Dragon Football: 2017 District Previews
Sep 28, 2017 07:12AM
● By Mike
vs. Flower Mound Jaguars
7:30 p.m. Sept. 29
The Dragons kicked off the District 5-6A slate in dominant fashion a year ago, going on the road and returning to Southlake with a 42-7 victory over the Jaguars.
Flower Mound steadily progressed throughout the debut season of head coach Brian Basil, however, and was in the playoff hunt until the final week of the season before settling for a 4-6 mark.
With quarterback Jackson Averitt back under center and all-state linebacker Connor Lee leading a defense that brings back six starters, the Jaguars should be even stronger with more varsity experience and another season in Basil’s system.
As noted, Averitt returns at quarterback and was an all-district performer a year ago. A dual-threat, Averitt threw for 2,073 passing yards, rushed for 428 yards and found the end zone 28 times in total.
His top threat in the passing game figures to be Jake Welch, but Flower Mound’s questions offensively come on the ground where the Jaguars will look to a trio of sophomore backs that will be running behind a line breaking in five new starters.
Lee (146 tackles) leads a defense that surrendered 412 total yards, including 228 on the ground, to Carroll last year.
at Euless Trinity Trojans
7:30 p.m. Oct. 6
Despite a deep and challenging schedule that includes a trip to Tulsa, there is no question what game Carroll’s players have circled on the calendar.
It comes in the second week of 5-6A action when Carroll travels to Bedford’s Pennington Field to take on Trinity in a battle of two squads that have won a combined 11 state titles.
Last year, the Dragons got the best of the Trojans, winning at home, 42-28, after blanking Trinity in the second half, 14-0.
Carroll will need a similar effort defensively to get past the Trojans this season as Trinity should be strong on the ground behind running back Courage Keihn (1,340 yards, 8.6 yards per carry and 12 touchdowns last season) and an offensive line that features standouts Jason Vakasiuola and Leka Lea’aetoa.
Trinity is traditionally strong defensively as well, but will have to grow up quickly in 2017 with a unit that brings back two starters, including the transfer of UCLA commit and blue-chip defensive back Cam’ron Jones to Mansfield.
Carroll displayed nice balance and efficiency in its win over Trinity last season as Mason Holmes completed 70 percent of his passes for three touchdowns and Audricke Gaines rushed for 155 yards and three scores.
vs. Lewisville Fighting Farmers
7:30 p.m. Oct. 13
Carroll posted its most lopsided win of the season against Lewisville a year ago, taking the Farmers as the visitor in a 49-7 victory.
A similar result could be in store this season as the Farmers will enter with a vastly different look.
Lewisville’s loss to Carroll last season sent the Farmers into a tailspin as the Farmers would go on to drop their last four contests to finish at 1-6 in 5-6A competition.
The Farmers bring back just eight lettermen from the squad and are also breaking in a first-year coach in Michael Odle after former head coach Gregg Miller departed to Texas High in Texarkana for a defensive coordinator position.
Odle, meanwhile, quarterbacked the Farmers to a state title in 1996 and inherits a squad with question marks across the board.
One area that has been settled is under center, however, where Tyler Urban has nailed down the starting spot.
In the backfield, David Orafunam had a strong camp for the Farmers, and De’Mondrick Hunter also figures to be back, while Lewisville is hopeful Brandon Rolfe can pick up the slack at receiver following the graduation of Alabama signee Tyrell Shavers.
Similar questions of depth and experience remain defensively where defensive back Kevin Anderson is the lone returning all-district performer.
vs. Marcus Marauders
7:30 p.m. Oct. 20
The Marauders and Dragons staged a competitive contest last season but as was the case throughout the year, Carroll wore down its foe in the second half.
The Dragons outscored Marcus, 16-0, in the fourth quarter to rally back from a 21-17 hole entering the final period.
Like Lewisville, Marcus is breaking in a first-year head coach (Kevin Atkinson) due to the departure of their former head coach (Gerry Stanford) to Texas High.
But unlike Odle in Lewisville, Atkinson is walking into a locker room with experienced talent.
Marcus figures to boast one of the best offensive lines in the district behind Justin Osborne and Michael Bonner.
