The UIL football season begins Thursday night. Players and coaches have 11 weeks to answer questions about streaks, droughts and district races. Then it’s six playoff rounds to find the best or most resilient teams in the state.
Here are five storylines to follow this year:
1 With Kyler Murray finally graduated from Allen, can Arlington Martin, Southlake Carroll, Euless Trinity or Denton Guyer finally dethrone the three-time champion Eagles?
With a 43-game winning streak (42 as a starter), Murray and the Allen Eagles were the face of Texas high school football the past three seasons. They defeated Carroll twice in the regular season during that span, and Guyer in last year’s season opener. Allen also eliminated Martin and Trinity on its way to another title last season. So is this finally the year that someone dethrones the Eagles? Carroll has quarterbacks Montana Murphy or Mason Holmes, Trinity has Tyler Natee, and Martin has Eric Walker. “We just have to play it out,” Trinity coach Chris Jensen said. “Kyler was a great player, no doubt an X-factor and they have a great coaching staff, but it remains to be seen.”
2 A number of notable schools are under the direction of new head coaches this season.
Laban Delay, Arlington Lamar: South Grand Prairie’s defensive coordinator, and an Arlington High alum, takes over for Trent Fuller and is just the third coach since the school opened in 1970.
Chris Jensen, Euless Trinity: Jensen replaces future hall-of-famer Steve Lineweaver, who won three state titles in 15 seasons with the Trojans. Jensen was the Trojans’ offensive coordinator since 2001.
Joe Willis, Colleyville Heritage: Willis takes over for a 5-6 Panthers team after coming over from Cedar Park, where he was 37-8 since 2012, including a 4A championship in 2012 and the 5A Division II final appearance last season, where the Timberwolves lost to Ennis 38-35.
Mike Glaze, Hurst L.D. Bell: After finishing 1-9 last season, the Blue Raiders went to former Cedar Hill offensive coordinator Mike Glaze to run the program. The offense alone should be much better as Glaze helped Cedar Hill to state titles the past two years.
Joseph Turner, FW North Side: The former TCU running back was promoted from offensive coordinator in the spring. Then Horned Frogs teammate Jerry Hughes donated $15,000 to the program, which won three games last season.
Jon Kitna, Waxahachie: The 18-year NFL quarterback moved from Tacoma, Wash., where he coached at his alma mater, Lincoln High, from 2012-14. His teams won 24 games, including 11 last year. Kitna’s son, Jordan, threw 55 touchdowns last season as a junior.
Lon Holbrook, Birdville: The Hawks’ offensive coordinator leads the team after Jim Skinner retired in February. Holbrook will look to get Birdville back into its 2012-13 form, when the Hawks went 24-4.
Matt Miracle, FW Paschal: Miracle takes over for a team that went 2-8 and 1-6 in District 4-6A. He’ll look to get the Panthers somewhere they haven’t been since 1995 — the playoffs.
3 Year of the Quarterback. Many area teams have 2,500-yard passers, and lots of those are dual-threat quarterbacks.
Shane Buechele, Arlington Lamar (2,504 passing yards, 31 TDs)
Shane Robinson, Denton Guyer (4,200 total yards, 50 TDs)
Tyler Natee, Euless Trinity (2,335 total yards, 17 TDs)
Deion Hair-Griffin, FW Arlington Heights (3,250 total yards, 48 TDs)
Devin Williams, Mansfield Timberview (2,760 total yards, 31 TDs)
Jett Duffey, Mansfield Lake Ridge (2,328 pass, 1,117 rush, 25 TDs)
Eric Walker, Arlington Martin (1,143 pass), limited due to injury
Keshawn Boyce, Arlington Sam Houston (575 total), backup role
Montana Murphy, Southlake Carroll (5 TDs), backup role
Clayton Beeter, Birdville (1,134 pass, 15 TDs), limited by injury
Braden Nolen, Mansfield Summit (1,107 pass, 14 TDs), limited by injury
Jordan Kitna, Waxahachie (55 pass TDs at Tacoma Lincoln)
4 Can Aledo make it six titles in seven years?
Quarterback Luke Bishop accounted for 291 yards and four touchdowns in last year’s 5A state title game, helping Aledo join Austin Lake Travis as the only two UIL 11-man teams to win five titles in six years. Bishop, an all-state selection and District MVP, graduated, so Dillon Davis will start under center this season, but Garrett Hyles will also see time. Running back Isaiah Mallory and all-state receiver Ryan Newsome also moved on. So, can Aledo repeat state success, or even district success where the Bearcats have a 54-game winning streak (last district loss coming in 2007)?
5 It’s been 15 years since a Fort Worth ISD school made it into the third round of the playoffs. With Deion Hair-Griffin and others back at FW Arlington Heights, will the Yellow Jackets get theirs?
Not since Fort Worth Wyatt in 2000 has a team made it past the area round. The Yellow Jackets have dual-threat QB Deion Hair-Griffin (3,250 total yards, 48 TDs) and a number of offensive weapons back from a team that averaged 54 points a game last season— and scored 60 or more seven times. “Our main goal is winning a district title. When you have a good team that’s so deep so often they look past the third, fourth and fifth rounds, but when you haven’t been there, you take championships one at a time and our focus is winning district,” coach Phil Young said. “When you start looking ahead, you get beat, so we’re just taking it one game at a time.”