Class 5A Amarillo-area district projections

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Tascosa quarterback B.T. Daniel (15) is back for his second year under center. [Tom Carver/ Press Pass Sports]

Division I

District 2-5A

1. Tascosa: This might be the best collection of talent Ken Plunk has had in his 13 years at Tascosa, and that includes a state semifinal team from three years ago. Major Everhart and L’Travion Brown provide game-breaking speed on both sides of the ball and Avion Carter is a beast in the defensive line. Quarterback B.T. Daniel has a year under his belt running the flexbone, which opposing defenses still can’t seem to stop.

2. Amarillo High: It’s sort of the same old situation for the Sandies, who are pegged to contend every season and this year should be no different. Two-way lineman Erik Gray is a Division I recruit, and quarterback Brock Wade filled in superbly when pressed into action due to injury last season, which should make him that much more effective this year. Defense will determine how far the Sandies go.

3. Lubbock Coronado: The Mustangs have reigned supreme over the district the last few years, but they’ll go into this season without former Caprock coach Seth Parr, who left for Anna, and quarterback Sawyer Robertson, the triggerman of a lethal offense. New coach and Coronado alum D.J. Mann inherits some talent, but it might take some time to develop.

4. Caprock: Could be the district’s sleeper team with eight starters returning on offense, led by quarterback Joziah Balderrama and wide receiver Kobi Hill. How the defense progresses might be the biggest factor in determining if the Longhorns can return to the playoffs following consecutive 2-8 seasons.

5 Lubbock Monterey: The Plainsmen should contend for a playoff spot again as offensively they return Trent White, perhaps the district’s best running back. That and a defense led by linebacker Jaden Hilliard will keep them competitive, but moving up in the district pecking order will be a challenge.

6. Palo Duro: PD alum Eric Mims takes over at head coach from another alum, Chris Fisher, and Mims has emphasized tradition and neighborhood pride as rallying points. Avery Randle is a solid dual threat quarterback and Kameron Brown is a solid linebacker, but the Dons need more depth to break a six-year postseason drought.

7. Lubbock High: The Westerners ended last season with an eight-game losing streak and face another uphill climb in district this season. There’s enough returning talent on both sides of the ball, particularly with running back Keith Ramirez, to justify some optimism and hope for improvement.

Best game

Tascosa vs. Amarillo High, 7 p.m. Oct. 8

These Amarillo ISD rivals renew their annual clash Oct. 8 at Dick Bivins Stadium fairly early in district play and the winner just might have the inside track toward a district championship.

Division II

District 3-5A

1. Lubbock Cooper: The Pirates are coming off an unbeaten district championship season and their defense makes them a good bet to defend their title. Linebacker Kobie McKinzie, who has committed to Oklahoma and defensive end Kyler Jordan, who has committed to Baylor, headline a unit which will resemble a brick wall, making things easier for the offense.

2. Wichita Falls Rider: Another perennial contender, Rider tends to reload more than rebuild, but that could be a challenge after losing a senior class which made two state semifinal appearances in the last three seasons. Defensive lineman Luke Gambs and linebacker Coleman Bledsoe are strong inside anchors defensively, but the offense needs to develop.

3. Randall: The Raiders are contenders to move up a notch in the district and look to open up the offense with wide receiver Isayah Hernandez as the top playmaker. It doesn’t hurt that Randall returns four starting offensive linemen, but there are questions on defense, which returns only three starters, most notably linebacker Mason Gilbert, who stood out last season as a sophomore.

4. Abilene Wylie: Wylie made the playoffs for the first time last season in Class 5A and the Bulldogs also return some size to the offensive line. That will have to make up for a lack of speed on both sides of the ball. Linebacker Garrett Graham is a proven playmaker defensively.

5. Wichita Falls: The Coyotes return enough talent on both sides of the ball to contend for a playoff spot and wide receivers Bricen Vialpando and Tye Willie will open things up offensively. They could be especially strong on defense, where they return nine starters.

6. Plainview: A second year in coach Johnathon Haddock’s offense should see improvement for Plainview. Karomo Collins is a threat as a runner and receiver and will carry a big load offensively, but the defense must improve after allowing 41 points a game last year.

Best game

Randall at Cooper, 7 p.m. Nov. 5

These two teams will meet Nov. 5 in the regular season finale in what should be a playoff tune-up for both teams. If the cards fall right for Randall, it could be for the district title.

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