It’s hard to consider Euless Trinity and Southlake Carroll in a slump.
The local powers have combined for 69 wins since the start of the 2012 season.
But as Carroll (6A Division II) and Trinity (6A Division I) were eliminated from the fourth round of the playoffs last year, it marked the third straight season that a team from Tarrant County failed to make the Class 6A semifinals.
That’s not necessarily a drought, but for two teams with a combined eight state titles since 2002 in Texas’ biggest classification, it shows just how tough Region I has become.
With the addition of Allen last year (thanks to realignment), and the continued dominance of Cedar Hill and DeSoto, there hasn’t been a clear path to a championship in either 6A division.
Allen, led by star quarterback Kyler Murray, had to beat DeSoto, Arlington Martin, Euless Trinity and Dallas Skyline to get to the Division I title game.
To get to the semifinals, Cedar Hill, the eventual Division II champion, had to beat Carroll, which had to beat San Angelo Central, Denton Guyer and Mansfield.
Now, though, with Murray graduated from Allen, and Cedar Hill needing to replace a collection of stars, the state’s largest classification seems a bit more wide open.
Here’s a look at four area teams that could take advantage of that:
The Trojans, a lock for the Division I bracket, lost a core of seniors, including Texas signee Patrick Vahe (OL) and TCU signee Tipa Galea’i (DE). They also lost coach Steve Lineweaver, who retired after 16 seasons and three state championships at the school.
In Lineweaver’s place will be Chris Jensen, Trinity’s offensive coordinator since 2001. The rest of Lineweaver’s staff remained intact, so strategically, the Trojans should look about the same. And that’s a good thing.
Trinity will feature its usual size on the offensive line, and it returns quarterback Tyler Natee and running back Ja’Ron Wilson. The Trojans sometimes get one-dimensional, with too much reliance on the run game. New offensive coordinator Jeryl Brixey should open things up a bit more, and Natee, who was new to quarterback last year, should be improved as a passer.
The challenge for Trinity will be on defense. The Trojans typically are among the area’s best units, but late in the playoffs against Allen last year and DeSoto in 2013, they’ve come up one stop short of advancing.
Their chances should improve against Allen, with Murray graduated. But DeSoto still features Ohio State commit Tristen Wallace, and either Seth Green or Mitchell Jonke should work well within Allen’s system at quarterback.
Like Trinity, the Warriors are guaranteed to go to the Division I bracket. With quarterback Eric Walker and running back Nic Smith (District 4-6A co-MVP last year) returning, Martin’s offense (48 points per game last year) should remain explosive.
The question for Martin will be similar to Trinity’s: Against a premier opponent, can the Warriors come up with enough stops? They scored 54 points against Allen last year, but still lost by 15. Earlier in the season, they scored 48 against Dallas Skyline, but lost by five.
In Region I, Allen, DeSoto, Trinity and Coppell would all be possible opponents by the third round, as they were last year.
Had the Warriors held on to beat Allen, a matchup with Trinity to reach the state semifinals wouldn’t have been insurmountable. At that point Skyline and then Cypress Ranch would’ve been two more hurdles to a state title. Winning one is hard.
Martin will get two litmus tests early with a season opener against DeSoto on Saturday, followed by a trip to Skyline on Sept. 4.
With large schools Coppell and Euless Trinity near locks for the playoffs, Southlake Carroll should end up in Division II, in which the Dragons reached the fourth round last year. Once they got there, they lost by 20 to Cedar Hill, which could be a likely opponent at that stage again. They’ll also have to get past Denton Guyer, which they beat in the second round last year.
Offensively, Carroll returns running back Lil’Jordan Humphrey and receiver Zach Farrar. Even though they’ll have to replace quarterback Ryan Agnew, the Dragons should be able to move the ball.
Defensively, it’s hard to tell what Carroll can do to avoid a letdown late in the playoffs, like what happened last year, when Cedar Hill rushed for 572 yards and six touchdowns. The Dragons lost defensive lineman King Newton up front, but maybe more important, they return linebacker Jake Copeland and highly recruited defensive backs Robert Barnes and Obi Eboh. They’ll need that speed in the secondary if they meet Guyer and Cedar Hill again.
There’s a good chance Mansfield will have another up-and-down regular season. That’s what happens when you play in a district with DeSoto, Cedar Hill, South Grand Prairie and Duncanville.
But as a program, Mansfield has been solid, reaching the playoffs each of the last five seasons and getting to the third round in 2011. Last year, though, might have been one of the Tigers’ better teams, despite their loss to Southlake Carroll 38-31 in the first round.
Mansfield led the Dragons 24-7 in the third quarter before Carroll came back. The first round is a long way from a state championship, but as the Tigers proved with a 49-34 win over Cedar Hill earlier in the year, a win over the Dragons could have set up a deep playoff run.
Mansfield is having to replace quarterback Aaron Funk, but it shouldn’t be a surprise as to who they’ll turn to for offensive firepower. Junior running back Kennedy Brooks started the final six games last year and rushed for 1,142 yards.
Ryan Osborne, 817-390-7760