High School Football

Countdown to kickoff: Justin Northwest has big hopes in Class 5A

Justin Northwest players take the field against Lamar in the first half on Sept. 11 2015 at CravensField in Arlington. The Texans begin the 2016 season in Class 5A after finishing last season with one win.
Justin Northwest players take the field against Lamar in the first half on Sept. 11 2015 at CravensField in Arlington. The Texans begin the 2016 season in Class 5A after finishing last season with one win. Special to the Star-Telegram

Justin Northwest

District 6-5A

Last season: 1-9 (1-6 in District 5-6A)

Key players: QB Prince Mavula (6-3, 185), DB Samuel Smethers (6-2, 165), LB Caden McDonald (6-2, 210), WR Gavin Holmes (6-0, 180), WR Syrus Moore (5-9, 175), OL Josh Campbell (6-3, 305), LB David Wilson (6-0, 230), DE Zach Newman (6-2, 255), WR Leo Saldana (6-3, 185), WR Jordan Ames (5-11, 180), DB Bryce Rodgers (6-1, 185), OL Darrell Simpson (6-7, 310), DB Emmanuel Ogunwolu (5-11, 175), DB Daniel Bin-Mintembe (5-9, 160).

The big picture: Being one of the smaller schools is Class 6A last season, the Texans struggled through a difficult district schedule and lost some close games. Still, with six returning starters on offense and seven on defense, as well as a drop to Class 5A, expect Northwest to challenge immediately. Junior Prince Mavula has the reins at quarterback and although he is more of a pocket passer, coach Bill Poe said Mavula is also a threat to run. Northwest also has a sizable offensive line that Poe said would be a focal point for an improved run game. About 65 percent of the Texans’ offense came through the air last season. On defense, a bevy of big linebackers inside resulted in a switch to a 3-4 scheme in order to get more speed on the edges and get the secondary more involved more. Linebacker Caden McDonald had 120 tackles last season.

Quotable: “The thing we talked about the most this off-season was mental fortitude. We were in so many close ballgames last season and couldn’t find a way to win. We changed our defensive scheme last year, mostly predicated on the kind of personnel and numbers we have, and now that’s something that we can go forward with having been in that system for a full year.” — Coach Bill Poe

“It was kind of rough last season and everyone knows that, but we’ve got seven starters coming back on defense and that gives us some guys with experience. We’ve worked our tails off over the off-season to make the changes we needed to play better on both sides of the ball. You can’t really tap one thing down on why we played that way last season, but now we just want to be the No. 1 defense in our district and it’s on us to play that way.” — LB Caden McDonald

“We had a great spring, and coming down to Class 5A is something that probably fits us more as we were one of the smaller schools at the next level. We had some depth last season, but some injuries kind of took a toll on us. Coach Poe has really kept us focused and we have a different mentality. We have a new QB and we’ve been throwing and catching it seems like every day since the season was over. I feel like we have talent in the backfield and on the offensive line to run the ball successfully, but I think we’ll be better in the passing game, which is the core of our offense.” — WR Gavin Holmes

Notable: Holmes and Moore combined for 102 receptions last season, averaging 11.8 yards per catch.

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