District 16-3A begins another season later this month. Practice began for it earlier this week.
Expect the work to help the league live up to “District of Doom” again.
Much like the past three seasons, multiple 16-3A teams are set to enter the season with high expectations —- some greater than others, of course.
A pair of teams — Gilmer and Kilgore — will likely represent the league in the top five of the Associated Press’ 3A preseason poll. Another pair of squads — Henderson and Chapel Hill — won state titles within the past three seasons.
“To me, it’s going to be a lot of the same,” Chapel Hill head coach Thomas Sitton said.
All seven teams kicked off preseason practice Monday, preparing to begin the season the last weekend of August.
The schedule for the opening week: Bullard at Quitman; Henderson at Plano Prestonwood; and Kilgore at Marshall. The league’s home teams for the opening week: Chapel Hill vs. Lindale; Gilmer vs. Atlanta; Gladewater vs. Daingerfield and Spring Hill vs. Pleasant Grove.
Gilmer, which reached last season’s 3A Division II final, is the defending district champion.
A quick look at 16-3A:
2012 Record: 14-2 (Division II finalist)
Returning Starters: 7 offense/6 defense
2013 Outlook: The Buckeyes are the likely favorites to win back-to-back league titles. They return a 3,000-yard passer in quarterback Tanner Barr and a 2,000-yard rusher in running back Kris Boyd. Among the stop unit’s top returning players is linebacker Josh Walker, a Texas A&M pledge and the EFinalScore.com/ETVarsity.com Preseason Dream Team’s Defensive Player of the Year.
2012 Record: 11-2 (Division I semifinalist)
Returning Starters: 7 offense/7 defense
2013 Outlook: The Bulldogs once again figure to be stout on defense with the likes of lineman LaDarrin Anthony, linebacker Jake Brantley and defensive back Benny Colbert. The Bulldogs will be breaking in a new quarterback, but they’ve never been about out-finessing opponents.
Chapel Hill Bulldogs
2012 Record: 3-7
Returning Starters: 7 offense/7defense
2013 Outlook: Only two seasons removed from the 3A Division I title, Chapel Hill is set to turn things back around with 14 starters returning. Speed is always a key for the Bulldogs, which they plan to factor in their performance on both sides of the ball.
2012 Record: 9-5
Returning Starters: 3 offense/5 defense
2013 Outlook: The Lions have lasted at least four rounds deep in the playoffs in three consecutive seasons, winning the state title in 2010, reaching the semifinals in 2011 and the quarterfinals last year. First-year head coach Phil Castles takes over for Dickey Meeks (now at Pittsburg).
2012 Record: 7-3
Returning Starters: 4 offense/4 defense
2013 Outlook: The Panthers were hit hard by graduation during the spring (after making the playoffs in 2011), but head coach Shannon Wilson and his staff prepare their team game day arguably as good as anyone in the state.
2012 Record: 3-7
Returning Starters: 1 offense/3 defense
2013 Outlook: The Bears return only four starters to the fold, but 300-plus pound junior defensive lineman Daylon Mack (an early contender to be the nation’s top recruit in 2015) might as well count as an entire D-Line.
Spring Hill Panthers
2012 Record: 3-7
Returning Starters: 7 offense/3 defense
2013 Outlook: Mark Sartain, the Panthers’ first-year head coach, hopes to bring newfound excitement into a program that missed the playoffs only once from 2000-’07 — but hasn’t been back since.