Bulletin Staff Reports
Panther Creek Panthers
at Blanket Tigers
7:30 p.m. Friday
The Blanket Tigers begin their fifth season under head coach Darin Barrow at their brand new stadium.
The Tigers, who are coming off a 4-7 season, are looking to advance to the playoffs for the second year in a row, but avoiding the early season injuries that bogged them down last season will be a key.
Blanket’s strength entering the season is its experience, as the Tigers return five starters on each side of the ball.
The offense is led by senior spread back Brian Box, who rushed for 902 yards and 20 touchdowns, threw for 313 yards and three touchdowns and caught 22 passes for 378 yards with three more scores.
Other offensive weapons include Corey Wetzel, who passed for 201 yards and a touchdown, and Chris Boykin, who grabbed 27 catches for 546 yards and three scores.
Defensively, Box is also the top returning tackler with 99 last season, while Darrell Greenwood chipped in 64 takedowns.
Panther Creek is making the move to Division II and welcoming back an old friend in head coach Mitch Lee. Lee coached Panther Creek to the 2000 state championship and posted a 102-24 record with the Panthers from 1994-2003.
Five starters also return on each side of the ball for the Panthers, with the offense being spearheaded by quarterback Trevor Smith and running backs Jake Stewart and Steven Hoelscher.
vs. DII No. 1 Woodson Cowboys
7:30 p.m. Saturday at Breckenridge
The two-time district champion May Tigers will look to continue their recent string of regular season success, but have drawn a tough opener.
Winners of 19 of their last 20 regular season games, the Tigers - ranked No. 19 in Division I by sixmanfootball.com - will face Division II’s top-ranked program in the Woodson Cowboys. May and Woodson met each of the last two season, with the Tigers picking up a 71-54 victory in 2007 and a 48-14 win in 2006.
But the Tigers lost half their starters on both sides of the ball from last year’s squad, while the Cowboys welcome back five starters on each side of the ball from a team that lost 44-38 to Motley County in the Division II state championship game in December.
May does return senior spread back Nathan Howard, who is coming off a junior campaign that featured 2,447 yards and 41 touchdowns through the air, along with 1,072 yards and 23 touchdowns on the ground.
Howard will be seeking new targets to distribute the ball to this season, as the top returning receiver from last year - Tyler Hammond - grabbed 17 catches for 348 yards with six touchdowns.
Woodson is led by Caleb Hagle (2,065 all-purpose yards, 40 touchdowns) on offense and Jeremy Stoker (119 tackles) and Jared Hutchens (112 tackles, five interceptions) on defense.
at DII No. 4 Zephyr Bulldogs
7:30 p.m. Friday
The Zephyr Bulldogs, ranked No. 4 in the sixmanfootball.com Division II preseason poll, are looking to build on their state quarterfinals performance in head coach Landon Buffe’s second season.
The Bulldogs welcome back four offensive and five defensive starters from last year’s 8-4 team, including a district MVP and district defensive player of the year.
Senior spread back Jason Hughes will again lead the Zephyr offense after racking up 1,727 yards and 21 touchdowns rushing, along with 1,347 yards and 29 touchdowns passing.
The defense is anchored by Cord Biddy, who tallied 182 tackles, including 42 in Zephyr’s two postseason games. Hughes also contributed a team-high 11 interceptions.
Zephyr dropped its season opener to Rochelle the last two season, falling 60-14 a year ago after suffering a 32-16 setback in 2006.
Rochelle is coming off an 8-3, bi-district appearance in Division I, but returns just one offensive and two defensive starters, and just two lettermen overall.
Victory Life Academy Warriors
at Universal Academy of Irving
7:30 p.m. Friday
The Victory Life Academy Warriors kick off their second season of football action with a new head coach as they continue their pursuit of their first-ever victory.
Five offensive and five defensive starters return from last year’s 0-11 Warriors squad.
