District 28-5A

Predicting the District 28-5A race

Top four teams advance to the playoffs. The two teams with the larger enrollments advance to the Division I playoffs. Enrollments are in parentheses.

1. Sam Houston (1,219)

2. Highlands (1,901)

3. Edison (1,856)

4. Brackenridge (2,114)

5. Lanier (2,002)

6. Jefferson (1,888)

7. Burbank (1,455)

8. Kennedy (1,360)

9. Memorial (1,294)

Here is a breakdown of each team in District 28-5A:

1. Sam Houston Hurricanes

Coach: Melton Schultz, first season as head coach at Sam Houston

2015 records: 10-1 overall, 8-0 in District 28-5A (first)

Last playoff appearance: 2015, lost to Boerne Champion 52-22 in 5A Division II bi-district

Starters returning (O/D): 2/2

Season opener: vs. Holmes, Aug. 27, Gustafson Stadium

District 28-5A opener: vs. Edison, Sept. 9, SAISD Complex

Outlook: The Hurricanes have a new head coach for the second year in a row. Longtime assistant coach Melton Schultz was promoted in April to succeed Patrick Brown, who resigned in February after only one season at Sam Houston. Schultz has been on the Hurricanes’ staff since 2005. Sam Houston has gone undefeated in district play each of the past two years and is coming off its first 10-0 regular season since 1989. While the Hurricanes are rebuilding after losing 23 seniors, including 18 starters, to graduation, they still have enough talent to make another playoff run. The best offensive player returning is quarterback Jawon Anderson, who had 31 receptions for 787 yards and 12 TDs as a wide receiver last year. Taevon Thomas returns to anchor the offensive line. Linebackers Josh Harris and Matthew Pitts will spearhead the defense. Sam Houston won back-to-back district titles last year for the first time since it took four in a row under coach R.A. Johnson in 1988, 1989, 1990 and 1991.

2. Highlands Owls

Coach: Juan Morales, 7-4 in one season at Highlands

2015 records: 7-4 overall, 6-2 in District 28-5A (two-way tie for second)

Last playoff appearance: 2015, lost to Lockhart 34-16 in 5A Division I bi-district

Starters returning (O/D): 4/3

Season opener: vs. Floresville, Aug. 27, Alamo Stadium

District 28-5A opener: vs. Burbank, Sept. 8, Alamo Stadium

Outlook: Highlands was the surprise in District 28-5A under first-year head coach Juan Morales. Picked to finish last, the Owls went 7-4 after going 0-10 in 2014 and lost only one district game. That was a marked improvement for a program that had gone 15 years without a playoff appearance and stumbled through five 0-10 seasons since winning district in 1999. Highlands lost some quality players to graduation, but the momentum generated last season should help the Owls stay in the playoff chase. End/linebacker Malik Thomas, linebacker Rene Lopez and tackle Antonio Hernandez are the defensive leaders. Thomas had seven sacks last season. The players to watch on offense are running back Matthew Castillo, and slotbacks Dre’Chan Moody and Dylan Camacho, and quarterback Joseph Palafos. An assistant coach at Brennan for two seasons before taking his first head-coaching job at Highlands, Morales has continued instilling a positive in his players and raising their expectations.

3. Edison Golden Bears

Coach: Albert Torres, 45-48 in nine seasons at Edison

2015 records: 4-6 overall, 3-5 in District 28-5A (two-way tie for sixth)

Last playoff appearance: 2014, lost to Boerne Champion 57-14 in 5A Division II bi-district

Starters returning (O/D): 7/8

Season opener: vs. Pleasanton, Aug. 26, Alamo Stadium

District 28-5A opener: vs. Sam Houston, Sept. 9, SAISD Sports Complex

Outlook: The return of 15 starters gives Edison good reason for optimism this year. With their district opener against defending champion Sam Houston, the Golden Bears won’t have much time to ease into the season. Quarterback Danny Cadena, who passed for 1,298 yards and six TDs, is among the team’s returning starters. Cadena also rushed for 337 yards and two TDs. Other players expected to contribute to the offense are running backs Matthew Garcia and Chris Mauricio. Garcia ran for 549 yards and five TDs and is the Owls’ top returning rusher. Two-way lineman George Vela will help clear the way for Cadena and company. Taylor Ahoyt and Raymond Rashto, who also start in the secondary, will handle the duties at the wide receiver positions. Linebacker Vincent Gutierrez is back to help solidify the defense. Mauricio, who also plays linebacker, is another player expected to log double duty.

