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Texas Football Magazine predicts Wildcats to make playoffs

by Tyler Lennon

Over the past few weeks here at Front Porch News we have previewed the Sulphur Springs Wildcats 2022 football schedule. Now, with camp underway, it’s time to look at other predictions that have been made about this Wildcats team.

Every year, Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Magazine releases their predictions for each district across the state. The question this year is, how did they have the Wildcats fairing in a new classification, with a new district?

Sulphur Springs was a team in need of a fresh start, after going 4-23 in their last three seasons. District 8-4A, along with new head coach Brandon Faircloth and his staff, could prove to be exactly that.

They will be joined by Anna, Community, Kaufman, Mabank and Paris. With that being said, now is time to see how the experts have the district playing out. Be sure to grab your own copy of the magazine or visit their website to see all of their predictions and much more.

1. Paris Wildcats

DCTFM have the Paris Wildcats taking home the district title this season. After going 15-10-1 over the past two seasons, it’s easy to see why the experts are high on them. With that being said, the Wildcats did take a step back last year, after going 9-5 in 2020. They also lose most of their key contributors from last season and will have to find new ways to replace that production.

Offensively, Paris will lean on returning guard Preston Harper, who was named All-District a season ago. He will be joined on the defensive side of things by Trevin Hohenberger and Dycurian Douglas, who were each named Second Team All-District last year.

Despite losing most of their key contributors, it’s easy to see why experts are high on Paris, as they have made the playoffs in 13 of the last 14 seasons. Will they be able to take home the district crown, or will they be topped by one of these other five teams?

2. Anna Coyotes

The Anna Coyotes are picked to finish in second place by DCTFM, but are one of the heavier favorites to win the district as well. Not only are they coming off a seven-win season from 2021, they also have possibly the strongest combination of returning players of any team in the district.

The Coyotes will be led offensively by senior running back Jambres Dubar. Dubar, is coming off an incredible junior season in which he rushed for 1,193 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns. The Coyotes primary offensive weapon is already committed to Boise State and has offers from Utah, Louisiana Tech, Incarnate Word, Illinois State, Houston Baptist and Abilene Christian and is reportedly also drawing interest from Texas A&M and Northwestern.

He will be joined by a receiving core who combined for 162 catches, 2,017 receiving yards and 15 receiving touchdowns in 2021. Move-in quarterback Ethan Bullock, who transferred from Allen, is set to fill-in for Daniel McNair who is now at West Texas A&M University. The Allen transfer will have more than plenty of weapons to get the ball to this season.

While that sounds like enough to give them a solid run at the district title, their defensive returners might give them what they need to make a push during the playoffs. They will be led by junior linebackers C.J. Miller and Grayson Stewart. 

The combination of Miller and Stewart accumulated 246 tackles in 2021, as well as 30 tackles for loss, three sacks and nine QB hurries as sophomores. With a full-year of varsity experience under their belt, the duo should have what it takes to make opposing offenses dread playing them for the next two seasons. 

Also returning for a big junior season is cornerback Jamison Adams. Adams led the team with four interceptions last season and will be looking to lead the secondary for the Anna Coyotes this season.

After missing the playoffs last season, despite going 7-3, Anna will surely be looking to not only reach the postseason this year, but also fight for a district title.

3. Kaufman Lions 

The Kaufman Lions will be yet another tough test for District 8-4A opponents this season. The Lions are coming off a 8-3 season, in which they made the playoffs and even took down Dallas Carter in the opening round of the playoffs, shutting them out by a final sore of 24-0. 

This was a huge turnaround season for Kaufman, after going a combined 6-15 in 2019 and 2020. How will they be able to improve upon an impressive 2021 is the question?

Offensively, the Lions will likely be leaning on veteran running back Braxton Garmon. Garmon was great in 2021, picking up 1,187 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns on 192 tries, giving him an impressive average of 6.2 yards per attempt. He also took snaps at quarterback and caught 13 passes for 163 yards and one touchdown, proving he can be a do-it-all type of player. 

While the Lions may be lacking returning players in the passing game, they make up for it with returners on the defensive side of things. Last season the Lions were led by linebacker Jordan Nalls, who is entering his senior season.

Nalls paced the way with with 122 tackles, while fellow linebackers Isaac Leija and Isaiah Leija led the team with four sacks each in 2021. The three of them combined for 21 QB hurries and will each look to up that number in their senior seasons. 

The Lions do have spots to fill in the passing game, but with a strong running game and defense behind them, Kaufman is setup for a third consecutive trip to the playoffs and possibly even a district title.

4. Sulphur Springs Wildcats

It’s an exciting time to be a fan of the Sulphur Springs Wildcats, as both head coach Brandon Faircloth and our readers/viewers have indicated. DCTFM seems to agree, as they have the Wildcats finishing in fourth place, taking the final playoff spot.

The Wildcats will be looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 2018, putting a three-year stretch of 4-23 football behind them. They are equipped with a brand new coaching staff and a group of returning players who could very well have exactly what they need to do so.

