Gilmer vs Kilgore

Mason Hurt makes a pass for Gilmer, on Friday August 16, 2019, during their scrimmage with Kilgore in R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium. (Michael Cavazos/News-Journal Photo)

Pleasant Grove returns 14 players from a state finalist team. Then there's Gilmer, Pittsburg and a new-look Spring Hill team.


OUR PICKS

  1. PLEASANT GROVE
  2. GILMER
  3. PITTSBURG
  4. LIBERTY-EYLAU
  5. SPRING HILL

PLEASANT GROVE

Mascot: Hawks

Coach: Josh Gibson (6th year, 49-20)

All-time: 196-192-1, .505%

Stadium: Hawk Stadium, 5406 McKnight Rd., Texarkana, Texas 75503

2018 result: 13-3, Class 4A DII State runner-up

Returning letterman/starters: 27/14

Lettermen lost: 13

Offense: Wing-T

Offensive notables: Bruce Garrett, Sr., 5-10, 191 … QB Ben Harmon, Sr., 6-1, 190 … OT Connor Stanfill Sr., 6-0, 265 … OL Jordan Stuart, Jr., 6-4, 338

Defense: 3-4

Defensive notables: DE Landon Jackson, Jr., 6-6, 244 … DE Marcus Burris, Jr., 6-5, 255 … OLB Nick Martin, Jr., 6-0, 189 … DT Camren Weekly, Jr., 5-11, 215

2019 Outlook: Only in existence since 1984, the Pleasant Grove Hawks have been making up for lost time. Since 2014, the Hawks have qualified for the postseason and played for the last two 4A DII state titles. PG ran the table in 2017 and lost to Cuero 40-28 last December in the championship. Josh Gibson has created a well-oiled machine near the Texas/Arkansas state line. The scary thing is eight offensive and six defensive regulars return from last year’s 13-3 outfit. Are the Hawks a good bet for a three-peat visit to the finals? You bet! It’s names you’ve heard for what seems like 10 years. Senior Ben Harmon controls the offensive unit scrimmaging out of the Wing-T. Harmon had 2,008 yards passing with 30 TDs and only a half dozen picks. “Best leader I’ve coached,” said Gibson. Halfback Bruce Garrett returns after rushing for 2,004 yards and scoring 20 TDs. The defense has a monstrous set of DEs in juniors Landon Jackson and Marcus Burris. Jackson, at 6-6, 244, is the top-rated at his position in the state and already holds an offer from Alabama. He recorded 56 tackles and 9 sacks last year. Burris, at 6-5, 255, received his first DI offer as a freshman. Burris racked up 75 stops, 12 TFL, 23 QBPs and 5 sacks.

Schedule: Aug. 30 – Paris; Sept. 6 – At Henderson; Sept. 13 – Atlanta; Sept. 20 – At Gladewater; Sept. 27 – At Chapel Hill; Oct. 4 – Carthage; Oct. 11 – At Pittsburg*; Oct. 18 – Gilmer*; Oct. 25 – At Liberty-Eylau*; Nov. 1 – Spring Hill*(*Indicates district game; All games start at 7:30 p.m.)


Gilmer

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

GILMER

Mascot: Buckeyes

Coach: Matt Turner (5th year, 43-13)

All-time: 686-388-39, .634%

Stadium: Jeff Traylor Stadium, N. Bradford St. at Buffalo St., Gilmer, Texas 75644

2018 result: 6-7, Class 4A DII Regional semifinals

Returning letterman/starters: 17/15

Lettermen lost: 21

Offense: Spread

Offensive notables: OL Devon King, Sr., 6-3, 330 … OL Blake Olivares, Sr., 5-11, 300 … RB Darrell Bush, Sr., 5-10, 195 … QB Mason Hurt, Jr., 6-2, 160

Gilmer

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

Defense: 50

Defensive notables: OLB Malik Williams, Sr., 6-1, 190 … LB Omar Euceda , Jr., 6-0, 171 … DB Davion Smith, Jr., 5-11, 150 … DL Matt Burton, Soph., 5-10, 241