Joe Branham has come out of retirement to lead Victory Life, following first-year head coach Steve Schwing. Branham has 10 years of head coaching experience and a 49-49-1 career record under his belt with stops at Gustine, Lazbuddie, Cranfills Gap and Paint Rock.
Among the returnees for the Warriors are Trey Valencia, who led VLA with 33 rushing touchdowns, 14 passing touchdowns and recorded the most tackles on the team last season. Also back is Josh Layton, who grabbed eight touchdown receptions.
OTHER NON-DISTRICT GAMES
vs. Olney Cubs
7:30 p.m. Thursday at Breckenridge
The Coleman Bluecats look to begin another successful campaign with a win against the Olney Cubs.
Coleman, which has won seven playoff games over the past four seasons, is coming off a10-3, Class 2A, Division II regional semifinals appearance.
The Bluecats return just two offensive starters, but they are leading passer and rusher Colton Buzzard (1,061 yards, 14 TDs rushing and 1,293 yards, 12 TDs passing) and Dalton De Leon (48 catches, 582 yards, six TDs).
Anchoring the Coleman defense is linebacker Stanley Cole, who tallied 109 tackles and six interceptions last season.
Olney returns six offensive and seven defensive starters from last year’s 8-2 team. Players to watch include quarterback Callen Pittman (1,515 yards, 14 TDs passing and 1,087 yards, 12 TDs rushing), receiver Jodee Wales (26 catches for 478 yards with three TDs) and linebacker Stephen Speers (107 tackles).
at Comanche Indians
7:30 p.m. Friday
Looking for their first victory since Sept. 22, 2006, the Comanche Indians open the second year of the Jeryl Brixey era at home against the Hamilton Bulldogs.
Comanche went 0-10 last season and has lost 17 straight contests. Hamilton, meanwhile, is coming off an 8-4 playoff season
The Indians are led by junior quarterback Jerick Roberts, who was named the District 8-3A newcomer of the year last season after rushing for 742 yards and five touchdowns, while passing for 730 yards and five more scores.
Josh Feaster, who chalked up 318 yards rushing in limited last season, and receivers Cody Biggs and Felix Martinez are also expected to be key contributors offensively.
The Comanche defense, which will rely on its quickness as its strength, is spearheaded by linebackers Hayden Makin, Martinez and Feaster.
San Saba Armadillos
at De Leon Bearcats
7:30 p.m. Friday
The San Saba Armadillos are eyeing their second straight season-opening victory, and looking to put the memories of another 2-8 season behind them, as they visit the Class A De Leon Bearcats.
San Saba, which is 6-34 overall since its last postseason appearance in 2003, is returning six offensive and five defensive starters from last year’s squad.
The Armadillos must find replacements for leading rusher and passer John Henry (1,781 yards, 14 TDs passing and 808 yards, 11 TDs rushing) and leading receiver Derek Sears (49 caches, three TDs). Leading candidates to step into those positions are receivers Joseph Henry and Ryan Plumley, running backs Dustin Morgan, Hayden Oliver and Gary Gant, and quarterback Jack Whitten,.
The defense is spearheaded by linebacker Bobby Pairett, who chalked up 113 tackles.
Jason Ferguson is making his debut as the De Leon head coach and the Bearcats return five offensive and four defensive starters from last year’s 4-7 playoff team.
Returners for De Leon include Clayton Stokes, who passed for 642 yards and 13 touchdowns last year; Tanner Welch, who rushed for 407 yards and three scores; receiver Austin Koonce, who grabbed 11 receptions for 207 yards; linebacker Pedro Calzada, who tallied 115 tackles; and defensive back Mason Stewart, who picked off six passes.
vs. Collinsville Pirates
7:30 p.m. Friday at Bedford
The Goldthwaite Eagles begin their 22nd season under head coach Gary Proffitt, who enters the year with 193 wins in his career, against the No. 23 team in the state, according to Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine.