Quarterback Brady Driver is entering his first season as QB1, after a sophomore campaign in which he saw his playing time go up as the season went on. There was only one game in which he took 100% of the snaps at QB last season. In that game Driver had his best outing of the season, throwing for 275 yards and four touchdowns (with no interceptions) while also rushing for 99 yards and another touchdown. 

He will be helped out with a number of returning players on offense, including OL Sean Dial and C.J. Williams, who was the most explosive player on the Wildcats offense a season ago. While primarily lining up as a WR, Williams caught a team-high 46 catches, for 458 yards and seven touchdowns. He also had three rushing touchdowns and even attempted multiple passes, proving to be a playmaker who can get things done from any position.

The returning talent, plus incoming transfer Cooper Faircloth, who had 20 catches for 320 yards and two touchdowns last year could prove to be the best offense Sulphur Springs has seen since their 2018 playoff year.

The Wildcats look to be just as strong on defense, as they return a number of key contributors on that side of the ball as well. They will be led by a pair of seniors, safety Riley Hammons and DL Nick Cantillo who had the second-most and third-most tackles respectively last season.

Hammons also led the team with four interceptions, while Cantillo was able to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks, as they were both great in stopping the run.

They will be joined by guys like Brayden Morris, David Campbell and Austin Chaney who each played big roles last year. Those players and countless others will be looking to help snap a four-year drought in which the fans didn’t “get a playoff t-shirt” as Coach Faircloth said in a recent interview on The Tyler Lennon Show.

5. Community Braves

Coming in at the fifth spot and just barely missing out on the playoffs, according to DCTFM, is the Community Braves. The Braves have been the definition of consistent the past three seasons, going 5-6 and losing in the first round in each of the last three years. 

Community very well could have what it takes to make the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season as they return a huge majority of the leaders from last years team. The Braves were a team who relied heavily on the run in 2021, and lucky for them, they will be returning their two best runners.

Brandol Hernandez and Quinton Hall led the run game for Community last season, combining for 1,011 rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns. They also return quarterback River Medlin who had a QBR of 105.5 and both leading receivers, Charlie Ott and Hayden Tanner. 

Ott led the way with 292 yards on 16 catches, while Tanner was right behind him with 269 yards on 11 catches. Between returning two running backs with 10 touchdowns, their quarterback who was efficient and both leading receivers, offensively the Braves should be improved from last season.

Defensively Community should be in good hands as well, as they return TE/DL Jackson Younger, who was an All-State honorable mention last year, after having 112 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and six sacks. They also return Hall, who was mentioned above, who had 92 tackles last season, as well as eight tackles for loss and four interceptions.

Will Community have what it takes to make the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season? Or will this be the year they miss out after moving up to 4A Division 1?

6. Mabank Panthers 

The Mabank Panthers come in at the sixth and final spot in the DCTFM predictions and at first glance, it isn’t hard to see why. The Panthers, who haven’t made the playoffs since 2007, lost a huge majority of their offensive production, including running back Caleb Goforth, who is now at South Western Oklahoma State University.

Goforth, who was also their leading defensive player with 115 tackles and 11 tackles for loss, was the teams leading rusher, picking up 703 yards on 96 carries (7.3 yards per rush) and 11 rushing touchdowns. They also lost quarterback Beau Kilgore, as well as three of the teams four leading receivers.

Mabank, who runs a Slot-T offense, will look to attack teams to death with the run game and will largely do so with Cody Chapman, Aiden Wilkinson and Jayden Rogers.

The trio of Chapman, Wilkinson and Rogers (who are all seniors in 2022) had 1,220 yards on 187 carries last year, averaging 6.5 yards per carry. They will surely get even more carries this season with Goforth gone and will look to improve upon a combined 11 rushing touchdowns (which is exactly as many as Goforth had by himself). 

Defensively the Panthers are in a similar position, as they lose six of their top seven tacklers from last season. They also lose 18 of their 20 sacks from 2021, though they do return defensive back J.J. Flores, who led the team with four interceptions as a sophomore.

While the Panthers could have their work cut out for them, they do have a solid returning run-game and will look to keep the ball out of opposing teams hands as much as possible. If they can heavily win time of possession and win the turnover battle, the Panthers could prove to be a much tougher opponent than some teams might realize.

Playoff matchups

DCTFM was also able to predict what the bi-district round matchups would be, based on their seeding of every district. For the Sulphur Springs Wildcats, who the magazine has finishing in fourth place, they would matchup with the winner of district 4A-7, the Celina Bobcats. 

Celina, who made it all the way to the state semifinals a year ago, are led by quarterback Noah Bentley, who is committed to OU to play baseball. Bentley threw for 2,106 yards and 35 passing touchdowns last year, and will be joined by running back Gabe Gayton, who had 1,751 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns. 

Though the Bobcats are making the jump to 4A Division 1 this year, they should be in great shape to make another playoff run in 2022. 

Other playoff matchups from District 4A-8 include, Anna vs Dallas Carter, Wilmer-Hutchins vs Kaufman and Paris vs North Dallas.

Be sure to grab your own copy of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Magazine to read much more about all things Texas High School Football, as well as college teams around the state of Texas.

Let us know how you think the District rankings will shake out and stay tuned for all things Sulphur Springs Wildcats football as we close in on the final weeks before the season opener on Aug. 26.

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