2019 Outlook: Underestimate the Gilmer Buckeyes at your own peril. After finishing the regular season with their first losing record in 23 years, the Buckeyes caught a second wind in the playoffs and advanced all the way to the regional semifinals. After wins over higher-seeded Sunnyvale and Fairfield, Gilmer dropped a repeat match against district foe Pleasant Grove to end a storybook surge. Matt Turner, considered among peers to be one of the best in the business, has nine back on offense and six on defense. The Buckeyes have a lot of pride and coming off a rare losing campaign they could be very dangerous. It starts with the offensive line as 6-3, 330-pound senior Devon King and 5-11, 300-pound senior Blake Olivares lead the charge. Mason Hurt is acting field general and threw for 2,006 yards and 18 TDs as a sophomore. The ground game centers on senior Darrell Bush, who clicked off 848 yards and found the pay window 13 times. Defensively, senior OLB Malik Williams is back after 54 total tackles and a couple sacks. The Buckeyes also rely on junior DB Davion Smith, who notched 91 tackles, 70 of which were solos.

Schedule: Aug. 30 – Atlanta; Sept. 6 – At Van; Sept. 13 – Paris; Sept. 20 – At Carthage; Sept. 27 – Newton; Oct. 4 – At Bullard; Oct. 11 – Spring Hill*; Oct. 18 – At Pleasant Grove; Oct. 25 – Pittsburg*; Nov. 8 – At Liberty-Eylau*

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


PITTSBURG

Mascot: Pirates

Coach: Brad Baca (4th year, 31-17)

All-time: 486-475-33, .506%

Stadium: Pirate Stadium, 300 N. Texas St., 75686

2018 result: 10-4, Class 4A DII Regional finals

Returning letterman/starters: 7/5

Lettermen lost: 16

Offense: Spread

Offensive notables: Promous Morrison, Sr., 5-8, 176 … OG Undra Bates, Sr., 6-1, 220 … Trace Reynolds, Jr., 6-2, 280

Defense: 4-2-5

Defensive notables: CB Cade Busch, Sr., 5-10, 155 … DT Braydon Morris, Jr., 5-8, 195 … DT Issam Toler, Sr., 6-1, 190

2019 Outlook: Brad Baca has been a model of consistency since taking over for Dicky Meeks in 2014. The Pittsburg Pirates, under Baca, have won 10 games twice and qualified for postseason all four seasons, stretching the school’s streak to six years. Last year the offensive was explosive with an average of 35 points per game. They also had a cat named Jaylon Jimmerson at the controls. Jimmerson has moved on to Incarnate Word and Baca looks to rebuild. The Pirates are depleted of returnees on both sides. Only four starters return to the offense, and just one regular is back on the defensive side. A total of seven experienced varsity players start practice this fall. This could be a very daunting task, but Baca is optimistic players will step up and take ownership. Fleet-footed senior wide out Promous Morrison looks to improve on 32 receptions, 343 yards and 4 TDs from last fall. Up front, senior Undra Bates is expected to open holes in the ground game at offensive guard. Cade Busch headlines the Pitt defense at CB. The senior speedster had 42 tackles and a pick in 2018, earning him second team all district. It plays heavily into Pitt’s favor that four of five district teams qualify for the playoffs.

Schedule: Aug. 29 – Jefferson**l; Sept. 6 – At Pine Tree; Sept. 13 – Tatum; Sept. 20 – At Van; Sept. 27 – Kilgore; Oct. 4 – Rusk; Oct. 11 – Pleasant Grove*; Oct. 25 – At Gilmer*; Nov. 1 – Liberty-Eylau*; Nov. 8 – Gilmer*

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


LIBERTY-EYLAU

Mascot: Leopards

Coach: Klint King (1st year)

All-time: 361-295-13, .549%

Stadium: Harris Field, 2901 Leopard Dr., Texarkana, Texas 75501

2018 result: 4-8, Class 4A DII Area

Returning letterman/starters: 19/8

Lettermen lost: 17

Offense: Spread

Offensive notables: RB Damian Henderson, Jr., 5-9, 200 … RB Korbyn White, Sr., 5-10, 180 … WR Shannon Roy, Sr., 5-7, 140

Defense: 4-3

Defensive notables: LB Ethan Banks, Sr., 5-10, 175 … DT Josh Gamble, Jr., 6-0, 290 … DT Trevon Revels, Sr., 5-10, 240