Goldthwaite, which reached the Class A, Division II area round last year, returns seven starters on defense and four on offense. Walt Clifton - who tallied 94 tackles, ran for 888 yards and 11 touchdowns and completed 18-of-35 passes for 422 yards and four scores - headlines the returners.
Other returners on offense include receiver Trey Horton, who grabbed 13 receptions for 254 yards and two touchdowns, tight end Clay Phillips and lineman David Carr.
Collinsville welcomes back six offensive and eight defensive starters from last year’s 8-4 Division II finalist team.
Players to watch for the Pirates include quarterback Mitch Lawdermilk (1,018 yards and eight touchdowns rushing, along with 801 yards and 13 touchdowns passing), running back Ethan Williams (756 yards, 10 touchdowns) and defensive lineman Matt Weaver (82 tackles).
Walnut Springs Hornets
at DI No. 4 Richland Springs Coyotes
7:30 p.m. Friday
The No. 4 Richland Springs Coyotes’ quest for their third straight state championship and fourth in five years begins with a home date against Division II Walnut Springs Friday night.
The Coyotes will be gunning for their 30th straight victory, as they have not lost since the 2005 state semifinal round.
Richland Springs returns just two offensive and one defensive starter from last year’s 14-0 squad, but the five lettermen returning do have a considerable amount of experience.
Players to watch for the Coyotes include first-team all-state utility player Andrew Fowler (15 receptions for 213 yards and seven TDs, 75 tackles), Abraham Ahumada (233 yards rushing, eight TDs) and Haustin Burkhart (15 catches, 207 yards, four TDs).
Walnut Springs, ranked No. 17 in Division II by sixmanfootball.com, returns five offensive and five defensive starters from last year’s 5-5 team.
Sterling City Eagles
at Santa Anna Mountaineers
7:30 p.m. Friday
The Santa Anna Mountaineers will play their first game under new coach Brock Ramsey, while the Sterling City Eagles are playing their first game at the six-man level in several seasons.
Santa Anna is looking to bounce back after missing the playoffs for the first time since 2004 last season. The Mountaineers must find a way to replace Terrence Jackson, who rushed for 2,075 yards and 41 touchdowns in his senior season of 2007.
Among the weapons Ramsey is planning to include in the offensive arsenal are Fausto Maldonado, Jordon Whaley, Vance Rice and Manny Dancy.
Maldonado, with 153 tackles last season, and Whaley are also the lone returning starters on defense.
Sterling City went 0-10 in 11-man action last year, and all six starters on both sides of the ball were members of that team. The Eagles’ main threat is running back Abel Rivas, who rushed for 849 yards last season.
DII No. 9 Sidney Eagles
vs. Buckholts Badgers
7:30 p.m. Saturday at Richland Springs
The Sidney Eagles - ranked No. 9 in Division II by sixmanfootball.com - wrap up the Coyote Kick Off Classic with Saturday night’s showdown with the Buckholts Badgers.
Head coach Shannon Williams enters his fifth season with all but one lettermen returning from last year’s 5-5 squad.
The Eagles are led by running back Stephan Ortiz, who rushed for 2,176 yards and 43 touchdowns a year ago, and averaged 12.1 yards per rush.
Division I Buckholts returns four offensive and four defensive starters from last year’s 4-6 team. The Badgers’ main weapon is receiver Allen Shelton, who caught 25 passes for 493 yards and 13 TDs.
at Mullin Bulldogs
7:30 p.m. Friday
The Mullin Bulldogs will look to bounce back from an 0-10 season with a win in head coach Benny Weaver’s debut.
Players to watch for the Bulldogs include Alan Maxey (834 yards and 11 TDs passing, 413 yards and three TDs rushing, 104 tackles, seven interceptions), Randy Sims (20 catches for 395 yards and six touchdowns) and varsity newcomer Michael Weaver.
Division II Oglesby is coming off a 2-8 season and return three starters on each side of the ball. Players to watch include Costin Thurmond and Jordan Jones.