Last season: 3-7 (2-4 District 7-6A)
Key players: QB Trae Self (6-4, 185); RB Rylee Johnson (5-8, 185); WR Landon Le (5-11, 165); OL Jaiden Rubio (6-1, 295); LB Dashawn White (6-1, 205); DB James Evans (6-0, 170); DB Kyle Itoka (6-3, 165).
The big picture: The Rebels navigated perhaps the toughest district in the Metroplex last season in 7-6A, but they’re moving to Class 5A and hope to earn their first playoff appearance since 2009. They got a new turf field on campus last season and it has helped in the spring. “If you factor weather in, we got about 22 days in the spring which we wouldn’t have if we still had grass,” coach Ged Kates said. The Rebels also qualified for the state 7-on-7 tournament in the summer. “That doesn’t guarantee you anything in the fall, but there were pretty good teams down there, so we’ve had a highly competitive spring and summer; it’s exciting times,” Kates said. Offensively, Richland returns seven, but lost its two most productive players in quarterback Jordan Wiley and receiver Aaron Denson, who combined for more than 2,400 yards and 21 touchdowns. Stepping in for Wiley will be senior Trae Self (honorable mention all-district selection). Self played in nine games in 2015, passing for 386 yards and four touchdowns. “In the off-season, he’s committed to being a complete quarterback,” Kates said. In the backfield, Rylee Johnson (351 yards, 2 TDs) should see more opportunities thanks to senior linemen Jaiden Rubio, Cipriano Vasquez and Jacob Young. All were starters last season. Senior WR Landon Le (second-team all-district) is expected to jump into the No. 1 spot at receiver. “Landon is an explosive young man, and a good athlete,” Kates said. Defensively, the Rebels also return seven players. Junior LB Dashawn White (87 tackles) leads by example, Kates said. Senior DBs James Evans (36 tackles) and Kyle Itoka (31 tackles) are back, and Kates expects great things from senior twins Chance and Christian Garner on the defense line.
Quotable: “It will be a challenge every week, but an exciting opportunity and real fun to see us continue to get better week to week. It’s a good, tough schedule, but we have a chance to do some things that haven’t been done around here in some time.” — Coach Ged Kates
I feel that I have matured and become a better leader and quarterback, and I am ready to lead this team every Friday night.” — QB Trae Self
“One thing I can promise this year is that all our players have been working hard to make this season great. Yes, we start in a new class and district some might consider easier than the last couple of years, but to us it doesn’t matter. We are going to play with all we got this year.” — WR Landon Le
Notable: Richland, which averaged 30 points in three wins and 15.8 in seven losses last season, will scrimmage against state quarterfinalist Denton Ryan and Garland Lakeview Centennial. ... The Rebels open the season with Nolan Catholic, Keller Central and Haltom before starting district play.