2019 Outlook: Klint King has been charged with taking over for Steve Wells at Liberty-Eylau. The Leopards, playoff entrants each of the last six seasons, have three holdovers on offense and five on defense, hoping to make it seven straight ticket punches to the party. L-E limped into the playoffs last year with an 3-7 ledger and stunned a higher-seeded Caddo Mills 47-17 in bi-district. The Leopards gave Lorena all it wanted in area before bowing out, 51-43. It’s not how you start that matters as much as how you finish. King will lean on senior Korbyn White and junior Damien Henderson to tote the rock. White found the end zone eight times and Henderson three in 2018. Shannon Roy had 106 yards on eight receptions and is back at wide receiver. The Leopard defense was riddled for an average of 36 points per game. King clearly seeks improvement on that side of the ledger. Ethan Banks is a 5-10, 175-pound senior returning at LB. Banks totaled 54 tackles and recovered two fumbles last season. Junior DT Josh Gamble is back after 42 tackles. The 6-0, 290-pounder also deflected two passes. Joining Gamble on the defensive front is senior Trevon Revels, who was injured much of last season. Revels at full strength will be a nice addition for the spotted cats.

Schedule: Aug. 30 – Arkansas High; Sept. 6 – At Carthage; Sept. 13 – At Texas High; Sept. 20 – At Atlanta; Sept. 27 – Argyle**; Oct. 4 – Waco La Vega; Oct. 18 – At Spring Hill*; Oct. 25 – Pleasant Grove*; Nov. 1 – At Pittsburg*; Nov. 8 – Gilmer*

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


Spring Hill

Spring Hill High School Colby Bowles (61), Brandon Krenek (77), Zach Henry (16) and Aaron Collier (72). (Cara Campbell/Tyler Morning Telegraph)

SPRING HILL

Mascot: Panthers

Coach: Jonny Louvier (1st year at school, 4-6 overall)

All-time: 434-342-23, .558%

Stadium: Panther Stadium, 3101 Spring Hill Road, Longview, Texas 75605

2018 result: 2-8

Returning letterman/starters: 15/14

Lettermen lost: 14

Offense: Multiple

SHHS Practice

Spring HIll quarterback Gage White looks for a receiver during the Panthers’ first practice of the season Monday.

Offensive notables: QB Gage White, Sr., 6-0, 180 … WR Zach Henry, Sr., 5-7, 135 … OL Aaron Collier, Jr., 6-1, 200 … WR Ty Jones, Jr., 5-10, 155 … RB Michael Marrs, Jr., 5-8, 175

Defense: Multiple

Defensive notables: DL Malik Cooks, Sr., 6-0, 250 … LB Kaden Rogers, Sr., 6-2, 205 … DB Eric Morrow, Soph., 6-0, 170 … DL Colby Bowles, Jr., 5-9, 260 … LB Michael Marrs, Jr., 5-8, 175

2019 Outlook: Jonny Louvier, once a nightmare for Spring Hill fans when he was quarterback at Gladewater in the early 2000s, has been tasked with returning the Panther football program back to glory. Louvier, considered one of the top up-and-coming coaches in the East Texas, has the luxury of 14 returning starters and a total of 15 letter winners. The Panthers have eight offensive regulars back and three-year starter Gage White headlines the group. White, a starter at QB since his 9th grade season, completed 112 of 214 passes for 1,523 yards and 11 TDs last year. White’s preferred target will likely be fellow senior Zach Henry, who was on the end of 31 receptions for 340 yards last fall. Henry is a two-year letter winner and while small in stature – 5-7, 135 – he has a fierce competitive spirit. He’s also clocked 4.5 in the 40. Kaden Rogers returns as Spring Hill’s leading tackler from a year ago. The 6-2, 205-pound Rogers is penciled in at linebacker. Michael Marrs is a player that’ll be hard to keep off the field. The 5-8, 175-pound junior should playing time on offense at halfback and is likely settle in on defense at a linebacker slot. The Panthers haven’t been to the playoffs since the George W., Bush administration. That’s 12 years and counting. Louvier aims to bring that dubious streak to a halt. With a small five-team district and four tickets to the dance, Spring Hill has a reasonable expectation of ending the postseason drought.

Schedule: Aug. 30 – At Gladewater; Sept. 6 – Bullard; Sept. 13 – At White Oak; Sept. 20 – Rusk; Sept. 27 – Malakoff; Oct. 4 – At Silsbee; Oct. 11 – At Gilmer*; Oct. 18 – Liberty-Eylau*; Oct. 25 – Nov. 1 – At Pleasant Grove*; Nov. 8 – Pittsburg*

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