State championship aspirations are alive and well across the state as the first week of high school football season arrives. The highlight of the Week 1 local matchups features a pair of six-man schools that have been represented in state championship games a combined 10 times over the last 15 seasons.

The following is a glimpse at the May-Richland Springs showdown, as well as nine other games on deck Friday.

 

May at No. 2 Richland Springs

7:30 p.m. Friday

 

Since 2004, the Richland Springs Coyotes and May Tigers have combined to appear in 10 six-man state championship games, with the Coyotes earning eight crowns.

Friday night, the longest tenured coaches in the Bulletin's coverage area — May 16th-year head coach Craig Steele and Richland Springs' Jerry Burkhart, who returns for his 16th season with the Coyotes in the last 17 years — square off once more.

Richland Springs, ranked No. 2 in Class A Division II by sixmanfootball.com, has won 91 of its last 92 home games dating to 2001, with the lone loss coming at the hands of May in the 2013 season opener, which propelled the Tigers to a state championship game appearance.

May returns three starters on each side of the ball from last year's 8-4 playoff team, but injuries throughout the season allowed many underclassmen to gain valuable experience. The Tigers are led defensively by Isidro Salinas (73 tackles), the District 14-A Division I preseason defensive player of the year, according to Dave Campbell's Texas Football magazine. Offensively, Rory Bustamante (558 yards, 8 TDs rushing; 945 yards, 21 TDs passing) is the top returning weapon.

Richland Springs brings back 19 of 21 lettermen from last year's 11-2 playoff squad, including five starters on each side of the ball. Matthew Ridgon — District 16-A Division II's preseason offensive player of the year, according to Dave Campbell's Texas Football magazine — is back after accounting for almost 3,000 yards of total offense last year, as are Josiah Beam and Wade Appleton, among others. Senior newcomer Massiah Clarady is another player to watch.

According to sixmanfootball.com, Richland Springs is an 18-point favorite.

 

No. 12 Brookesmith at Santa Anna

7:30 p.m. Friday

 

Having already made school history with three straight postseason appearances, the Brookesmith Mustangs look to continue their streak and hopefully capture an elusive district title in 2019. The Santa Anna Mountaineers, meanwhile, welcome new head coach Jack Graves as they look to build on last year's 3-7 campaign.

Brookesmith — ranked No. 12 in Class A Division II by sixmanfootball.com this preseason — knocked off Santa Anna, 46-20, in last year's opener in Rochelle en route to a 6-4 playoff season. Third-year head coach Scott Edmondson welcomes back five starters on each side of the ball including Avery Williford (522 yards, 10 TDs rushing; 78 tackles, 2 INTs), and Johnathan Willoughby (621 yards, 11 TDs rushing; 75 tackles), among others.

Santa Anna returns two offensive and four defensive starters from a third-place team in District 14-A Division I year ago, which finished with a 1-2 league mark. Players to watch for the Mountaineers include Jayton Perry, Cody Robertson, and Silas Lara.

According to sixmanfootball.com, Brookesmith is a 45-point favorite.

 

No. 9 Blanket at Cherokee

7:30 p.m. Friday

 

The Class A Division II No. 9 Blanket Tigers reeled off 11 consecutive victories to open the 2018 campaign en route to reaching the second round of the playoffs. Head coach Tyler Tabor and company are eyeing a deeper postseason run in 2019, and the first step on their season's journey comes Friday night at Cherokee.

Blanket brings back 14 of 16 lettermen, including four starters on each side of the ball. Players to watch include Kameron Spivey (1,391 rushing yards and 29 TDs) and Logan Wheeler (895 rushing yards, 17 TDs), who returns after his season was cut short just shy of the midway point due to a leg injury.

Cherokee, which posted a 3-7 overall mark in 2018, also returns four offensive and four defensive starters, as well as 10 of 12 lettermen. Players to watch include Tristian Arkansas (1,450 rushing yards, 26 TDs), Erick Miller and Weston Steifel.

According to sixmanfootball.com, Blanket is a 45-point favorite.

 

No. 22 Eastland at Comanche

7:30 p.m. Friday

 

A rugged pre-district schedule in 2018 helped propel the Comanche Indians to a third consecutive district championship, and head coach Stephen Hermesmeyer hopes the same holds true this season. First up for Comanche are the Eastland Mavericks, led by top quarterback prospect Behren Morton — Dave Campbell's Texas Football Class 3A Preseason Offensive Player of the Year.

Comanche welcomes back just three offensive and three defensive starters from last year's 9-4 District 6-3A Division II championship squad. Jeron Conine and Ricardo Sanchez, who will man the trenches, are among the team leaders, while the skill position players are almost all brand new this season. Players to keep an eye on include Braxton Patterson, Logan Wilkerson and Bryce Hermesmeyer.

Eastland returns eight offensive and seven defensive starters from a 9-4 playoff team a year ago. Just a junior, Morton has captured headlines after receiving Division I scholarship offers from programs throughout the country. Morton passed for 2,644 yards and 18 touchdowns as a sophomore.

Defensively for Eastland, Dylan Carlton (88 tackles, 2 sacks) and Dillon Broyles (56 tackles, 7 sacks) lead the charge.

According to Harris Ratings Weekly, Comanche is a 7-point underdog.

 

Jim Ned at Coleman

7:30 p.m. Friday

 

The Coleman Bluecats' recent run of playoff appearances was halted in 2018, but head coach John Elder and company would like to take the first steps toward a postseason return in Friday night's season opener. Knocking off Jim Ned is easier said than done, however, as the Indians are coming off 9-3 playoff campaign.

Five offensive and five defensive starters return for Coleman, which posted a 2-8 record, including a 1-6 District 4-3A Division II mark, last season.

