Predicting the District 29-5A 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. Eagle Pass Winn (2,089): Mavericks coming off best season in Winn’s short history.
2. Floresville (1,219): Tigers ready to pounce on title if Winn slips just a little.
3. Harlandale (1,950): Indians start season with new head coach Albert Torres.
4. Uvalde (1,302): Coyotes have made playoffs eight of past nine seasons.
5. Southside (1,484): Cardinals could contend for district’s last playoff spot.
6. McCollum (1,683): Cowboys have gone 15-36 since finishing 8-3 in 2011.
Preseason Offensive MVP: Floresville quarterback Darian Mayberry
Preseason Defensive MVP: Eagle Pass Winn linebacker Ernesto Villasenor
Here is a breakdown of each San Antonio-area team in District 29-5A:
2. Floresville Tigers
Coach: Andrew Rohrs, 5-6 in one season at Floresville
2016 records: 5-6 overall, 4-1in District 29-5A (two-way tie for second)
Last playoff appearance: 2016, lost to Corpus Christi King 42-21 in 5A Division II bidistrict
Starters returning (O/D): 4/4
Season opener: vs. Highlands, Sept. 1, Eschenburg Field, Floresville
District 29-5A opener: vs. Harlandale, Sept. 29, Harlandale Memorial Stadium
Outlook: The Tigers won a district co-championship and returned to the playoffs in 2016 after a two-year absence. But they finished under .500 in Rohrs’ first season after falling in the first round of the playoffs. With talented sophomore quarterback Darian Mayberry among eight returning starters, Floresville should have no problem having a winning season this year. Mayberry was voted the district’s offensive newcomer of the year after passing for 1,197 yards and six touchdowns. Mayberry’s primary targets will be senior wide receiver Colton Payne and junior tight end Patrick Silva. Payne had 39 receptions for 517 yards and five TDs last year. Junior Kane Numera, who played as a sophomore, is expected to start at running back. Junior end T.J. Gunter is the headliner on defense after finishing last season with 38 solo tackles and two sacks.
3. Harlandale Indians
Coach: Albert Torres, first season at Harlandale
2016 records: 4-6 overall, 1-4 in District 29-5A (two-way tie for fifth)
Last playoff appearance: 2015, lost to San Marcos 21-18 in 5A Division I bi-district
Starters returning (O/D): 6/4
Season opener: vs. Jay, Sept. 2, Gustafson Stadium
District 29-5A opener: vs. Floresville, Oct. 7, Harlandale Memorial Stadium
Outlook: Harlandale has a new head coach for the first time since 1994, when Isaac Martinez succeeded Rudy De Los Santos. Martinez resigned in March after going 139-110-2 in 23 seasons. The Indians won four district championships and made the playoffs 11 times under Martinez. Torres went 52-51 in 10 seasons at Edison before getting hired at Harlandale in April. As usual, the Indians will have a good quarterback to lead their offense. Junior Steven Benitez started five games last season and passed for 816 yards and seven touchdowns. Senior Franklyn Castaneda (449 receiving yards, 4 TDs) and junior Steven Ruiz (474 receiving yards, 7 TDs) return at the wide receiver spots. Junior Jeremy Rodriguez (6-3, 260) is back to lead the offensive line. The players to watch on defense are senior James Garcia and junior Sergio Abarca, who play in the secondary.
5. Southside Cardinals
Coach: Ricky Lock, 16-16 in three seasons at Southside
2016 records: 5-6 overall, 2-3 in District 29-5A (fourth)
Last playoff appearance: 2016, lost to Corpus Christi Flour Bluff 42-6 in 5A Division I bidistrict
Starters returning (O/D): 4/5
Season opener: vs. Memorial, Sept. 1, Edgewood Veterans Stadium
District 29-5A opener: vs. Uvalde, Oct. 13, Southside ISD Stadium
Outlook: The Cardinals have made the playoffs twice in Lock’s three seasons at Southside, but they haven’t had a winning year since going 8-3 in his first campaign. Considering some of the offensive firepower they have returning, the Cards should get back on the winning track. Junior quarterback John Herrera is among the team’s four offensive returning starters. He passed for 866 yards and eight touchdowns last year and rushed for 350 yards. Senior running back Edward Perez gained 455 yards and scored four TDs despite missing eight games with an injury. The defense will be anchored by three linebackers – senior Derrion Sendejo and juniors Jared Espinoza and Michael Rodriguez.
6. McCollum Cowboys
Coach: Greg Felux, 7-14 in two seasons at McCollum
2016 records: 2-8 overall, 1-4 in District 29-5A (two-way tie for fifth)
Last playoff appearance: 2015, lost to Kerrville Tivy 63-21 in 5A Division II bi-district
Starters returning (O/D): 4/4
Season opener: at South San, Sept. 1
District 29-5A opener: at Eagle Pass Winn, Oct. 12
Outlook: The Cowboys dropped to 2-8 last year after making the playoffs in 2015. They haven’t had a winning season since 2011, when they went 8-3. The best of the team’s four returning offensive starters is senior running back Jonathan Handy, who rushed for 1,025 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. Junior lineman Xavier Hernandez and junior wide receiver Eric Leija also will be counted on to make big contributions. Senior Ryan Valdez is the leader of a defensive unit that returns four starters. Junior quarterback Alejandro Escamilla, who started the Cowboys’ bi-district game last season, is another player who could see playing time on offense. McCollum has gone 15-36 since its last winning season.