4. Brackenridge Eagles

Coach: Willie Hall, 119-105 in 21 seasons at Brackenridge

2015 records: 4-6 overall, 4-4 in District 28-5A (fifth)

Last playoff appearance: 2014, lost to Lockhart 42-21 in 5A Division I bi-district

Starters returning (O/D): 4/4

Season opener: vs. Somerset, Aug. 26, SAISD Sports Complex

District 28-5A opener: vs. Kennedy, Sept. 9, Edgewood Veterans Stadium

Outlook: Brack finished smack-dab in the middle of the district race last season, and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2006. One of the longest-tenured football coaches in Greater San Antonio, Willie Hall, is preparing for his 34th year at Brack and 22nd as its head coach. Although they head into the season relatively inexperienced, the Eagles should bounce back and return to the playoffs. Quarterback Vincent Gonzalez got some playing time as a sophomore last year. Speedy running back/wide receiver Fred Jones is also back to give the offense a breakaway threat. John Naranjo and Ryan Ozuna will head the offensive line. Cornerback William Hall, free safety Justin Eaton and ends Ruben Perez and Matthew Rios are the top players on defense. Naranjo also will start on the defensive line. Brack won three district titles, a district co-championship and advanced to the playoffs eight years in a row before missing the cut last season.

5. Lanier Voks

Coach: Don Gatian, 95-96 in 18 seasons at Lanier

2015 records: 1-9 overall, 1-7 in District 28-5A (eighth)

Last playoff appearance: 2013, lost to Alamo Heights 28-7 in 4A Division II bi-district

Starters returning (O/D): 6/6

Season opener: vs. Holy Cross, Aug. 25, Alamo Stadium

District 28-5A opener: vs. Highlands, Sept. 15, Alamo Stadium

Outlook: After coaching the Voks for 18 seasons, Don Gatian is synonymous with Lanier football. He led the Voks to the playoffs for the first time since 1940 in his first year (1998) at Lanier, and has kept the program competitive since then. The Voks have missed the playoffs each of the past two years, but they’ve advanced nine times during Gatian’s tenure. With six starters back each way, Lanier could challenge for the district’s last playoff spot this season. J.D. Boone, who started the last two games last year at quarterback after moving from outside linebacker, is among the Voks’ offensive veterans. His top targets will be wide receiver Adrian Luzoya and running back/wide receiver Christian Cervantes. Back Isaac Castellano, lineman Phoenix Perez and end Ozzy Torres headline the defense. Torres had four sacks last season and Castellano finished with three interceptions.

6. Jefferson Mustangs

Coach: Edward Cardenas, first season at Jefferson

2015 records: 3-7 overall, 3-5 in District 28-5A (two-way tie for sixth)

Last playoff appearance: 2012, lost to Kerrville Tivy 63-28 in 4A Division II bi-district

Starters returning (O/D): 7/5

Season opener: at Antonian, Aug. 26

District 28-5A opener: vs. Memorial, Sept. 9, Alamo Stadium

Outlook: There’s a new sheriff at Jefferson. Former O’Connor assistant coach Edward Cardenas was hired in April to succeed Doyle Redding, who was the Mustangs’ head coach for six seasons before being reassigned. Cardenas coached at O’Connor for four seasons and was on the staff when the Panthers advanced to the state semifinals in 2012. The Jeff job is his first as a head coach. The Mustangs made the playoffs three times under Redding, but never had a winning season and went 21-42 in his six seasons at the helm. Cardenas will build the Jeff offense around quarterback General Gonzalez, who passed for 593 yards and seven TDs last year. Wide receivers Axel Tanajara, Da Juan Cooper and Alex Carbajal should help Gonzalez keep the chains moving. Guard Seth Garza and center Leroy Rodriguez will do the heavy lifting up front. Carbajal also will start at linebacker and will get help from linebacker Ian Garcia, end Nathaniel Magallanez and tackle Giovanni Tenorio

