Thoughts on high school football’s first day

Welcome to the official start of high school football season. Technically, no games will be played until Aug. 29, but every Class 3A and down team begins two-a-days today. Or really long one-a-days.

As I have the past handful of years, I’ll be blogging once a day until the first games are played on Aug. 29.

We’ll talk about schedules, predictions, random stats and just about everything else you can talk about until the games start. I’m also in the middle of working on a bunch of football previews for the special TRN section that comes out Sunday, Aug. 25.

For now, here are 10 “Things I think” as football practices begin today – 24 days before high school football kicks off.  

1) I think Graham will be our area’s best team in 2013. I could be wrong about that and Throckmorton probably has a better chance of playing for a state title. And Rider I think has a chance of being really good too.

But the Steers have so many weapons and only a couple spots where they’re unproven after last year’s run to the 3A semifinals. I’m anxious to see how it all comes together for them.

2) I think the bottom of 5-3A will be better. Burkburnett, Hirschi and Iowa Park went a combined 5-26. Three of those wins were against each other.

But all three Wichita County schools return good chunks of last year’s team. All three have QBs who are returning, which makes a big difference considering Derrick Ponder was just a freshman at IP and Burkburnett’s Bryan Lewis was hurt for a good chunk of his sophomore season.

Now who will be the odd team out when the playoffs start? I’m not ready to make that call yet.

3) I think Jacksboro could very well continue on the same path as Nocona did last year. Nocona went 0-10 in 2010, 6-6 with a playoff win in 2011 and 12-1 with its best season in school history.

Jacksboro went 2-8 in 2011, then 9-3 with a playoff win in 2012. Jacksboro has lots of veterans, guys like QB/LB Kirk Weldon and OL/DL Garrett Johnson who started since they were freshmen just like Tate Fenoglio and Hayden Hill did. Both have senior-heavy offensive lines.

I’m not ready to predict a Jacksboro 10-0 regular season and trip to the quarterfinals like Nocona enjoyed, but I think the Tigers are the favorites in 5-2A Division II.

4) I think one of the most interesting teams to gauge right now is Holliday. Eagles have a new coach and new defensive system. They went 6-5 but four of those losses were decided in last minute (two on game’s final play). The presumed 2013 starting QB Brennan Whitaker moved to Iowa Park in the spring. Only four starters back on each side of the ball, but it’s hard to argue with Holliday’s tradition.  

5) I think the favorites in a few of our districts are easy: Denton Guyer (5-4A), Graham (5-3A) and Jacksboro (5-2A Div. II).

But then you look at 3-A Division I. And while both Seymour and Quanah have dynamic QB/RB combos back, both lost so much, especially on defense. The Panthers have only four guys back there, one more than Quanah. And you can’t rule out Windthorst, either. That district was the same way in 2012.  

6) I think at least one of the area’s longest playoff droughts ends this year. Right now, the three longest in the 11-man ranks are City View (2002), Olney (2006) and Hirschi (2006).

I like the Mustangs to break through now that four teams are allowed in. And Hirschi could very well, too. All the Huskies have to do is not finish last in 5-3A.

7) I think I’m looking forward to seeing Munday’s L.J. Collier get a bunch of carries as a powerful fullback. The Texas Tech commit will play defense in college, but he’ll certainly be more involved in the Moguls’ offense now that most of their firepower is gone. I can’t imagine many Class A players bringing the 240-pound Collier down by themselves.

8) Not that he had a bad junior year, but I think Seymour’s Zach Barton will have numbers comparable to his sophomore season. Barton completed about 12 percent fewer passes in 2011 (dropped from 62 to below 50) for about 500 fewer yards. His INT ratio was a little worse, although nine picks is still pretty low.

Talking with Seymour coach Keith Ivy over the weekend, he admitted Barton never felt real comfortable and that “we never had complete trust in one another offensively.”

Well, Seymour is changing to the Tony Franklin system and Ivy thinks that will suit him better. Plus, he has lots of weapons at his side again, including big-play threat Cody Adams. So look for Barton to be go out with a bang.  

9) I think there will be too many teams making the playoffs this year. Nothing I can do about it, though. Surely, the UIL will stop at four, right? Because the next step, at least in the smaller-sized Class 3A, 2A and A districts, is just to allow everyone in.

10) I think the UIL’s new rule that full contact can be limited to only 90 minutes a week during the season won’t matter much. At least that’s the feeling I get from almost every coach I’ve talked to.