With 27 lettermen — including seven offensive and seven defensive starters — returning from last year’s 7-7 squad that advanced to the Class 4A Division II state quarterfinals, the Brownwood Lions find themselves ranked No. 10 in the Associated Press Class 4A preseason high school football poll, which was released Sunday.

The Lions, who open the 2007 season at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Gordon Wood Stadium against Class 3A Abilene Wylie, received 37 points in the poll, six fewer than No. 9 Highland Park and eight points more than Texarkana.

Brownwood is one of three teams from District 16-4A to land in the Top 10 as reigning 4A Division I state finalist Copperas Cove (12-3) is ranked No. 1, while 4A Division II state finalist Waco High (13-3) comes in at No. 2. Cove garnered a total of 178 points and nine first-place votes in the poll, while Waco collected 161 points and three first-place votes.

Stephenville (10-2) — Brownwood’s archrival which is not on the schedule for the second consecutive season — is ranked third with 145 points and three first-place votes.

The rest of the Top 8 includes defending 4A Division II state champion La Marque (15-1) at No. 4, Wolfforth Frenship (12-3) at No. 5, No. 6 Rosenberg Lamar Consolidated (13-1), No. 7 Wichita Falls Rider (9-5) and No. 8 Corpus Christi Calallen (12-1).

Wylie and Sweetwater — Brownwood’s first two opponents of the season — picked up four and five points, respectively, in the Class 3A poll, but did not crack the Top 10.

In the Class 2A ranks, the Coleman Bluecats are No. 7 following a 9-4 season that featured a trip to the third round of the 2A Division II playoffs. The Bluecats are returning eight starters on both sides of the ball.

Fellow 6-2A program Early will open its season Friday against the preseason No. 4 team in 2A — the Cisco Loboes. Cisco reeled off 14 straight wins and reached the Division II state championship game after dropping its season opener at home to the Longhorns in 2006.

The Goldthwaite Eagles, who have claimed three straight district titles, are tabbed No. 7 in Class A.

The Eagles return eight lettermen, including six offensive and five defensive starters from last year’s 11-1 Division II regional semifinalists squad.

Goldthwaite, a member of District 13-A, has not lost a district contest since it dropped down from Class 2A prior to the 2004 season.

The three area 11-man ranked schools join Richland Springs, which was named by sixmanfootball.com as the No. 1 team in the state earlier this month. The Coyotes return five starters on both sides of the ball from last year’s 14-0 Division I state championship team.

Richland Springs will be chasing its third state title in a four-year span.

Southlake Carroll will start another year as the projected team to beat in Class 5A, as the Dragons easily secured the preseason No. 1 ranking for fourth straight season.

It’s the 34th consecutive poll that the Dragons hold the top spot, a streak dating to 2004. During that span, Carroll has won three state titles and 48 straight games.

The last time Carroll lost was Dec. 20, 2003, in the Class 5A Division II championship to Katy — the No. 2 team in the preseason poll, and recipient of the only two first-place votes Carroll didn’t receive.

New head coach Hal Wasson is tasked with preserving the streak started by Todd Dodge, the Carroll architect who left Southlake to make the rare leap to a Division I head coaching job at North Texas. Dodge’s son, Riley, is Carroll’s senior quarterback and last season’s Class 5A player of the year.