Big Blue picked second in league behind champs

Senior Clayton Gibbs will take over at quarterback for the Tigers for graduated three-year starter Ethan Brinkley. 
Reporter/Cliff Dungan Senior Clayton Gibbs will take over at quarterback for the Tigers for graduated three-year starter Ethan Brinkley. Reporter/Cliff Dungan As the University Interscholastic League added a fourth playoff team to the fold this season, it makes predicting which teams will go the post-season almost a moot point.

That hasn’t deterred Texas Football from printing the “football bible” for the 53rd year.

For instance, in the fiveteam District 18-3A in which Rockdale resides, one school will have the misfortune of staying home despite having to win just one game all season.

According to Texas Football, that will be Caldwell, who has suffered through back-to-back one-win seasons, but hired former hometown hero Bobby Jack Goforth as its savior.

Only Navasota (16-0) posted a winning mark last season of all the teams in the league.

With four teams earning playoff berths instead of three this season, the two largest teams will move into Division I with the two smaller schools heading to Division II.

For the third time in the past seven seasons, the Tigers have been picked to finish second in league play and once again, behind Navasota, which for the first time are the defending state champions.

“As always, we don’t put a lot of stock in what in what a magazine says,” Rockdale Coach Jeff Miller says, “but it’s nice that other coaches have enough respect for us and the potential we have to place us second.”

In that seven-year span, the Tigers have not disappointed the prognosticators, indeed placing second five times.

Individually, Baylor committees and Tiger seniors-to-be Josh Pelzel and James David made the magazine’s Texas Top 300 listing.

A key for Rockdale this season is replacing three-year starter and the school’s all-time leading passer Ethan Brinkley.

That responsibility falls on senior Clayton Gibbs, a versatile player who was first-team all-district last season at receiver and defensive back.

Gibbs started one game at quarterback last season when Brinkley suffered a knee injury.

Gibbs will not be alone when it comes to new signal callers— every team in District 18-3A will feature a new man under center in 2013.

That one start makes him the most experienced quarterback in the district.

The Tigers do return the most starters in the league with 14, seven on each side of the ball.

“This will probably be as wide open as it has ever been,” Miller said. “It’ll be a dogfight every week.”

Region III continues to dominate the rankings, led by Carthage, Class 3A’s pre-season No. 1.

Seven of t he top 15 Class 3A teams reside in Region III, including Navasota, which despite a major rebuilding year (the Rattlers lost 14 starters), settles in at No. 7.

On the down low

Another defending champion, Cameron, starts the season at No. 2 behind Newton in Class 2A Division I.

The cupboard isn’t exactly bare for the Yoemen (six starters on both sides of the ball), who return quarterback Jason Kopriva and All-State player of the year in linebacker Samori Wright.

Cameron’s home base District 13-2A, Division I, is considered the toughest district in DI.

Lexington, without long-time head coach Jason Holcomb—who left for Sealy—is ranked No. 9 in Division II, behind district favorite Rogers, which returns 14 starters and is ranked No. 6.

And speaking of district, District 14-2A, Division II and home of Lexington and Rogers, was voted the rankest league in all of Class 2A.

The Eagles feature running back/ linebacker Eriq Mitchell, who Texas Football called a “potential breakout player.”

New coach a nd long- t ime defensive coordinator Kirk Muhl must find a quarterback to replace long-time starter Kogan Garrett.

In Class A, surprisingly, a loaded Thorndale team is unranked, but is considered a “dark horse” by the magazine.

The Bulldogs returned to their playoff glory in Class A in 2012, posting a 10-3 record as a regional finalist, falling to defending state champion Mason.

Senior quarterback Riley Schaefer is an All-State candi- date after shattering every school passing mark last season (2,070 yards, 26 TDs). He leads 12 experienced hands.

On defense, Schaefer picked off nine passes.

Thorndale is solid in every area, led by running back Darius Brooks (1,090 yards, 16 TDs) and wide receiver Colton Austin (31-618, 12 TDs), who both had breakout seasons in 2012 as sophomores.

Milano, 6-4 last season and in a true rebuilding year after missing the playoffs in 2012, is slated fourth in District 13A and returns 14 starters, but lost skill players in key roles including two-way All- State performer Dominique Messer.

Craig Jentsch faces his toughest coaching task in his four years at the helm and will count on former running back Jordan Millar to take over at quarterback.

Jentsch’s son David will be force on both sides of the ball in the line.

Burton, ranked 8th in the state in Division II, is the District 13A favorite.

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