Check out the FOX 7 preseason rankings for the Central Texas high school football teams.
1. Lake Travis (2011: 16-0, Class 4A DI State Champion)
--With their state-record 5th consecutive Class 4A state championship in 2011, the Cavaliers capped the most successful five-year run in Texas high school football history. In fact, Lake Travis had more state titles than losses during that span. What would be even more impressive is if the Cavs can take home another title this season, in their first year as a Class 5A school. With the deadly combo of QB Baker Mayfield (45 TD passes in '11), WR Zach Austin (1365 yds receiving), and RB Shaun Nixon (1260 yds rushing, 20 TDs) the Cavs, who are ranked near the top of pre-season 5A state rankings, should cruise through the regular season, not seeing things get interesting until the playoffs in late November, early December. Not your typical adjustment of moving up a classification.
2. Pflugerville (2011: 5-7, lost in 1st round of playoffs)
--The Panthers took awhile to get jump-started, but bounced back nicely from missing the playoffs in 2010, with a win in the 1st round of the playoffs. This season, coach George Herrmann's team could get back to business as usual at "P-ville", challenging for a district title and making deeper runs in the playoffs, with the help of 15 returning starters.
3. Westwood (2011: 10-2, lost in 2nd round of playoffs)
--Job 1 for coach Anthony Wood is replacing perhaps the best quarterback he has had while at Westwood, two-time district MVP Ben Johnson. The Warriors will look to 12 returning starters to continue the momentum gained from last year's 10-2 campaign. November 9th's game at Pflugerville, the regular season finale, may be for district title.
4. Westlake (2011: 9-3, lost in 2nd round of playoffs)
--The experts assume everyone is playing for 2nd in District 15-5A behind Lake Travis. If that's the case, the Chaps are leading the pack in being the district runner-up. Six starters return on either side of the ball for Westlake, including six on a defense that allowed only two touchdowns in district play in 2011. The defense will have its chance to make a name of itself November 2nd at home against Lake Travis, most likely for the district title.
5. Bowie (2011: 6-5, lost in 1st round of playoffs)
--The Bulldogs' bid to return to the playoffs in 2012 should be a lock, but will be tougher with only six returning starters. Among the returners though, is DB-turned-QB Dontae Harris, and LB Ryan Taylor, who lead the Dawgs in tackles a year ago.
1. Cedar Park (2011: 11-3, DI Regional Finalist)
--Had Lake Travis moved to Class 5A in the UIL's previous realignment before the 2010 school year, we may be talking about the Cedar Park Timberwolves going for a third-consecutive 4A state championship. Both seasons, they were a touchdown away from knocking off the Cavaliers in the region final. As it stands, the TWolves were the second-best team in their region, and probably the second-best team in the state both seasons. Now with Lake Travis in 5A, Cedar Park has ideas on it being their turn to win a Class 4A crown. New coach Joe Willis will look to seven returners on offense to carry the load of a team ranked near the top of the Class 4A pre-season polls.
2. Leander (2011: 8-4, lost in 2nd round of 5A DII playoffs)
--Replacing Lake Travis as a potential thorn in the side of Cedar Park is crosstown rival Leander, who is also state ranked. Why shouldn't they be? The Lions are down from 5A after winning a district in 2011, and return nine starters on defense. The marquee game in district play between the Lions and Timberwolves is the district opener on September 28th.
3. LBJ (2011: 6-4, lost in 1st round of playoffs)
--New coach Keith Willis takes over for Demo Odems, who left the cupboard stocked with 17 returning seniors off a 2011 playoff team. The experience around him will make life easier for new QB Aiden Kahn.
4. Connally (2011: 8-3, lost in 1st round of playoffs)
--The Cougars will look to the arm of returning QB Dajon Williams to lead them to a repeat of 2011 when they won the district title. He'll have to be good, as one of only seven starters returning. One roadblock to another district title could be Georgetown, who is moving down from 5A.
5. Hays (2011: 8-4, lost in 1st round of playoffs)
--The Blake Feldt-era at Hays got off to a great start in 2011 with eight wins, including one in the playoffs. Coach Feldt and the Rebels may contend for a district title because of the QB/WR combo of quarterback Caleb Kimbro (2250 yard passing in 2011) and receiver Granger Studdard (639 yards receiving).
1. Wimberley (15-0, Class 3A DII State Champion)
--After a handful of good, but not great, seasons by Wimberley's standards, the Texans broke through with their second state title in 2011. A repeat will be difficult. Gone are offensive mainstays QB Brady Lambert, RBs Dennis Smith and Trinity Wilson, and WR Brennan Blakemore. Seven returners on defense will carry the load early.
2. Liberty Hill (2011: 8-4, lost in 2nd round of playoffs)
--After an eight win campaign, the Panthers look to get back to the form that won them back-to-back titles in the 2000s. Four returning starters on the offensive line will help. The Panthers must also deal with perennial power Brownwood now being a district foe, the two meet in Liberty Hill on October 19th.
3. Giddings (2011: 7-4, lost in 1st round of playoffs)
--The Buffs will have to grow up in a hurry in non-district play if they are to compete for a district title and make a run in the post-season. Only six starters return, including two on defense, for 2012.
4. Smithville (2011: 7-3, lost in 1st round of playoffs)
--The Tigers have high hopes after a seven win season and a playoff berth, with 16 starters returning in 2012, including nine on defense.
5. Lampasas (2011: 10-2, lost in 2nd round of playoffs)
--Coach Joey McQueen guided the Badgers to a 10-win season and the program's first playoff win in 13 years before leaving the Badgers to new coach Jimmy Randolph. Lampasas' defense, which returns seven starters, will be key in reminding everyone that there's more to District 8-3A than Liberty Hill and Brownwood.
1. Lexington (2011: 11-3, Class 2A DII State Semi-Finalist)
--The Eagles are ready to shed the label of best little program in Central Texas without a state title. 2012 seems to give Lexington as good of a chance as 2010 and 2011 did, when they made it to the state championship and state semi-finals, respectively. Title hopes may ride on the play of QB Kogan Garrett, who threw for 3050 yards passing, ran for over a thousand yards, and accounted for 48 TDs last season. Look for a moumental match-up in the region semifinals against defending state champ Refugio, who knocked the Eagles out of the playoffs last year.
2. Lago Vista (2011: 10-2, Class 2A DI Regional Semi-Finalist)
--The Vikings had the usual in 2011: 10 wins and going three-rounds deep in the playoffs. Six all-district players return on defense, good news for Lago Vista. The not-so-good? Now being in a district with the state's pre-season top-ranked team: Cameron.
3. Blanco (2011: 8-6, Class 2A DI Regional Finalist)
--The Panthers made the most of their playoff appearance as a 5-5 team in 2011, winning three tough playoff games by a total of five points. Blanco has 11 starters returning, but things will be tough in district play, now in a league with state-ranked teams Lexington and Rogers.
4. Mason (2011: 15-0, Class 1A Division I State Champions)
--The Punchers had anything but a, well, Punchers, chance at winning a state title in 2011. With record-setting, all-everything running back David Mora, a senior-laden Mason team took advantage of "their time" and surprised few by going unbeaten and winning the school's first state title. RB Rio Schmidt, who almost had a 1,000 yard season as Mason's second running option in 2011, will fill the shoes of Mora. Big shoes made bigger by the fact that he's only one of six starters returning in 2012.
5.Thorndale (2011: 7-3, Did not make playoffs)
--The Bulldogs move down to 1A should benefit a team that somehow managed to win seven games in 2011 but missed the playoffs. Returning six starters on defense should help Thorndale back to the post-season.