The UIL Realignment took the smallest district in the State of Texas and made it one of the largest from six teams to nine teams. Regardless, The Woodlands should come out of District 13-6A as the Highlanders are loaded in 2022.
Who will take the remainder of the playoffs spots is the real question?
Can super-QB Derek Lagway Jr. of Willis lead his team to a higher seeding or will it be coach Mark Schmid’s talented Oak Ridge War Eagles flying into second place. Don’t sleep on College Park. Conroe will be a playoff contender along with New Caney and Grand Oaks. Stay tuned.
The Woodlands Highlanders Oak Ridge War Eagles College Park Cavaliers Willis Wildkats Conroe Tigers New Caney Eagles Grand Oaks Grizzlies Cleveland Indians Caney Creek Panthers
VYPE PRESEASON AWARDS
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Mabrey Mettaeur, The Woodlands OFFENSIVE MVP: Derek Lagway Jr., Willis DEFENSIVE MVP: Justin Williams, Oak Ridge BREAKOUT PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Conner Dunphy, College Park SLEEPER TEAM: Willis Wildkats
The Woodlands Highlanders
This could be a special year for The Woodlands Highlanders. One like back in 2016 when the Highlanders reached the Class 6A DI State Title Game? With District MVP Mabrey Mettauer leading the offense, The Woodlands will be the team to beat. He has some serious weapons to work with and an offensive line led by Coltin Sieracki, Cross Tucker, Ryan Hughes and Everett Champlin. The bigs make up one of the best lines in the city. Mitchell Blakeslee will be a beast up front too, but could move to the DL. Jacoby Mitchell will handle the running duties, while the WR position is loaded. Take your pick from New Caney-transfer Arkez Gomez, Grand Oaks-transfer Quanell Farrakhan Jr., all-district selection Jason Williams, Branson McShaffry or Patrick Rabel. Defensively, all-district Reilly Payne, Clement Harris and Steele Herndon will anchor the line, with Jacob Pondant, Tommy Kratt (first teamer), David Ifeanyi, JT Goff and Ethan Scott controlling the middle of the field. Safeties Brady Carlin (second teamer) and Cooper Starke have a ton of experience to help out corners Luke Jones and Wei Wei.
Oak Ridge War Eagles
Legendary coach Mark Schmid won big at The Woodlands before stepping down in 2018. He coached 14 years for the Highlanders, won nine district titles and reached the State Finals. He came back in an interim role at Oak Ridge in 2019 and hasn’t left. He’s having fun. Coming off a 2-8 season a year ago, Oak Ridge could shock district this season with several big-time athletes. Let’s start on offense, where first-team, all-district selection Steve Smedley returns at quarterback. Pretty good start. His top target will be Jaquale Harrison, another first teamer. He will be joined by Camden Morgan and Tevian Jefferson on the edge. The line will be led by Cameron Del Rey and Zander Smiley. The defense should be salty. Jacob Harris will be the senior on a defensive unit that has some serious upside. The trio of juniors in Justin Williams, Favour Awodoyin and Joseph Jonah-Ajonye are college talents. Williams is a 6-foot-2, nationally-ranked, heat-seeking missile at linebacker, while Awodoyin and Jonah-Ajonye are big-time recruits at DE. All of their best football is in front of them. The Ridge must be able to keep up with the high-flying offenses in the district, while imposing their will on defense. They have the talent, but will that translate into wins?
College Park Cavaliers
Led by former The Woodlands great Lonnie Madison (defensive end), the Cavs are a small Class 6A school that exceeds expectations every season. College Park went 8-4 a year ago and barely fell to Bridgeland (35-28) in the second round of the playoffs. “It’s year six of our system, so we just need to execute and play CP football,” Madison said. “Our JV went 9-1 and I feel good about our senior group.” Eight starters return, most notably on offense. The star of the show will be QB Conner Dunphy – a first-team, all-district WR a year ago. The junior is tremendously versatile with a high football IQ. He will be protected by first teamer Cobe Williams, a veteran OL with tons of snaps under his belt. Starting RB Brenton Martinez also returns to take the pressure off Dunphy as he gets his legs under him at QB. Cole Snodgrass will be a great outlet at TE to check down to, while Jessie Cochran and Carter Deering will stretch the defense as WRs. On defense, Cole Walters is the team’s top returning tackler and Andrew Powdrell will anchor the secondary.
