Early Pre-Season Football Preview for Shelby County teams listed

Which teams have the best chance to return to playoff action this fall?

EDITOR'S NOTE: This preview was originally printed in the July 18 edition of The Light and Champion.

The 2018 season marked a historic event for Shelby County football.

All five Shelby County teams were able to advance to playoffs. Four of the five teams in the county are situated in the 2A Division I classification, while Center ISD is a 4A Division II school.

With Joaquin, Tenaha, and Timpson all competing in District 11-2A Division I, it would have been impossible for Shelby County to field five playoff qualifying teams in the past, but a recent UIL rule change raised the number of teams that advance from two to four.

Center, Joaquin, and Shelbyville each locked down the runner-up position in their respective districts, while Tenaha took the three-seed, and Timpson managed a playoff berth at number four from District 11-2A Division I.

With the 2019 season looming, this is the perfect opportunity to look ahead for what's in store for local area football teams.

The Center Roughriders find themselves in a favorable position. District 9-4A Division II is made up of only five teams. This means that four of the five teams within this district will be playoff bound following the end of their district schedule.

While some may see this as a lesser accomplishment, it’s important to note that Center battled hard during district play last year and finished the season as the runner up from District 9. That means that even under the old standard of two teams per district, the Riders would have advanced into the postseason.

Barring some sort of complete breakdown, the Riders will be making an appearance in the postseason, the only question is what seed they will be when they make the transition into the playoffs.

With eight starters returning on offense and seven on defense, the Riders are certainly capable of big things within District 9. Center is now helmed by coach Scott Ponder after Barry Bowman stepped down from the Center Athletic Director position in the latter half of last year. Ponder will be implementing an Air Raid offense. Sophomore Jake Hanson will likely be called to step up into a leadership role within the offense as its quarterback.

This likely transition will take place following 2018 Roughrider quarterback Jayden Hicks’ transfer to San Augustine. Look for wide receivers Zacc Smith and Jakerrion Watson to shine in this new offensive system.

Looking ahead, Jasper still appears to be the team to beat in District 9, but the Roughriders seem poised to give them a run for the district championship.

The Shelbyville Dragons had a sensational 2018-2019 school year. Their crowning achievement was a third Basketball State Championship. Along with winning state in basketball, the Dragons made a deep run into the 2A Baseball Playoffs after going undefeated in district play.

Before either of these two feats happened, Shelbyville made a statement on the gridiron by going 4-1 in District 12-2A Division I. Their only loss came from a strong San Augustine Wolves football team.

Shelbyville will hit the field this year with six returning starters on offense and six on defense. Last year marked the first football season to be overseen by the then new Athletic Director, David Benbow.

Benbow’s run-heavy offense was a success for the Dragons, but this year they are looking to shake things up in Shelbyville. Word is that their new offense will still lean on the running game but will also provide opportunity in the passing game.

San Augustine will be a tough team to beat given their 11 returning starters on offense and the addition of QB Hicks from Center. With San Augustine as their last district opponent, expect to see the Dragons duke it out with the Wolves yet again for a district title.

Running back Jaylon Brinson will continue to be a key figure in the Shelbyville offense. Be sure to also keep an eye on a versatile LD Coleman, who could show up at QB, RB, or WR. Jarod Perez could also grow into a threat in the receiving game. On the defensive side of the ball, juniors AJ Cartwright and Grady Clay are sure to cause trouble for opposing offenses.

Joaquin

The Joaquin Rams were able to snag the runner-up seed from a very competitive District 11-2A Division I.

Their district schedule included Timpson and Tenaha who also call Shelby County home. Joaquin bested both of those teams in district play, but their contest with the Tenaha Tigers was a close one with a final of 23-21, Rams.

Joaquin entered the playoffs with a bang, as they ran roughshod over the West Sabine Tigers to the tune of a 42-0 shutout-victory.

The Rams will return to football with seven of their starters on the offensive side of the ball and seven on defense.

Athletic Director Wade Lawson is sure to field a competitive football team with their eyes set on more than a Bi-District Championship. The two-time 2A Long Jump State Champion Connor Bragg appears primed to make the move from running back to quarterback this year and will undoubtedly be a threat on every down.

Lorenzo “Boogie” Lane will also be an every-down threat from the RB position and also a crucial part of the defense after putting up 107 tackles, four sacks, and three interceptions in 2018.

Look for Ian Shahan to increase his role within the Rams’ offense as well after 10 touchdowns last year. Joaquin will have their work cut out for them if they want to dethrone the reigning District 11 champion Garrison Bulldogs.

Garrison RB Sebastian Porter ran for nearly 2,500 yards last year and crossed the goal line 43 times. Look for the Rams to come out and make the Bulldogs work for it. One slip from Garrison could spell a district championship for Joaquin.

Tenaha

Three years and three different head football coaches in Tenaha, and yet the Tigers continue to look as strong as ever.

Last year Greg Jenkins took over for Craig Horn. Jenkins and the Tigers fought their way past the naysayers after finishing third in District 11-2A Division I.

The Tigers lost a heartbreaker to Joaquin that gave the Rams the tiebreaker despite equal district records of 4-2. The Tigers eventually outlasted all other District 11 competitors including the district champ Garrison Bulldogs.

Tenaha made it to the State Semi-Finals before finally falling to San Augustine, whom they had bested in the regular season.

This year head football coach Robert Tamplin will be leading the Tigers from the sidelines. Tenaha will only see five familiar faces in their offensive starting lineup, while they return seven on defense.

While losing just over half of your offensive lineup isn’t ideal, things are certainly not bleak. Senior QB Hayden Jenkins makes his return to lead the offense, and fellow senior Erik Smith will continue to be a deep threat at WR.

Last year’s star RB Jay Lloyd has left some big shoes to fill in the backfield but look for Jordan Marshall and Jeremy Patton to step up this year. Linebacker Davion Tamplin will continue to play a big role in the defense after his 90 tackle 2018 season, and defensive back Jatorian Calloway will be called upon to help lead from the defensive side of things.

Timpson

The Timpson Bears were just able to earn a playoff berth last year. With teams like Garrison, Joaquin, and Tenaha, the Bears were forced to fight for every inch in district last year.

The Bears were able to earn a playoff spot and even turned some heads when they defeated the Joaquin Rams, who ended the year in second place.

Timpson was edged out in the Bi-District round by the San Augustine Wolves.

With seven returning on offense and six on defense, Timpson will be bringing experience to the field. The biggest hurdle for the Bears will be replacing Jordan Osby at running back. Osby was crucial to the Bears’ 2018 run, racking up over 4000, that’s not a typo, 4000 yards rushing. In addition, Osby was responsible for 58 rushing touchdowns last year.

Though the Bears may not be able to field a Jordan Osby caliber player, I have no doubt that head coach Kerry Therwhanger will put his team in the best position to win.

The Bears will need to come together as a team to fill the void left by Osby. Expect Kobe Grogan and Trey Keggler to see more action on offense and look for Tre’ Davis and Braden Courtney to be leaders on defense.

Timpson is still in play for a postseason spot, but they will certainly have to work for it.