, 160

Defense: 4-2-5

Defensive notables: LB Trent Graham, Sr., 5-9, 180 … CB Angel Recendiz, Soph., 5-11, 165 … LB Brian Reed, Jr., 5-8, 160 … CB Tre Lewis-Colber, Jr., 6-2, 180 … DB Deaundre Haywood-Jones, Sr., 5-10, 150

2019 Outlook: How the mighty have fallen. It wasn’t that long ago the New Boston Lions were a perpetual playoff participant. From 2010 to 2014 the Lions roared with an overall record of 56-11 and five straight playoff showings. Things turned on dime in 2015 and in the last four season, New Boston has lost 35 of 40 contests. It all bottomed out last year with the Lions’ first winless campaign in 14 years. Justin Waltz is confident his second season in charge will be better than his first and he’s banking on six offensive and defense stalwarts back. The Lions only lost nine lettermen and return 18. Better days ahead for New Boston seem to be a certainty. Kyle Atkinson should provide Waltz with options. Listed simply as an athlete, Atkinson could hold the key to New Boston breaking its 11-game losing streak. QB duties rest on the shoulders of senior Tyler Strain. Senior Treycyn Thomas is listed at running back and 6-0, 300-pound Cody Rutherford could be a road-grader on the offensive line. The Lions only scored 48 points last season, while giving up 371 in the process. On defense, senior Trent Graham is a mainstay as is sophomore cornerback Angel Recendiz. New Boston’s last win came on Nov. 3, 2017 when the Lions defeated Sabine, 44-32.

Schedule: Aug. 30 – At Paul Pewitt; Sept. 6 – DeKalb; Sept. 13 – At Daingerfield; Sept. 20 – Carlisle; Sept. 27 – At Jefferson*; Oct. 4 – Atlanta*; Oct. 11 – At Hooks*; Oct. 18 – Redwater*; Nov. 1 – At Hughes Springs*; Nov. 8 – Mount Vernon*

(*Indicates district game; All games start at 7:30 p.m.)

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