'Dave Campbell's Texas Football' favors Spartans, Elks
Just a few years ago, both Burleson football coach Gary McElroy and Centennial football coach Kyle Geller saw the preseason predictions in Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine as motivation for their respective teams.
Oh how the times have changed.
Instead of being the hunter just a few short years ago, the Elks and Spartans are now the hunted.
The so-called “Bible of Texas Football” landed at news stands in July and Burleson and Centennial are both picked to return to the playoffs.
The Spartans are selected to finish second in 9-5A with the Elks behind them in third place.
Last year, Burleson was picked to finish third in 8-5A and posted a district mark of 5-2 to finish in second place. The Elks finished the season with a 8-4 record. Burleson won its playoff opener before losing in the second round.
“It’s always flattering because it seems the way they determine playoff teams is how the other coaches in the district pick you,” McElroy said. “It’s encouraging that our opponents think that highly of us and we agree that we are a playoff team. I want the kids to know that this is what everyone thinks of you and now you need to go out and show it. There are high expectations.”
The Elks return seven starters on offense and six on defense, but must replace quarterback Preston Paden along with running back Kobe Slaughter and receiver Taylor Bissell. The Elks’ defense, which McElroy said might be the best since he’s been a Burleson, will be led by senior linebacker Isaiah Nelson and end Trey Schuman.
Centennial was picked to place fifth last year by DCTF but proved the prognosticators wrong by making the playoffs for the second consecutive season. The Spartans went 5-2 in district play and won not only their first playoff game in the program’s history but also their second contest before losing in the regional semifinals. Centennial posted a school record nine wins against four losses.
“It doesn’t matter to me where we are picked,” Geller said. “We’ve been picked next to last and picked second before. Last time we were picked second, we finished second to last. You just have to come out and play every week. Having Payton back has a lot to do with that. People respect what he has done. We have a lot of work to be done. We will be scraping it out week to week just like we have the last two years.”
This will be the Spartans’ third season running a spread offense based on Navy’s option attack. The offense should be loaded with eight starters back led by senior quarterback Payton Strambler. The Centennial’s defense has five starters back including junior linebacker Blake Murphy along with linemen Garrett Parkhill and Ronnie Burns-Lane
Texas Football, tabs Everman to win the 9-5A crown followed by playoff teams Centennial, Burleson and Crowley. Centennial’s Strambler is the magazine’s Preseason Offensive MVP pick while Burleson’s Nelson is picked as the Preseason Defensive MVP.
Geller said about Strambler, “It’s definitely a huge advantage for us having him back. He’s worked hard and does a good job not only playing baseball in the summer and also getting ready for football. He’s done a lot of running this summer and has lost some weight. Having a guy that is almost another coach on the field is a good thing. He just knows what we do. I don’t think I’ve ever had a quarterback that will be a three-year starter.”
Of Nelson, McElroy said, “I think he and Schuman would rank right up there for that award,” McElroy said. “Isaiah already has some Division I offers. He runs well, he’s an intelligent kid and loves to play. If he duplicates what he did last season, which was his first year playing linebacker, I could see his numbers being even higher. I think he can back that honor up.”
The magazine predicts the rest of the district to finish like this: Arlington Seguin (fifth), Cleburne (sixth), Granbury (seventh) and Joshua (eighth).
In the first round of the playoffs, 9-5A will square off with 10-5A. Texas Football’s predictions pit Centennial against Mansfield Summit and Crowley vs. Mansfield Lake Ridge in Division I. In Division II, Burleson takes on Lancaster and Everman squares off against Waxahachie.
Region II loaded with talented teams. Twelve teams in Region II made the DCTF’s Top 40 list including No. 6 Highland Park, No. 9 Frisco Lone Star, No. 12 Lancaster, No. 13 Ennis, No. 14 Lake Ridge, No. 21 Mesquite Poteet, No. 22 Lake Dallas, No. 26, Wylie East, No. 28 Waxahachie, No. 29 Everman, No. 30 Summit and No. 33 Mansfield Timberview. Centennial was not ranked but received votes.
In the coaches poll, Lone Star is ranked fifth, Lake Ridge is seventh, Highland Park is eighth and Ennis is ninth.