Predicting the District 26-5A race
The top four teams from each district advance to the University Interscholastic League playoffs, which start on Nov. 16. The two schools with the largest enrollments compete in the Division I bracket and the two smaller schools advance to Division II.
(School enrollments are in parentheses.)
1. Dripping Springs (1,669): Tigers coming off best season in school history.
2. Boerne Champion (1,533): Prolific QB Davis Brin back to lead Chargers.
3. Alamo Heights (1,541): Mules have recorded five 10-win seasons in past 10 years.
4. Kerrville Tivy (1,461): Antlers have made playoffs for 20 consecutive seasons.
5. Medina Valley (1,227): Coach Soza has Panthers moving in right direction.
6. Lockhart (1,520): Lions seek to bounce back after missing playoffs last year.
7. Marble Falls (1,258): Mustangs haven’t made playoffs since 2010.
8. Seguin (2,028): Matadors stuck in rut of 10 straight losing seasons.
Preseason Offensive MVP: Champion quarterback Davis Brin
Preseason Defensive MVP: Dripping Springs linebacker Beau Collins
Here is a breakdown of the San Antonio-area teams in District 26-5A:
2. Boerne Champion Chargers
Coach: Keith Kaiser, 37-11 in four seasons at Champion
2016 records: 10-3 overall, 6-1 in District 26-5A (three-way tie for first)
Last playoff appearance: 2016, lost to Corpus Christi Calallen 20-7 in 5A Division II third round
Starters returning (O/D): 3/4
Season opener: vs. Prosper, Sept. 1, Georgetown
District 26-5A opener: at Medina Valley, Sept. 22
Outlook: The Chargers lost heavily to graduation, but senior quarterback David Brin is back to lead the offense. Brin passed for 3,614 yards and 33 touchdowns last year, when Champion made the playoffs for the third season in a row. Brin, who committed to Tulsa this summer, also rushed for 292 yards and eight TDs. Senior tight end Mason Holland, who had three TD receptions last year, is another returning offensive starter. Juniors Austin Jones and Jackson Pickett will start at wide receiver and running back, respectively. The defense will be led by the quartet of senior tackle Cory Collinsworth (3.5 sacks), sophomore free safety Luke Boyers and senior ends Taylor Posey (8 sacks) and Chris Weber (3.5 sacks). Senior Cade, who averaged 47 yards a punt last season, is another key Champion player. Champion, which has made the playoffs six of the past seven years, is starting its 10th season.
3. Alamo Heights Mules
Coach: Mike Norment, 43-16 in four seasons at Alamo Heights
2016 records: 10-2, 6-1 in District 26-5A (three-way tie for first)
Last playoff appearance: 2016, lost to Richmond Foster 55-27 in 5A Division I second round
Starters returning (O/D): 3/3
Season opener: at New Braunfels, Sept. 1
District 26-5A opener: vs. Marble Falls, Sept. 22, Orem Stadium
Outlook: The Mules return only six starters, three each way, from a team that returned Alamo Heights to the playoffs after a one-year absence. Junior lineman Ruben Alvarez, junior linebacker Maki Carabin and senior linebacker Cody Nelson are the defensive leaders for the Mules. A three-year starter, Carabin had 146 tackles and one interception last year. Nelson (108 tackles, 1 interception) has started for two seasons, and Alvarez had two sacks last year. Junior wide receiver Nik Proctor, who caught passes for 1,150 yards and 14 touchdowns last season, is the best of the returning offensive starters. Junior Reed Anderson has the inside track on the starting spot at quarterback. Junior wide receiver Will Hoffman is another player the Mules will rely on to help the offense develop.
4. Kerrville Tivy Antlers
Coach: David Jones, 40-21 in five seasons at Tivy
2016 records: 4-7 overall, 4-3 in District 26-5A (fourth)
Last playoff appearance: 2016, lost to Austin McCallum 17-14 in 5A Division II bi-district
Starters returning (O/D): 7/6
Season opener: vs. Stevens, Sept. 1, Antler Stadium
District 26-5A opener: at Dripping Springs, Sept. 22
Outlook: Last year’s 4-7 finish snapped a streak of nine winning seasons for the Antlers, who have advanced to the playoffs for 20 consecutive years. With seven starters returning on offense and six on defense, Tivy should have enough experience and talent to get back on the winning side of the ledger. Senior Lance Ford and junior Karson Valverde will compete for the starting spot at quarterback. Valverde passed for 523 yards and three touchdowns last season, and Ford had 293 passing yards and two TDs. Senior Keithan Perez could be one of the top wide receivers in the district. The defense will be paced by senior cornerback Brock Billieter, senior linebacker David Denais, junior end Brady Jenschke and senior linebacker Trent Mott (131 tackles).
5. Medina Valley Panthers
Coach: Chris Soza, 5-5 in one season at Medina Valley
2016 records: 5-5 overall, 3-4 in District 26-5A (fifth)
Last playoff appearance: 2015, lost to Corpus Christi Calallen 41-6 in 5A Division II bi-district
Starters returning (O/D): 4/6
Season opener: vs. Eagle Pass, Sept. 1, Panther Stadium
District 26-5A opener: vs. Boerne Champion, Sept. 22, Panther Stadium
Outlook: The Panthers broke even last year in their first season under Soza, who was head coach at Mathis, Beeville and Alice before succeeding Brian Emerson at Medina Valley. Senior running backs Caytan Chang and Devin Johnson are back to help fuel the Panthers’ Slot-T offense. Chang rushed for 354 yards and caught 27 passes for 221 yards last year. He and Johnson will run behind a line anchored by senior Dylan Carroll. The all-senior trio of linemen Logan Haby, Wesley Horvath, Chris Martinez and A.J. Lopez are the team’s defensive leaders. Lopez had seven sacks last year and Horvath finished with four. The Panthers had made the playoffs for four consecutive seasons before missing the cut last year, but Soza is optimistic that they will be a better team in 2017 and challenge the district's top teams.
8. Seguin Matadors
Coach: Travis Bush, 2-8 in one season at Seguin
2016 records: 2-8 overall, 1-6 in District 26-5A (eighth)
Last playoff appearance: 2006, lost to Reagan 34-27 in 5A Division I bi-district
Starters returning (O/D): 4/6
Season opener: vs. Austin Travis, Aug. 31, Matador Stadium
District 26-5A opener: at Lockhart, Sept. 22
Outlook: Seguin has gone 10 consecutive seasons without making the playoffs, and hasn’t come close to finishing .500 since it went 4-6 in 2012. The Matadors dropped to 2-8 last year after three consecutive 3-7 seasons. This could be the year Seguin starts to turn things around under second-year coach Travis Bush. Senior linebacker Garrett Luensmann, senior tackle Keane Davis and junior strong safety/cornerback Deryn Taylor will spearhead a defensive expected to be considerably better this season. The top returning offensive starter is senior running back Brandon Palomares, who rushed for 1,007 yards and 12 touchdowns last year. He averaged 7.93 yards per carry and also had 313 yards receiving. Senior lineman Harley Ullrich and senior wide receiver Brian Cash are two other returning starters.