Thursday marks the first night of the District 6-6A football schedule — the first of seven weeks where Plano ISD, Lewisville ISD and Coppell will lock horns in pursuit of one of the conference’s four playoff spots.
Only two teams from the district emerged from their preseason schedule with an unblemished record, with reigning 6-6A champion Marcus and a resurgent Coppell bunch turning heads early in the year. Lewisville, Hebron and Flower Mound all qualified for the playoffs last season, and expect plenty of motivation out of the three Plano schools after collectively missing the postseason for the first time in 30 years.
Before Thursday’s night of district action kicks off, Star Local Media collaborated to project the final standings on the 6-6A gridiron.
Matt Welch: After their resurgent 2019 season, the Marauders won’t be sneaking up on anyone in 6-6A this time around. They’ve handled their business so far, unbeaten at 3-0 following three wins by an average of 24.3 points.
Senior quarterback Garrett Nussmeier, an LSU pledge, is picking where he left following an MVP campaign, ranking among the area passing leaders at 910 yards and 12 touchdowns — four to top receiver and Cal commit, senior J. Michael Sturdivant.
Marcus’ run game has been a work in progress, but that area flashed some explosiveness against Keller Central thanks to juniors Gabe Espinoza and Walker Wells.
The Marauders have gotten contributions all over the field on defense and have held their last two opponents to 10 points each.
If that holds up, a repeat could be in store for the reigning champs.
Matt Welch: The Farmers had plenty of reasons to be optimistic about their potential on offense, returning their leading passer, rusher and top two receivers from last season. So far, Lewisville has been up to the hype behind per-game averages of 587.7 yards and 50.3 points.
Junior Damien Martinez is off to a torrid start with 599 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns through three games.
Having Martinez blossom into an elite rusher is a major development for an offense already chalked in Division I talent with senior quarterback Taylen Green and junior receiver Armani Winfield and senior receiver Isiah Stevens, and that unit will give Lewisville a fighting chance against anyone.
The defense is young but showed promise at the sub-varsity levels, but will need alleviate some of the pressure off the offense — having allowed at least 40 points in two games already.
David Wolman: Coppell is off to a 2-1 start with wins over two playoff teams from a year ago (Mesquite and Sachse) and almost pulled off a furious rally last week against six-time state champion Highland Park.
The Cowboys have impressed with their efforts on both the ground and through the air, averaging 38 points and 445 yards per game.
Senior quarterback Ryan Walker has thrown for 890 yards with 10 touchdowns to zero interceptions. Senior wide-out KJ Liggins, who transferred back to Coppell after spending his junior season at Denton Guyer, leads the team in receiving yards with 368 to go along with five touchdowns. Junior Anthony Black caught three touchdown passes in the loss to Highland Park.
Defensively, senior Tim O'Hearn has three sacks and 29 tackles (four for loss), while fellow senior Zach Stricker has two interceptions, including a pick-six against Sachse.
Matt Welch: The Hawks are a tough team to figure out. Only afforded two non-district games, Hebron has been operating without a full deck for its preseason — missing key seniors in quarterback Weston Conaway, receiver Nick Frazier and defensive back Mason Williamson, among others.
Hebron didn’t look any worse for the wear in its non-district finale against an improved Northwest Eaton team, forcing five turnovers in a 31-7 victory. Senior running backs Jalon Wilson and Brandon Love sparked the offense, while junior quarterback Jacob Buniff managed an efficient, short-range passing attack.
More dynamic offenses await in 6-6A, but as Hebron heals up, they’ve proven over the years that they can reload pretty seamlessly. Making the playoffs eight of the past 10 years is a testament to that, and expect the Hawks to be in that mix once again.
5. Flower Mound
Matt Welch: The Jaguars have leaned a bit more on their defense to begin the season, surrendering just 9 points per game so far. Their lone setback came in a competitive 18-13 loss to state-ranked Mansfield Timberview.
Flower Mound’s play on the defensive play has been key early on, led up front by seniors Stone Eby and Colton Vatne.
The defense’s play has been big as the Jaguars continue to forge an identity on offense behind junior quarterback Nick Evers. Junior receivers Parker Clark and Landon Weidner, plus senior Isaac Carpenter, have boosted the passing game.
The bar is high when it comes to offensive production at Flower Mound, but Evers and Co. are talented enough to contend for a playoff berth.
6. Plano East
Matt Welch: The first three weeks have flashed moments of brilliance for the Panthers, who are averaging 410 yards to start the year but just 21.3 points per game. Their defense is coming off a second-half shutout against a high-powered Jesuit squad, while junior Ismail Mahdi has been a revelation for the East offense with more than 250 total yards of offense compiled against the Rangers.
So far, either Mahdi or senior quarterback Dylan Hayden have been involved in all seven offensive touchdowns scored this season.
The Panthers have been encouraged by the depth developed at wide receiver with names like senior Kaden Gardner and sophomore Rushil Patel — something they’ll need to have flourish in district play to better diversify the offense.
Matt Welch: The Wildcats were only afforded two games for their non-district schedule, suffering losses to McKinney and Lake Highlands. Both games saw Plano operate behind the 8-ball early on after hot starts by the opponent contributed to an average halftime deficit of 19.5 points.
The Wildcats’ best stretch of the season came in their second half versus McKinney where seniors Oliver Towns and Tylan Hines tore through the Lions for a run of 28 unanswered points, coupled with a lockdown defensive effort that nearly willed an improbable, come-from-behind win.
Consistency over four quarters will be key for Plano, with the caliber of offenses in 6-6A a bit more on par with a Lake Highlands team that rampaged the Wildcats for 42 first-half points last week.
T7. Plano West
Matt Welch: The Wolves have already doubled their win total from 2019 after opening the year with a 2-0 mark that included the program’s first shutout win since 2015 in a 28-0 blanking of Wylie.
West’s defense has been sharp to begin the year, holding opponents to just 12.3 points per game, but the caliber of opposing offenses is about to escalate with Lewisville, Coppell, Plano East and Marcus on deck to begin conference play.
If the Wolves’ defense continues to impress, and the team develops a passing game to deter opponents from stacking the box on senior Tabren Yates, West should have chances to make some noise. They’ll have to avoid the late-game pratfalls that doomed the team in some close games last season, however.