Another high school football season has reached its conclusion. The Tarrant County area placed three teams in the state finals.
However, Kennedale, Aledo and Weatherford Brock came up short in the Class 4A Division 1, 5A Division 2 and 3A Division 1 title games. Kennedale lost to Carthage, 49-21. Aledo fell to College Station, 20-19. Brock lost to Rockdale, 45-29.
But when a season ends, anticipation immediately turns to 2018 and what that season could hold. We’ll take a look.
Realignment — Class 5A split
This is new territory for this conference. The enrollment line of demarcation is 1,840. Those at 1,840 and above are going Division 1. Those at 1,839 and below will be Division 2.
The future of programs such as Aledo and Crowley and the three Eagle Mountain Schools — Saginaw, Saginaw Boswell and Saginaw Chisholm Trail — could be interesting, not only because of the district partners they share but also the regions they may belong to. At 1,738, Aledo will be a Division 2 school. However, Steve Wood’s program could be in a position where it could join the Burleson schools and may add Abilene Wylie.
Crowley has 2,153 students. But beyond Granbury (2,004), there aren’t a lot of options. The Eagles could be looking at a district that involves Mansfield Legacy (2,099) and Mansfield Timberview (1,908). But it could also take Chris James’ program into Region II.
Next year’s playmakers
This list won’t look much different from what we saw in 2017. However, these standouts will be a year older with the potential to take their games to a higher level. Classifications will reflect what they will be in 2018. Stats are from 2017.
▪ Jalen Catalon, Mansfield Legacy, S/QB, Sr. — He’s got the safety thing down. If head coach Chris Melson decides to keep him at quarterback, Catalon is going to have to spend a heavy dose of the offseason working on all nuances of the position and be a much more polished passer.
▪ Titus Swen, Haslet V.R. Eaton, RB, Sr. — He rushed for nearly 2,000 yards in 12 games and is an efficient pass catcher. Swen has the physical tools to be even better than what he was in 2017.
▪ Jase McClellan, Aledo, RB, Jr. — He rushed for nearly 1,600 yards even though he missed six games with a broken wrist. If he sustains health for next year, the Oklahoma commit could be in store for much bigger things.
▪ Ty DeArman, Arlington Bowie, Ath, Sr. — The unfortunate thing for DeArman is that his team finished 2017 at 3-7, so not many paid attention to him. But he is a threat on both sides of the ball. When he’s lined up in the secondary, proceed with caution.
▪ Ronnie Sanders, Crowley, DB, Sr. — A great cover cornerback who had three interceptions and 12 passes defended. What makes him difficult to game plan for is that he’s 6-2. His length is his greatest weapon.
▪ Kam Brown, Colleyville Heritage, WR, Sr. — Recently de-committed from UCLA, Brown is a pure vertical threat as he finished with 1,190 yards and 15 touchdowns. Should the Panthers settle their quarterback situation for 2018, there’s going to be a dynamite pitch and catch relationship.
▪ Nana Osafa-Mensah, Fort Worth Nolan Catholic, DE, Sr. — The size (6-4, 230) and the wingspan are there. Now, the next step for him is to be able to take over a game.
Watch these QBs
Several have been starters. Others are taking over the job. But it could be now that they emerge and become household names among high school football fans.
▪ Brayden Thomas, Saginaw Boswell, Jr. — He passed for nearly 3,000 yards and 37 touchdowns as a sophomore. Experience and repetitions will be his greatest tool.
▪ Drew Sanders, Colleyville Heritage, Jr. — It will be another crowded competition for head coach Joe Willis’ signal caller. Sanders is committed to Oklahoma as a tight end. But Willis will play Sanders where he needs him.
▪ Ken Seals, Weatherford, Jr. — The transfer from Azle, who was limited to only junior varsity play this fall because of ineligibility, brings potential and credibility to the Kangaroos. He threw for 1,414 and 10 touchdowns against 16 interceptions as a freshman for Azle.
▪ Cade Rhodes, Grapevine, Sr. — He had to wait his turn until Alan Bowman finished. But Rhodes has a big arm and is a pure pocket passer. His name should gain momentum when he goes on the summer college camp tour.
▪ Sloan Henry, Keller, Sr. — He’s a handful at 6-3, 220. There are some inconsistencies in his game. But another offseason could change the way he runs the Indians offense next year.
A look at several teams who could be in position to have big 2018 season after a sub-par 2017 season (record in parenthesis).
▪ Azle (4-6) — The Hornets were in control of their playoff destiny until they lost their finale against Justin Northwest. Head coach Devin Dorris has a solid defense. If he can get his offense moving in the right direction, the Hornets could be in the 2018 postseason.
▪ Weatherford (0-10) — How does a winless team fit this category? Well, it does when its quarterback Ken Seals had to play a junior varsity schedule because he was ruled ineligible after transferring from Azle. Seals steps on the varsity stage this fall. Players also have a full year in new coach Billy Mathis’ system.
▪ North Crowley (4-6) — The Panthers didn’t finish well in 2017. They dropped their last three to take themselves out of the playoffs. But they have a pretty interesting quarterback in Caleb Leake. Leake and his teammates just have to learn how to win.
▪ Fort Worth Nolan Catholic (5-6) — David Beaudin begins his second full offseason and has a pretty solid defense led by defensive end Nana Osafa-Mensah, linebacker Chance Cover and safety Ben Cawyer. If the Vikings can be consistent on offense, they’ll be a far better team.
▪ Cleburne (0-10) — Casey Walraven walked into an impossible situation with the fiery end to Jeff Merket’s tenure. With normalcy returning to that part of Johnson County, Walraven has a young roster in key positions. The Yellow Jackets may not be a playoff team. But they will be better.
▪ Arlington Bowie (3-7) — Things just didn’t come together for the Volunteers. The talent is there. It’s just a matter of learning the lessons from this past fall and turning them into a positive.
Next year’s state champions?
Teams in great position to make state championship runs. Their 2017 records are in parenthesis.
▪ Aledo (15-1) — A couple of missed extra points cost them in the 5A Division II state championship against College State. But key figures in both the offensive and defensive line are back, led by senior defensive end Colt Ellison. Quarterback Jake Bishop has a big offseason ahead of him.
▪ Mansfield Legacy (12-3) — Key defensive players are back, including the defensive front between Taurean Carter and Enoch Jackson. Finding a couple of more playmakers in the offense could put the Broncos over the top.
▪ Euless Trinity (11-3) — Now that the Trojans have broken through the bi-district frustration with a run to the state quarterfinals, their identity has been re-established. They lose running back Courage Keihn. But this program always finds running backs.