Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine, an institution for football fans all over the state, has all four of the area high schools making the playoffs this year.
Campbell’s has Seguin third in District 12-5A, Navarro second in District 13-4A, Marion second in District 15-3A, and Lifegate Christian Academy picked to win the T-CAL 6-man league.
The coaches at each school were asked by the magazine to send in their picks each district season, along with the other coaches in their districts, but it was then up to the magazine to make the final picks.
Seguin is coming off its first winning season in years, finishing in a three-way tie for first in district with a 6-1 mark (7-4 overall), before falling in the bi-district round to Georgetown, 21-6.
It was the Matadors first playoff appearance since 2005.
Despite losing 13 of 22 starters to graduation, Seguin was still picked to finish third in District 12-5A, with Dripping Springs picked first and Austin LBJ second by the magazine.
“That’s kind of how I picked it,” head coach Travis Bush said. “In my mind, I thought maybe LBJ had the edge over Drip, but they are going to be two solid teams again. They are two established championship playoff contenders and a model of where we are trying to get to on a consistent basis.”
But the coach cited at least one other team in the district, Austin McCallum, that could be a surprise this year, after the magazine picked them to finish fourth in the district.
“They are always solid and have a good quarterback coming back, so they may be kind of ticked, thinking they should be one or two,” Bush said.
His pick of LBJ over Dripping Springs was based on returning starters (eight on offense, five on defense) and the talent he saw from the Jaguars last year.
“LBJ has got the most coming back and have a different talent level than anyone else in the district,” Bush said. “They’ve got the most speed at every position on the field.”
With 13 starters to replace for the Matadors, Bush said there are a lot of unknowns for Seguin this season.
“There’s a lot of question marks,” he said. “For a team that hadn’t had a winning season in 12 years, we finally hit that mark, tied for the title and made the playoffs. We’re still in new territory, this team has never come off a winning season. So we’ve done a lot of work in the offseason on handling winning — it’s a group of guys that have never been here before.”
The Matadors will face Antonian in week one, then play New Braunfels in a big rivalry game week two. Scrimmages are set against 6A Hays and last year’s 4A state champs, Cuero, prior to the season’s start.
“They’ll be a good test to see where we are at,” Bush said. “We’re going to be young, so scrimmaging two veteran teams like that should give us a gauge on where we stand.”
The Panthers made a deep run into the playoffs last year (10-3 overall, 4-1 district) before falling to eventual state champion Cuero in the 4A Division II regional finals. Navarro enters 2019 ranked 18th in the state by the magazine in 4A Division II.
It’s no surprise to head coach Rod Blount that Cuero is picked first in District 13-4A by the magazine, with Navarro second, Wimberley third and Llano fourth.
“Obviously, coming off a state championship, to get their spot you have to beat them,” Blount said. “We’re in one of the toughest districts in the state. Wimberley was down a little last year, but I expect them to be right back where they have been, and Llano is an up and coming team that’s getting better every year.”
The coach also mentioned Bandera as a possible challenger, with eight returning starters on both sides of the ball.
The offensive and defensive lines are the unknown for Blount this season, and the Panthers lost 14 starters overall.
“We’ve got to replace those two big tackles, so those younger guys are going to have to step up, because we won’t have the size we had last year,” he said.
Blount is hoping his young group will be ready when they face Cuero late in the year.
“We’ve got to start out one game at a time and be getting better as the season goes along,” he said. “In our non-district games, we want to win those games, but more importantly, we’ve got to be sure we’re improving and on the right track. Luckily, we’ve got Cuero week nine, so we have some time to work.”
Blount had an unusual approach to his picks for the magazine, leaving Navarro out of his submission.
“I don’t ever include our team,” he said. “Stuff can get out, but I think we have a chance to beat them. We’ll have to come together as a team and gel together as a unit.”
The Bulldogs also made the playoffs last year. After beating Jourdanton in District 15-3A to go 6-0 in district play (10-2 overall), Marion fell to Goliad in the area round.
The Indians are picked to finish first in district, with Marion second, Randolph third and San Antonio Cole fourth.
“I think the picks are right on,” head coach Ryne Miller said. “We beat Jourdanton last year, but when you have 11 starters coming back on offense, and seven on defense, you are going to be picked to win the district.
“It’s just a prediction though, you still have to play the games on Friday nights.”
The Bulldogs have a tough opening schedule, including a matchup against Navarro in the second week of the season, and against Blanco, which is ranked 16th in the state by the magazine in Class 3A Division II.
“Navarro and Blanco are both ranked in the top 25,” Miller said. “We have an extremely tough district, so that’s one of the reasons we schedule teams like that, so we’re ready for them.”
Miller thinks that most of the teams in district have a chance to win some ball games, Randolph being particularly of note with 17 returning starters.
Losing six starters on both sides of the ball, the Bulldogs will test out some new players this season.
“Whether you are a returning starter or not, we want to create that competitive environment,” Miller said. “Just because you started last year doesn’t mean you are going to start this year. You’re going to compete for your job, we want that at every position.”
The Falcons won the T-CAL Division I state championship last year, finishing the season 10-3 overall and 4-0 in district.
Lifegate is picked as the top team in the state by the magazine in the league.
They look to repeat with all of the starters coming back and with new coach, John Stout, who was the defensive coordinator last year.
Stout is optimistic after last season, when the Falcons won most of their games by the mercy rule.
“I’ve got a lot of good young men that are putting in the work,” Stout said. “We’ve got a couple of new kids coming up and they should fit right in — I think its going to be really good year for us. They started clicking at the end of last year and I think it will continue this season.”
The Falcons switched from TAPPS to T-CAL last year, and have around eight schools in the league standing in their way of their repeat.
Tyler Kings Academy likely would have been the toughest competition for Lifegate this season, off a 7-3 mark last year, but coach Stout said he doesn’t believe they will be in the league this year and they are not on the schedule.
In Lifegate’s district are Corpus Christi Annapolis, Houston Texas Christian and Smoking for Jesus Ministry.
“Texas Christian had a big back last year that is likely coming back, so he will be tough again this year,” Stout said. “They’ve got pretty much all their players back, some players that gave us fits, so it should be interesting.”
Kevin Duke is the sports editor for the Seguin Gazette. He can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.