The bulk of Coleman's experience comes in trenches behind Kaden Castleberry, Gage Sikes, Bobby Burrow, Joe Robles and Brock Bouldin. Corbin Rosales returns at quarterback after an injury cost him most of the 2018 season.

Jim Ned welcomes back six offensive and seven defensive starters, and 18 of 30 lettermen overall, from the 2018 squad. Standouts include quarterback Dylan Martin (1,837 yards, 13 TDs passing; 494 yards, 8 TDs rushing), running back/linebacker Riley Perry (350 rushing yards, 11 TDs; 126 tackles, 7 sacks, 1 INT), tight end/defensive end Caden Martin (13-230, 2 TDs receiving), and linebacker Kade Kimmel (147 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 INT).

According to Harris Ratings Weekly, there is no line for the game. Jim Ned is ranked 65 points higher than Coleman.

 

Winters at Goldthwaite

7:30 p.m. Friday

 

The Keith Virdell coaching era begins for the Goldthwaite Eagles Friday night as they attempt to put the memory of last year's 1-9 season in the past. The Winters Blizzards are coming off a playoff run a year ago, but lost a large portion of the roster to graduation.

The Eagles return seven starters on each side of the ball from last year's squad. Players to watch include quarterback/defensive back Jackson Patrick, receiver/defensive back Jaxon Wootten, receiver/defensive back Grayson Moore, athlete Dustin Partin, offensive lineman/linebacker Kody Roberts and offensive lineman/defensive lineman Calix Mensch.

Winters welcomes back just four offensive and five defensive starters from last year's 8-4 playoff squad. Quarterback Alex Salas is expected to take over the reins of the offense, with Sema'Jae Jackson (406 rushing yards, 7 TDs) returning as the top playmaker. Hunter Duggan (72 tackles, 6 sacks) in the trenches, and linebacker Ethan Sanchez (52 tackles, 5 sacks) anchor the defense.

According to Harris Ratings Weekly, Goldthwaite is a 21-point underdog.

 

Johnson City at No. 4 San Saba

7:30 p.m. Friday

 

Ranked No. 4 in the state in Class 2A Division I by multiple media outlets, the San Saba Armadillos are looking to build upon last year's run to the state semifinals as they begin their first season under new head coach Andreas Aguirre, last season's defensive coordinator. The Johnson City Eagles serve as the first test.

San Saba won 14 consecutive games last season before coming up one victory shy of a state title game berth. Nine offensive and seven defensive starters return from that squad, including quarterback Sean O'Keefe (2,237 passing yards, 1,612 rushing yards, 32 total TDs) — a Tulsa commit. Other players to watch include running back Eli Salinas (1,902 rushing yards, 549 rushing yards), receiver Lucas Glover (600 receiving yards, 10 TDs) and linebacker Reisen Shahan (100 tackles, 22 for loss).

Johnson City is coming off a 2-9 season, but that was good enough for a playoff berth in District 13-3A Division II. The Eagles return just four offensive and six defensive starters. Standouts include Dooley Smith (54 tackles), Max Zavala (31 tackles) and Jakub Emerson (31 tackles) on defense, with Cade Boyer taking over at quarterback.

According to Harris Ratings Weekly, San Saba is a 27-point favorite.

 

Sidney at Walnut Springs

7:30 p.m. Friday

 

The Sidney Eagles made strides toward their first playoff berth since 2012 last year with a 7-3 record, but still finished third in District 15-A Division II. Second-year head coach Waylon Salinas is looking for his squad to start on a positive note in 2019 as they venture to Walnut Springs.

Four starters on each side of the ball are back for Sidney, which finished league play with a 2-2 mark last season. Players to watch include Jayson Kinnard, Joshua Rucker, Cory Scantling and Grant Drummond, among others.

Walnut Springs, coming off a 7-5 playoff campaign a year ago, is picked to finish behind Iredell and Cranfills Gap in District 11-A Division II this year, according to Dave Campbell's Texas Football. The Hornets return just two starters on each side of the ball including Tristan Whitt, who passed for 661 yards and 11 touchdowns last year, while recording 71 tackles.

According to sixmanfootball.com, Sidney is an 11-point favorite.

 

Bluff Dale at Mullin

7:30 p.m. Friday

 

The Mullin Bulldogs begin the Brent Williamson coaching era Friday night, seeking their first playoff appearance since 2014. The upstart Bluff Dale Bobcats come calling in the opener, however, which should provide a stellar early test.

Mullin returns three offensive and three defensive starters from 3-7 team a year ago that posted a 1-3 mark against District 15-A Division II competition. Players to watch include Cody Knight, Trent Coston and Cyrus Jackson, among others.

Bluff Dale is coming off a 5-5 campaign in its first full season as a UIL competitor, finishing third in District 10-A Division II behind Strawn and Gordon. The Bobcats bring back two offensive and three defensive starters, including River Taylor, Dagen Nail and Mason Bagby.

According to sixmanfootball.com, Mullin is a 45-point underdog.

 

Lohn at Rising Star

7:30 p.m. Friday

 

Two teams that have struggled with numbers in recent years square off against one another hoping to get their seasons off on the right foot, as the Lohn Eagles invade the Rising Star Wildcats.

Ennis Erickson takes over at Rising Star, which had just six players report to preseason practice. Meanwhile, Lohn in recent years has only fielded a varsity team during district play and scheduled JV teams leading up to league competition. Both teams are coming off 1-win campaigns in 2018.

Players to watch for Lohn include Travis Wise, Brian Otte, Jonathan Dotson and Josh Barron.

Leading the way for Rising Star are Tristen Bellamy, Johnny Sanchez, Chance Foster, Tristan Jackson, and Ethan Foster.

According to sixmanfootball.com, Rising Star is a 1-point underdog.