Things are getting interesting at Willis. The Wildkats brought in former Klein Oak AD and football coach Jason Glenn to become the AD at Willis last spring. Glenn, in turn, brought in Spring head coach Trent Miller, who was wildly successful running the Lions’ program. He’s also an offensive guru and will teach the No. 1 QB for the Class of 2024 Derek (DJ) Lagway Jr. a few new tricks. Scary thought. The ‘Kats went 5-7 in 2021 and won a playoff game to boot. With a special QB in Lagway, the future looks bright. He will be protected by Ford Ivey and Keller Davis up front. Big, junior tight end Zach Long could have a breakout season with his ability to catch the ball in tight windows. De’von Lovelady, Xavier Richmond, Daylion Robinson, Debraun Hampton (Lake Creek-transfer) and Atavian Friend will be other top targets for Lagway. Big back Terri Lawrence is one to watch out for as he emerges in the backfield. Jalen Mickens will fit in somewhere on offense as well. Defensively, Patyon Alberts handles the front, Macin Connell is the top LB, and Jayden Marshman and Jacob Rios will lead the secondary. Lovelady and Friend will also flip to the defensive side of the ball when needed.
The Conroe Tigers reached the postseason a year ago, knocking off Oak Ridge, Grand Oaks and Willis in district play to finish third. The Tigers fell to Westfield in the first round, turning their focus to 2022. There are new teams in the district, so Conroe can’t afford a slip up if the playoffs are in their plans. One of the most dynamic receivers in the state of Texas is senior Louis Williams, a first-team, all-district selection. In the slot, he is lethal. Cameron Thomas moved in from New Caney, who is also garnering some college looks. QB Javarious Hatchett will need to develop quickly and see the field with these talented targets. The offensive line is led by Damarcus Wilridge and Jacob Pitzer and will need to keep Hatchett on his timing. Defensively, Braylen Thomas, Braydon Jones and Lisandro Demagistris will lead the push up front. The Tigers will need to get consistent stops to sneak into the top four and punch their ticket to the playoffs.
New Caney Eagles
The New Caney Eagles moved up a classification from 5A to 6A and into a district with some established programs. They are coming off a 7-4 season and a fourth-place finish in District 8-5A DI, before falling to Highland Park in the first round of the playoffs. Can the Eagles bump off one the district’s old guard from the postseason? Coach Travis Reeve is up for the challenge. New Caney is blessed with one of the most talented running backs in the state – Kedrick Reescano (Michigan State-commit). However, the Eagles’ top all-district WRs have transferred off campus just when junior QB Kayden Cooper is prepared to take over the offensive reigns. Blaine Lucas could be his favorite target and Ryan Lindley will lead the line. The defense is led by Utah-commit CJ Blocker, who sets the tone for the unit. Jalen Menny and Dravon Wilson will also cover in the secondary. Up front will be first teamer Tayte Baker, who will be helped by Johnny Vargas.
Grand Oaks Grizzlies
The Grand Oak Grizzlies jumped out to a 5-0 record last season under the direction of Dr. Mike Jackson, but missed the playoffs. The Grizzlies signature win came against Willis in district play. Much of Grand Oaks’ success comes from their super-back Brandon High Jr., a UTSA-commit. High will be the barometer for Grand Oaks but he’s going to need some help up front in the trenches. Triston Brause could give some relief at WR, but a QB must emerge to run the offense. On defense, the Grizzlies will lean on LB Noah Langridge and athletic DBs Braylon Carr and Ikenna Agoh. Wins against Cleveland, Caney Creek, New Caney and Willis will be a must for Grand Oaks to advance past the regular season.
The Cleveland Indians are coming hot out of Southeast Texas. The Indians return 12 starters from a 3-7 team that played Class 5A ball in 2021. The defense will be the Indians’ strength as Jameer Martin is the team’s top head-hunter at DB. Up front will be Logan Faust and Ivion Jordan, while Jovante Martin will help his brother in the secondary. The offensive line should be solid with Luis Gonzalez, Chris Rodriguez and Hector Godinez back in the fold with experience. They will lead the way for Alexis Cortez at RB. Andy Medina will help on the outside as a WR.
Caney Creek Panthers
Caney Creek will have its work cut out for themselves as the Panthers move up the Class 6A with their other Conroe ISD family of schools. Coach Kendall Hineman’s bunch returns after a 1-9 season a year ago in District 8-5A DI. The offensive line should be a strong suit with James Cammack and Joshua Henry in the trenches. Daylin Manning is the most dynamic player on the field for Caney Creek and will need to dominate at his LB position. Michael Cullens will be a two-way player at LB and FB along with DB Timothy Parker, who doubles as receiver. The Panthers will need to stick with their processes and fundamentals as they make a huge jump to Class 6A.