EAST TEXAS (KLTV/KTRE) - This year the Red Zone on KLTV and KTRE is going big with a new weekly feature “The Red Zone Top 10."
What is the Red Zone Top 10? It is the best of the best teams in the area. It is a list of the 10 teams we think are can’t miss teams on the field.
Now, every list is subjective. We see it every year with college football.
Caleb Beames and Michael Colemen sat down and looked at preseason outlooks and how teams finished last year to come up with the Week 1 standings. Teams from the entire East Texas area and all classifications will be considered for the weekly list. This list will not make everyone happy. We hope the list creates clean and fun banter between fan bases and gets people energized for Friday Night action.
So without further delay, here is the first ever Red Zone Top 10:
1. Longview 6A – It is no surprise to see the Longview Lobos in the top spot. Why wouldn’t they be? The Lobos enter the season as the reigning, defending, undefeated 6A DII Champions. Coach John King will coach his son Haynes at QB for one final season. It is a season where a lot of eyes will be on Haynes as he plays his final season before heading off to Texas A&M University. Longview should be a contender out of 11-6A, but the road to another state title will be rough. The team has lost 39 players to graduation, and 14 of those were starters. Haynes will be the key. Last year the quarterback threw for 3,665 yards and got 41 touchdowns on his way to being named the 6A Player of the Year and the American State Bank Red Zone Player of the Year. On the ground, Kaden Meredith, who had 11 touchdowns last year, could be a key to getting pressure off of Haynes if they can balance the offense. On defense, defensive back Robert Pierce is set to give opponents headaches after he had 65 tackles, 3 sacks and 4 interceptions last season.
2. John Tyler 5A DI – Cujo is looking to build on last year’s run in the playoffs that saw the Lions fall in an exciting regional final game to Highland Park. Since Ricklan Holmes has joined his alma mater, The Lions have averaged almost 10 wins per season. Thirteen of the 22 starters are returning. The big question is what do the Lions have at quarterback? Whoever it will be will have a weapon at his disposal. Texas Longhorns commit Kirtan Crawford has elite skills for the offense and can play from multiple positions. The Lions will be tested before district. Holmes and his team will start the year off against four straight 6A opponents. Two of those include the defending champions down the road in Longview and state power Euless Trinity.
3. Carthage 4A DI – If you don’t know Carthage football, you would think 14-1 was a great year. If you live in Carthage, you probably think it was a season that failed to meet expectations. The Bulldogs failed to win a title in 2018, which would have made it three straight and seven overall for the Panola County powerhouse. Like John Tyler, Carthage will need to find a quarterback to navigate the “District of Doom,” which is home to four of the top 16 DCTF teams in the 4A DI classification. Just like Cujo, the Bulldogs have plenty of weapons for the newest signal caller. It all starts with wide receiver Kelvontay Dixon, who can catch and run the ball.
4. Lufkin 5A DI – The Pack had a lot of high hopes in 2018, but those fell apart in the area round of the playoffs when they lost to Frisco Lone Star despite being a favorite to make it to the 5A DI Championship game. The Panthers lost quarterback Kewone Thomas and their three top defensive players, Braylon Garcia, Javasia Brunson, and Carl Williams to graduation. One thing Lufkin has going for them is a quarterback that has been tested. Last season, Thomas sat out the pre-district schedule, and sophomore Jordan Moore led the Pack to a 2-1 record. The one loss was an instant classic against Longview. Moore in his limited time as starter passed for 883 yards and 13 touchdowns. Moore will be throwing the ball a lot to Texas Tech commit Ja’Lynn Polk, who has next level attributes. On defense, the team will need to fill holes up front, but in the secondary, Bugg Thompson will make it hard for anyone to get past him.
5. Marshall 5A DII – The Mavericks are picked to win another district title in 9-5A DII, but you know they are wanting more than a district title. New Head Coach Jake Gridel will keep his same offense he ran as the Marshall OC, so the on-field product should stay the same. Marshall might have the best 1-2 combo at QB and RB in the region with QB Jacarrion Green and WR Savion Williams. The defense is loaded and will not be fun to line up against. The big key with Marshall also might be who they are adding from JV. Last year’s JV team was an undefeated 7-0, so they know how to win as well.
6. Newton 3A DII – Newton lost a lot this offseason. First, the hardest loss might be coach W.T. Johnston who died after multiple long-term health issues. His son Drew takes over the Eagles. That is a positive; with many of the coaches staying in place, it should be business as normal for the back-to-back 3A DII state champions. The team lost a lot of offensive skill players, but the defense will be anchored by highly recruited James Sylvester, who has been a leader on the team for several years. The Eagles may not score as much as they have, but the team will be tough on defense, and the Eagles don’t lose much. The team just knows how to win. Fans who love the game will want to circle Sept. 27 on their calendar when the Eagles visit Gilmer. It is one of the top non-district matchups in the state.
7. Jasper 4A DII – The Bulldogs quietly rose through the 4A DII ranks last year. The team picked up 12 wins in 2018, and the only loss came in the regional semifinals. Seventeen Bulldogs are coming back, looking to make 2019 the year of Jasper. Montavien Hunt was the district MVP last year with 1,514 yards and 20 touchdowns. Hunt looks to be ready for another stellar year. Brashaun Hubbard offers a unique two-way skill set with six touchdowns last year and 72 tackles on defense.
8. San Augustine 2A DI – Head Coach Marty Murr will tell you he was not surprised last year that the Wolves made it to their second straight state semi-final. I (Caleb) will admit I was shocked. The Wolves were good, but Region III in 2A DI was stacked with bigger, faster teams. The Wolves proved me wrong. The thing the Wolves have going is that all their starters are returning to the team. TiJay Thomas took the team on his back in the playoffs and led the team in multiple games. Look for him to be a key role player again on and off the field. At 5-feet-7 inches’ DelMarquise Barnes might not have the size of the blue chip recruits, but he has the heart and the skill. With over 1,000 rushing and over 1,000 passing yards, Barnes gives DC’s headaches when they try to game plan.
9. Gladewater 3A DI –If there could be two “District of Doom” districts, then 8-3A would be the second one. If the Bears want to win a district title, they have to navigate a tough schedule against Tatum and West Rusk. The Bears went from 2-8 in 2017 to 11-2 last year with their season going until the regional semifinals. Tristan Holmes is back as the quarterback, and Elijah Carter rushed for 2,613 yards and 26 touchdowns. The Bears will be tested early with a week 2 matchup against Atlanta and then 4A DII No.1 Pleasant Grove.
10. Garrison 2A DI – The Garrison Bulldogs will tell you they let the 2018 regional semifinal get away from them, and they should have beat San Augustine to make it to the regional final. Head Coach Larry Prince has lost half of his starters from last year but is bringing back a team that has a good chance to contend with the Wolves. To stop Garrison, you have to start with stopping Sebastion Porter (easier said than done) who racked up over 2,400 yards and 43 touchdowns. Porter is a back that loves to run right through people. He is an old-school back that loves contact. On defense, he also imposes his will. He finished the season with 149 tackles, 13 of those for a loss. If teams find a way to stop Porter, they will need to deal with the Watts brothers, Ja’Kedrick and Ja’Kadrick. Both put up solid numbers as well. Another Porter name you will need to remember is Dallas Porter who finished the year with six interceptions.
*** Outsiders to keep an eye on – Kilgore, Van, Henderson, Rusk, Diboll, Grapeland, and Tenaha
Each Tuesday during the season we will be releasing the updated rankings.