By HAROLD WILSON
John Tyler starts the year in the driver’s seat, and the team to beat, the District 16-4A football coaches confirmed.
The Lions earned all six first-place votes in a coaches poll conducted by the Tyler Courier-Times—Telegraph.
John Tyler preceded Corsicana, Whitehouse, Jacksonville, Lindale and Nacogdoches, respectively, in the rankings. Four of the teams moved together from District 14-4A: John Tyler, Jacksonville, Nacogdoches and Whitehouse. Realignment bumped Lindale from Class 3A, and Corsicana joined the fold after playing in a Mextroplex-based 4A loop last year.
Both John Tyler and second-place Corsicana advanced to the Class 4A state semifinals in 2011. The Lions return 17 starters from an 11-4 team which made the final four in Division I.
Three teams broke in new coaches in the offseason: Ricklan Holmes at John Tyler, Chris Taber at Jacksonville, and Bobby Reyes at Nacogdoches.
Four of the six teams reached the playoffs last year, with three winning 10 games or more, including Lindale.
“Adding Corsicana and Lindale to our district brings a different atmosphere and two very competitive teams,” said Holmes, who inherits a program coming off three straight 10-win seasons and three consecutive district championships. “Our district is going to be well-represented in the playoffs.”
Corsicana welcomes back six starters from a 13-2 team that came within a game of playing for the Division II crown last year.
Corsicana edged Whitehouse for second by two points. Head coach Phil Castles considers the three Smith County schools a big threat as his Tigers joins an all-new district from a year ago.
“John Tyler has everyone back and will probably be ranked (one of the top) teams in the state,” said Castles, a former head coach at Chapel Hill. “I think Whitehouse is a really good program. And Lindale, they’ve played 4As in the past and done a good job.”
Whitehouse brings back 17 starters from a 5-6 team, one expected to contend for one of the top two spots. Of the six coaches polled, Corsicana earned three second-place votes, Whitehouse two, and Lindale one.
“It’s a very competitive district,” said McFarlin, who led the Wildcats to their sixth consecutive postseason appearances a year ago. “Week-in, week-out you have to pay good ball or you won’t make it out.”
All six coaches agreed on John Tyler, Corsicana and Whitehouse representing the league in the playoffs.
Jacksonville nudged Lindale for the fourth spot. Taber, who served as Chapel Hill’s offensive coordinator during the Bulldogs’ run to the Class 3A Division I title last fall, inherits an Indians squad with 10 returning starters.
“I think anybody can get in,” Taber said. “It’s just going to be whose team clicks the quickest with new guys in place.”
District 16-4A Preseason Football Poll^
1, John Tyler (6) 36
2, Corsicana 26
3, Whitehouse 24
4, Jacksonville 17
5, Lindale 15
6, Nacogdoches 8
^—Six points were awarded for first-place votes, descending in order