The pair will be opening holes for all-state running back Justin Dinka, who burst on the scene as a sophomore Coppell transfer and finished second in 6A in the area in rushing (1,743 rushing yards, 20 touchdowns) behind Mansfield’s Kennedy Brooks.
Carroll’s defense won’t need a reminder of Dinka’s ability after he gashed the Dragons to the tune of 189 yards and two touchdowns last season.
Marcus is hopeful the addition of standout recruit and Fort Worth Nolan transfer Marcel Brooks will bolster a defense that has seven other starters returning, but that surrendered 516 total yards to the Dragons in 2016.
at Trophy Club Byron Nelson
7 p.m. Oct. 26
The surprise of the district (outside of possibly Trinity suffering three 5-6A losses) was likely Byron Nelson, who overcame a 0-5 start to qualify for the playoffs out of 5-6A.
But with 13 returning starters (seven on defense), the Bobcats won’t be sneaking up on anyone in 2017.
And they certainly didn’t on Carroll last year as the Dragons rolled to a 44-13 win after jumping out to a 24-6 halftime margin.
Byron Nelson will look to Manace Kabongo to take over at quarterback following the graduation of Eli Rusche (2,627 yards, 26 touchdowns). Last year, the Dragons limited Rusche to a season-low 148 passing yards and Carroll will hope to do much of the same to Kabongo and leading returning receiver D.J. Robinson (358 yards, two touchdowns).
Defensively, Nelson is sound in the middle behind returning linebackers Jaired Chamberlain (71 tackles, eight for loss) and Hunter Hutchens.
It was in the win over Nelson last season that current Carroll quarterback Will Bowers fired the first touchdown pass of his career — a 28-yard strike to Royce Weigel.
Overall, Carroll fell just shy of 500 total yards in the win and posted one of its best rushing outputs of the season (301 yards, 9.1 per carry, four touchdowns).
vs. Hurst L.D. Bell Blue Raiders
7:30 p.m. Nov. 3
Carroll will welcome L.D. Bell to Dragon Stadium for senior night on Nov. 3 and it is likely Carroll’s seniors will get plenty of time to enjoy their final home game (or see more playing time for non-starters).
Bell struggled in 5-6A a year ago and has just eight starters returning resulting in many publications projecting the Blue Raiders to finish near the bottom of the district.
Last year, Carroll led, 38-0, after three quarters en route to a 45-7 victory.
Bowers went a perfect 4-for-4 in backup duty to Holmes for 83 yards and a touchdown, while the Dragons posted 262 yards rushing and four touchdowns, including a second score for Bowers.
If Bell does have a strength, it’s likely defensively.
Mike Dyson and Chase Steelman are strong in the trenches, while linebacker Nate Alexander is coming off a season in which he racked up 88 tackles.
On offense, Austin Brougham returns after throwing for 898 yards passing, while wide receiver Markel Burnett and running back Zion Hardy are expected to lead Bell’s contingent of skill players.
at Hebron Hawks
7:30 p.m. Nov. 10
As it was a year ago, the District 5-6A title could well be on the line in the final game of the 5-6A season.
Last year, the Hawks entered with a chance to earn a share of the district crown but instead saw Carroll earn a 52-34 victory to finish unbeaten in district.
While the Dragons certainly expect to compete for the title again, so too do the Hawks.
Hebron should be stacked offensively with nine returning starters.
First and foremost is Kansas commit and three-year starting quarterback Clayton Tune, who is looking to build on a junior campaign that saw him named Offensive Player of the Year in 5-6A after posting 2,957 yards and 30 total touchdowns.
Headline by Illinois commit Braeden Daniels, head coach Brian Brazil believes the strength of the team may be the offensive line. That’s saying a lot given a wide receiver corps that features BYU commit Jaren Mitchell and four-star recruit and junior wideout Trejan Bridges.
Talent is abundant defensively as well, in particular in the secondary.
Senior defensive back Verone McKinley III recently committed to Oregon and is flanked by three-year starters Joseph Angelone and Demario Montez as well as sophomore safety Darius Snow — the son of former NBA player Eric Snow, who is in his first high school on the gridiron and is drawing rave reviews from Brazil.