To say District 12-5A, Division II is top heavy would be an understatement.
Crosby made to the 5A Division I state final in 2020. Nederland made it to the regional semifinals. Barbers Hill made to the area playoffs and Port Neches-Groves has made the playoffs nine consecutive years.
How will the top of the district work itself out this season?
Crosby graduated a plethora of talent. Nederland's offense is reloading. Barbers Hill has a new coach. And Texas City and Dayton won't make life easy on Port Neches-Groves' bid for 10-straight. So, we wait and see.
Humble Kingwood Park
(Bold Denotes Playoffs)
Most Valuable Player: McCoy Casey, Crosby
Offensive MVP: Brent Holdren, Barbers Hill
Defensive MVP: Jaice Beck, Nederland
Breakout Player of the Year: Cyrin Myles, Crosby
Sleeper Team: Dayton
The Cougars had an inspiring 2020, making a dazzling run all the way to the state final. However, they will be reloading in coach Jerry Prieto's third season.
Crosby returns just six starters from that 12-4 team. There are some cornerstones, however. Senior WR Kameren Kirkwood (519 yards, 5 TDs) will be the primary threat. Junior Cyrin Myles will have a shot at QB1 after being the backup last year, passing for 266 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 188 yards and three touchdowns.
The running game will have to be addressed as the team graduated its top two ballcarriers that accounted for 2,786 rushing yards and 42 rushing touchdowns. Defensively, senior 6-foot-2, 240-pound DL McCoy Casey is the rock. He totaled 127 tackles, 24 tackles for a loss, and four sacks last season.
Also, watch for LT Demetrius Strahan on the offensive line, Braden Womack at reciever and Desmond Tisdom at linebacker for the Cougars.
Barbers Hill Eagles
The Eagles have a new man in charge in Carl Abseck, formerly of Cedar Park. Abseck spent the last six years leading Cedar Park to a 71-10 overall record, including a 2015 Class 5A State Championship and a 2020 Class 5A State Final appearance.
Abseck will have 10 returning starters from a 6-5 Area playoff finalist to work with in his inaugural season at the helm, including dynamic dual-threat senior 5-foot-10, 185-pound QB Brent Holdren (1,404 passing yards, 19 TDs; 918 rushing yards, 16 TDs), senior 5-foot-11, 215-pound RB Garret Hagler, senior 5-foot-8, 185-pound LB Jordan Gigout (142 tackles, 3 INTs) and junior 5-foot-10, 165-pound DB Theron Pierre (5 INTs).
Barbers Hill has what it takes to seriously contend for the district title and play into December.
The Bulldogs return nine starters from a 9-3 Regional Semifinalist. While the defense looks in better shape than the offense entering the season, Nederland does have the District MVP returning in senior 5-foot-11, 170-pound WR Kyndon Fuselier (1,382 yards, 15 TDs). He is a nightmare for any defense with his breakaway speed.
There are holes otherwise with just three other returning starters on offense. Defensively, the Bulldogs have all-state, senior 6-foot, 215-pound LB Jaice Beck (133 tackles) and senior 5-foot-8, 175-pound DB Steven Bourgeois (3 INTs) to keep opponents at bay. The front is solid behind DL Landon Caywood and Jacob Kotz.
Texas City Stingarees
The Stingarees could be making moves this season, returning 15 starters (nine on offense) from a 3-6 team that barely missed the playoffs.
The offense is led by do-it-all 5-foot-10, 160-pound senior WR/DB Brandon Jolly (313 rushing yards, 3 TDs; 294 receiving yards, 3 TDs; 45 tackles), senior 6-foot-1, 205-pound QB Jacob Duran (545 yards, 5 TDs) and sophomore 5-foot-11, 225-pound RB Caleb Bell (393 yards, 8 TDs).
The defense is ignited by senior LBs Bryce Hinton (57 tackles, 5 tackles for a loss) and Jamal Gray (81 tackles, INT) and rapidly emerging 6-foot-1, 215-pound sophomore DE Szyron Scott (40 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, 6 sacks).
With one win in the last three seasons, Dayton has fallen on hard times. Last year, the Broncos went 0-10. This year, however, they will have experience on their side, returning 14 starters, including eight on defense.
From senior 6-foot-3, 240-pound TE/DE Camron Cooper (42 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, 6 sacks) to senior 6-foot, 190-pound DL Cam'ron Willis (27 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, 3 sacks) to senior 5-foot-11, 170-pound LB James Harris (47 tackles), Dayton is loaded on that side of the ball. Cooper is verbally committed to UL-L.
Offensively, if they can establish a quarterback, the Broncos could be a dark horse in the district. There are plenty of weapons in senior 5-foot-8, 165-pound WR Ashton Garner (200 receiving yards, 3 TDs; 207 rushing yards, TD), senior 6-foot-3, 180-pound WR Donavan Orebo (566 receiving yards, 5 TDs) and senior 5-foot-8, 185-pound RB Daveon Washington (480 rushing yards, 3 TDs).
Port Neches-Groves Indians
The Indians are striving for their ninth consecutive playoff appearance.
While only four starters return on offense, seven return on defense. Senior 6-foot, 185-pound RB/LB Koby Trahan (64 tackles) is the two-way star as the featured back and the team's top tackler. Senior 5-foot-10, 175-pound DB Matthew Kendrick had 40 tackles and an interception last season. Senior 5-foot-10, 250-pound DL Donald Kinnett had 50 tackles and two sacks.
Offensively, the Indians are strong on the perimeter with senior receivers Daylan Bergeron (5-7, 180) and Carson Wallace (5-6, 170), both of whom are quick and elusive. New QB Cole Crippen brings nice size to the position, standing 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds.
Humble Kingwood Park Panthers
After three consecutive playoff trips, the Panthers had a down year in 2020, going 2-8.
This year, they return 10 starters (six on offense) and 28 lettermen. The offense has spark behind junior game-breaking playmaker Hayden Bender and junior offensive linemen Erick Zapata (6-1, 240) and Trent Savage (6-4, 245). Bender, who had 342 receiving yards and four touchdowns last season, is due for a breakout season.
Defensively, Kingwood Park will have to find youngsters to step up, but there is a nice core in tow with senior 6-foot, 195-pound LB Grant Golden and senior DB Bane Klinefelter. Five-star kicker Tony Sterner is back for the Panthers in 2021 and is ranked No. 47 in the country.
Santa Fe Indians
One of the more underrated talents in the Greater Houston area plays in Santa Fe. It's 6-foot-1, 170-pound junior QB Kyeler Thompson, a dominant dual-threat who threw for 1,043 yards and nine touchdowns and rushed for 733 yards and 10 touchdowns.
The question is if Santa Fe, which returns eight starters from a 2-8 team, can find enough production around him. The offensive line that includes 6-foot-2, 230-pound Archi Archidiacono and 6-foot-1, 255-pound senior Jarrod Recknor is a force.
But the offense needs to establish more playmaking around Thompson for variety. Defensively, 5-foot-8, 175-pound senior DB Noe Rico (31 tackles, INT) and 6-foot-1, 175-pound junior DB Jackson Stroud (58 tackles, INT) headline an otherwise young unit.