Aaron Dunnam begins his fourth season as the Demons head coach boasting a 32-6 overall record. [John Moore/ Press Pass Sports]
1. Dumas: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Dumas lost star quarterback Spencer Williams, along with two stud linebackers Dallan Dill and Cade Cox to graduation leaving huge holes to fill off last year’s 11-2 3-4A champion and regional semifinalist. But in Dumas under fourth-year coach Aaron Dunnam the message is always clear: don’t ever look back. That’s why in three years the Demons have won 32 games and three district titles. Will a district title happen again in 2021? Why not. For starters, the four-team district Dumas plays in has three new head coaches and Dumas isn’t one of them. They still have the intense, gifted and focused Dunnam. Dumas will certainly rely early on its eight returning starters on offense led by future all-state WR Juan Romero. Once the defense with three starters returning finds its groove – and it will led by linebacker Brayden Boggs-Rushing – look for a Dumas 3-4A fourpeat and a playoff run.
2. Canyon: The head coaching title in Canyon was the same for the past two decades until last spring when Blake Bryant retired after the Eagles 12-2 season and magical state semifinal run. Well, the offensive coordinator for much of Bryant’s tenure was new Canyon head coach Todd Winfrey. So, the coaching change is an easy transition. While a boatload of talent and leaders graduated – the Eagles return three starters on each offense and defense – Winfrey’s new QB Derek Clements will rise to one of the top QBs in the Panhandle. Canyon’s defense will be led hustling linebacker Kam Reagan (152 tackles, 13 sacks last year). Here’s the deal, if Canyon can find some skill positions players to step up, a strong pass rush and presence on the d-line, look for the Eagles to play at Dumas Oct. 29 for the district title.
3. Pampa: The Harvesters, like over in Canyon and Hereford, have a new head coach this year with Greg Poynor leaving for Seminole. Cody Robinson arrives with serious credentials having been the defensive coordinator at successful Lubbock Estacado. If his August fast-paced practices are any indication of where the Harvesters are headed, look for good things to continue in Pampa from last year’s 8-3 season. What 3-4A defensive coordinators know for sure is preparing for Pampa will be preparing to stop one of the top football players in the Texas Panhandle in running back Cornelius “Peanut” Landers, who is so elusive and powerful. Landers is coming off a near 1,000-yard rushing season. Quarterback Sam Anguiano is new at the helm but looks like the real deal in fall practices. With all four teams already in the playoffs before district starts, who knows where Pampa will end up under their new coach. I say third place behind Dumas and Canyon, but watch out in the playoffs.
4. Hereford: It’s almost like a broken record, but Hereford will have a new coach like Pampa and Canyon. Adam Naron takes over for longtime Herd coach and Hereford native Don DeLozier. While Naron hasn’t coached in the Texas Panhandle arriving to the Herd from being offensive coordinator at Frisco Reedy, he knows this area having graduated high school from Plainview. Hereford was 3-7 last year and returns a strong nucleus with six offensive and eight defensive starters. That defense will be put to the test each week in 3-4A with traditionally strong offenses from Dumas, Canyon and Pampa. Leading that D is returning starting linebacker Jose Solozano. Naron is bringing some new looks to the Herd offense and his passion to “create a championship caliber program.” Let’s be real. For the Herd to be champs this year, it will take a few upsets. But with 14 returning starters, stranger things have happened.
Canyon at Dumas, 7 p.m. Oct. 28
What’s not to like about this game, especially after Dumas knocked Canyon from the unbeaten ranks last year winning 23-9 at Happy State Bank Field in Canyon. Dumas is going for a district four-peat under coach Aaron Dunnam and playing in Dumas has become a pain in the rear for opponents what with pitch forks on fire, motorcycles revving up, along with a packed house. Canyon will be deep in its first regular season under Todd Winfrey at this point. Dumas will be primed to defend its title and home field. Expect a Texas high school football classic.
1. Lubbock Estacado: Joe Cluley. The man can flat out coach and inspire. Since taking over the Matadors head coaching duties in 2018, Estacado has returned to those vaunted teams of the mid 1990s where year-in and year-out the district title ran through Estacado. Although a 5-7 season like last year isn’t amazing stuff, the Mats were still 3-1 in district and won a playoff game. With 15 starters returning including OL anchor Jihad Lateed (6-4, 285 and two-year captain), Cluley guiding the ship, and the fact these Mats can scat with overall team speed, to be the district champ in 2-4A this year you have to beat Eastcado.
2. Seminole: What? Seminole second? The fingers typing this has witnessed and believes in the way new Seminole coach Greg Poynor gets things done. His commitment to relationships with players, every day presenting a positive vibe and some talented players, will make for a special year in Seminole. Plus, when you have a quarterback that can flat out sling it around like 6-3 Blake Flowers, you have a chance for big things to happen. Will it be easy? No way. Could Seminole finish fourth or fifth. Yep. But I see it different and see a No. 2 finish.
3. Perryton: Kurt Haberthur’s return to his alma mater last year was a success as the Rangers won a playoff game and ended up with a 5-6 record. Could this team finish No. 1 or No. 2 in district? Most certainly when you have quarterback Abraham Hernandez returning as one of eight offensive starters. The Rangers are solid up front on both sides of the ball. The challenge will be finding playmakers at the skill positions, something Estacado and Seminole will thrive on this year. With Coach “Hab” and his staff having a year of teaching and implementing their ways, Perryton will be better than last year.
4. Borger: The Bulldogs went 1-9 last year and missed out on the playoffs. But lessons learned under Coach Duane Toliver, new facilities (opened last year) second to none, and a strategy to keep all his sophomores on the JV last year that went 7-3, look for Borger to make some noise this year. Toliver’s son, Tray Toliver, will take the reins at quarterback and showed he has a chance to be really good after his JV performance last year. Defense will be the key. Borger has two starters returning led by gifted three-year starting DB Brecklyn Thomas. So it’s this D that has to slow the speed of Estacado, the fast-pace of Seminole, and the physicality of Perryton, if Borger is to rise into the top three.
5. Levelland: Levelland could change this last place pick. But the Lobos are the mystery team of this district with new coach Lyle Leong Jr., not in place until early June. If that names sounds familiar it should. Leong Jr., played his college football at Texas Tech as a wide receiver and arrives in Levelland after handling the offensive coordinator duties at San Antonio Highlands. Fall practices have been critical for Levelland players to learn the offense. With five starters back on offense led by elusive receive Joel Pena, and six returning on defense, Leveland has a legit nucleus. But for now, Levelland is the mystery team of 2-4A DII and tough to figure what will happen.
Estacado at Seminole, 7 p.m. Oct. 8
This district opener will go a long way in deciding the champion of 2-4A DII. With Estacado having Dumas, Canyon and Bushland on its non-district schedule, the Mats will battle-tested for this game. Seminole will have played 5A Palo Duro and Shallowater and have six games of experience under the system of first-year coach Poynor. Hard to say the first game in district having a chance to decide a district title. But the winner of this one WILL be the team to beat in district.