7. Burbank Bulldogs

Coach: Mark Perez, 8-33 in four seasons at Burbank

2015 records: 0-10 overall, 0-8 in District 28-5A (ninth)

Last playoff appearance: 2013, lost to Kerrville Tivy 58-6 in 4A Division II bi-district

Starters returning (O/D): 8/6

Season opener: at Pearsall, Aug. 26

District 28-5A opener: vs. Highlands, Sept. 18, Alamo Stadium

Outlook: After climbing to 5-5 in 2014, the Bulldogs fell to 0-10 last year. It was Burbank’s second 0-10 season in four years. With 14 starters back, look for the Bulldogs to climb back to the middle of the pack this season. Quarterback Dylan Gusme played well last year, finishing with nearly 1,000 yards of total offense. He passed for 432 yards and two TDs, and ran for 529 yards and four scores. Wide receiver Robert Martinez is another player who will contribute to the offense. Center Jose Perez will lead the offensive line. Outside linebacker Gabriel Falcon is the top returning tackler. Cornerback Carlos Covarrubias, who started as a freshman last year, is being counted on to be a leader on defense. Burbank has made the playoffs only twice since 1978, when it finished the regular season 10-0 and fell to Churchill in the first round of the playoffs.

8. Kennedy Rockets

Coach: Michael Inco, 3-17 in two seasons at Kennedy

2015 records: 2-8 overall, 1-7 in District 27-5A (eighth)

Last playoff appearance: 2009, lost to Kerrville Tivy 65-2 in 4A Division II bi-district

Starters returning (O/D): 6/6

Season opener: at Central Catholic, Aug. 26

District 28-5A opener: vs. Brackenridge, Sept. 9, Edgewood Veterans Stadium

Outlook: The move back to an inner-city district should help Kennedy be more competitive this season. Running back Cristino Garcia, who gained 600 yards in five games last year, will be the focal point of the offense. Quarterback Jaren Garcia and running back Devondre Domagaliski are two other players expected to provide offense for the Rockets. Jose Garcia, Eric Lopez and Juan Perez will anchor the offensive line. Inco will rely on backs David Austin and John Tober, linebacker Kristian Guerrero and end Carlos Solis to lead the defense.

9. Memorial Minutemen

Coach: Kemmie Lewis, first season as head coach at Memorial

2014 records: 1-9 overall, 0-8 in District 27-5A (ninth)

Last playoff appearance: 1998, lost to in Lanier 20-14 in 4A Division I bi-district

Starters returning (O/D): 6/7

Season opener: at Southside, Aug. 26

District 28-5A opener: vs. Jefferson, Sept. 9, Alamo Stadium

Outlook: A Memorial assistant coach the past four seasons, Kemmie Lewis was promoted to head coach in June to fill the vacancy left after Alex Guerra resigned in the spring. The Minutemen, who went 4-36 in four seasons under Guerra, haven’t had a winning season since finishing 5-4-1 under coach Oscar Valenzuela in 1994. The Minutemen could be more competitive this season after the UIL’s biennial realignment took them out of a district that included such power teams as Kerrville Tivy, Alamo Heights and Boerne Champion, and placed them in a league with the seven SAISD schools. The headliner for the Minutemen is 6-foot-9 wide receiver/defensive end Joshua Pitts, who has committed to UTSA. Anthony Esparza, who saw considerable action as a sophomore backup last year, will start at quarterback. Joel Martinez is the top running back, and the line will be led by guard Demetrius Brown and center Zachary Zamarripa. Pitts, nose guard Julian Esparza and end Carlos Campos will man Memorial’s three-man front. Linebacker Abel Ybarra, free safety Jesse Ybarra (no relation to Abel) and cornerback Juan Garza are other veteran defensive players.