The first week of high school football practices is in the books for Lewisville ISD and Coppell, with preparations for the regular season only amplifying in the days to come.
That includes the annual slate of preseason scrimmages, which take place Thursday or Friday all throughout the Metroplex. The exhibition will offer only a cursory look at each team’s progress through the offseason, and here’s a look at what awaits several Denton County programs during the all-important tune-up for opening week.
Lewisville vs. The Colony
Thursday, 7 p.m. at Max Goldsmith Stadium
LISD bunkmates collide in the latest preseason installment between the Farmers and Cougars, both of whom qualified for the playoffs a year ago. On paper, the most compelling storyline is this meeting will be gauging the progress of the Farmers’ defense — a unit anchored up front by senior Khristian Versey but hit hard by graduation in the secondary after a dominant 2018 season.
Lewisville’s defense gets a worthy test right out of the chute, with The Colony loaded with Division I talent across the skill positions, including District 5-5A Division I MVP and senior Myles Price, plus senior receiver Keith Miller and senior Christian Gonzalez.
Keep an eye on the Farmers’ offense as well. Senior Ben McAfee is among the top running backs in the district and a vibrant quarterback battle during springtime got even more crowded in the summer with the transfer of Allen’s Taylen Green.
Lake Dallas vs. Azle
Thursday, 6:30 p.m. at Azle High School
The Falcons will be playing their second exhibition of the month after scrimmaging reigning Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools state champion Bishop Dunne. Early into fall practices, Lake Dallas looks to be going with senior Brandon Engel at quarterback, deploying the two-year receiver behind center as the anchor of the offense. Engel brings a dynamic skill set to the position and how Lake Dallas puts that to use will be the most compelling plot point of the Falcons’ season.
They conclude exhibition play against an Azle squad projected to win 3-5A Division I after posting a 10-win campaign last season. The Hornets will test a young Lake Dallas defense early on with dual-threat quarterback Drey Owen and speedy running back Billy Copeland.
Hebron vs. Allen
Friday, 6:30 p.m. at Eagle Stadium
Among the most high-profile exhibitions in the Metroplex, this showdown pits a pair of potential district frontrunners that could both do damage in their respective regions this season. Allen’s resume is borderline unassailable, having amassed four state championships and seven state semifinal appearances over a seven-year span, but the Eagles are loaded with new faces and lack the experience from previous years.
Allen still has talent, notably at quarterback with speedy senior Raylen Sharpe and a one-two punch at receiver with Division I-bound junior twins Blaine and Bryson Green.
Hebron, meanwhile, is anything but unproven with the majority of its starting 22 back from last year’s regional semifinalist team, headlined by Michigan State commit and senior Darius Snow at safety as well as senior quarterback Carson Harris.
Hebron fans will get a look at the progress being made on offense, where the Hawks graduated co-District MVP Trejan Bridges and lost offensive coordinator Tyler Soukup to the head-coaching ranks at Plano West.
Flower Mound vs. Richardson Pearce
Friday, 6:30 p.m. at Eagle-Mustang Stadium
The Jaguars will travel to Richardson to scrimmage a Pearce ball club that produced its highest win total since 2007 last year, going 7-5 and advancing to the area round of the playoffs. The Mustangs prefaced that two-round postseason run with a bi-district stunner over perennial power Cedar Hill.
Much like Flower Mound under Brian Basil, Pearce has improved quickly under head coach David Collins and is plenty potent at the skill positions with their two of their top three rushers — led by Dequan Landon — and three of their top five receivers — led by Zack Brickert — returning. The big question will be how Pearce handles snaps at quarterback following the graduation of Bo Brewer.
The Jaguars, meanwhile, sported one of the area’s premier offenses — a unit they rode to an unbeaten district championship. With Flower Mound primed for another big run behind senior quarterback Blake Short and senior running back Pierce Hudgens, all eyes will be on who exactly is blocking for that backfield with the Jaguars graduating five all-district starting offensive linemen from last season.
Coppell vs. Plano West
Friday, 7 p.m. at Clark Stadium
The Cowboys and Wolves aren’t lacking in question marks heading into the 2019 season and for completely different reasons. Coppell welcomes a West team hopeful of righting the ship this year, mired in a 26-game losing streak that includes consecutive winless campaigns in 2017 and 2018. The Wolves made a change in head coach, hiring former Hebron offensive coordinator Tyler Soukup, and will enter the scrimmage hoping to settle a lively battle for their starting quarterback spot.
The Cowboys, meanwhile, were hit as hard as any team in the area by graduation on top of offseason transfers by receiver KJ Liggins (Denton Guyer) and quarterback Drew Cerniglia (Allen).
That means a host of new faces on offense for the Cowboys, particularly at the skill positions where Jesuit transfer Kevin Shuman is in line to take over under center. He’ll be joined by junior running back Jason Nwgu and sophomore receiver Anthony Black as key contributors.
Marcus vs. Wylie East
Friday, 7 p.m. at Marauder Stadium
After years of riding the legs of Justin Dinka, one of the program’s best-ever running backs, the Marauders are hoping to flesh out their passing game a bit more in 2019 with Division I-caliber quarterback Garrett Nussmeier and dynamic pass-catchers like J.Michael Sturdivant, Marcellus Lockley and Jaden Robinson.
Friday’s scrimmage will also unveil the progress being made on defense, where Marcus is switching to an even-man front as part of a 4-2-5 scheme under new defensive coordinator Scott Wells.
They’ll square off against an East squad that took its lumps in 2018, going just 1-9 under first-year head coach Mike Dormady. The Raiders bring back eight starters on offense, headlined by quarterback Zach Haaland and receiver Xavier Smith, and have linebacker Quinten Younger back to helm an inexperienced defense.