At long last, the finish line is in sight.
With another long, taxing offseason in the books, the beginning of high school football season is right around the corner, which means another competitive year on the gridiron for District 6-6A. Flower Mound and Lewisville authored two of the area’s biggest turnaround campaigns to finish in the top two spots in the district, with Coppell and Hebron rounding out the playoff picture.
During that season, names like Trejan Bridges, Jonathan McGill and Kadren Johnson helped define the 6-6A landscape, and with those players now graduated, that opens the door for a brand-new batch of marquee names to share the spotlight.
The cast of noteworthy standouts in this district runs deep, and here’s one player from each of 6-6A’s eight teams that figures to play a vital part in his team’s success.
Pierce Hudgens, RB
On the short list of early-season MVP candidates to emerge from 6-6A, Hudgens was among the top running backs in the Metroplex. As a junior, he totaled 1,709 rushing yards (on 6.4 yards per carry) and flexed his might in the receiving game with a team-high 54 receptions for 414 yards and 19 total touchdowns.
For context’s sake, his reception total ranked 11th in the area last season among Class 6A pass-catchers — with the 10 names in front of Hudgens all being wide receivers.
With he and senior quarterback Blake Short back to run the show, the Jaguars should once again be among the area’s elite offenses.
“Pierce is a hard worker who has been committed to making our program better on and off of the field. His versatility makes our offense go,” said Brian Basil, Flower Mound head coach “He is a powerful runner who is also an effective receiver out of the backfield. We expect him to be a leader for our team, building on the foundation of teamwork and discipline that defines Flower Mound football.”
Khristian Versey, DL
The Farmers’ defense helped spark a resurgence in 2018, thanks in part to a dominant front line that featured 6-6A’s Defensive Player of the Year in end Kadren Johnson. Despite Johnson’s graduation, Lewisville head coach Michael Odle still expects the Farmers to be dangerous up front and that’s partly thanks to the presence of Versey.
An all-state selection in 2018, Versey totaled 94 tackles and five sacks from the interior of the Farmers’ defensive front, and he’ll team with fellow veterans in Earl Barnes and Luke Halter as anchors for a Lewisville defense that surrendered a mere 16.0 points per game during the regular season last year.
Walker Polk, LB
The Cowboys will be young on defense this season, and although Polk is still just an underclassman, Coppell’s middle linebacker played well beyond his years as a freshman in 2018. Polk amassed 116 tackles and earned 6-6A’s Defensive Newcomer of the Year award — unanimously, to boot — as the heartbeat of the Coppell defense.
“[Polk] is a returning starter, even though he’s only a sophomore,” said Mike DeWitt, Coppell head coach. “We’ll be young on both sides of the ball, so he’ll bring some experience. He’s obviously a great player and we have high expectations for him. He has done a great job leading for us and being vocal, which you have be as a ‘Mike’ with getting people lined up.
“… He’s just got a nose for the ball and he’s very smart. We do a lot of things defensively that he managed to pick up as a freshman.”
Darius Snow, DB
It’s an embarrassment of riches for the Hawks in 2019, with head coach Brian Brazil’s squad boasting a litany of talent capable of playing at the collegiate level. At least one already is, and is among the state’s top prospects for the Class of 2020.
Committed to Michigan State, Snow is a hard-hitting safety capable of making plays at multiple levels of the defense and did just that during his junior season, totaling 108 tackles and breaking up three passes.
Earning an all-state selection as a sophomore and an all-district first-team nod as a junior, not to mention being a stout contributor on the basketball court as the son of former NBA veteran Eric Snow, Darius is entrenched as the centerpiece of Hebron’s secondary.
Garrett Nussmeier, QB
As only a sophomore, Nussmeier breathed some life into the Marauders’ passing attack by throwing for 1,557 yards last season — a figure that was the second-highest total for a Marcus quarterback since 2006. In fact, it was only 2 fewer passing yards than the Marauders’ combined output from their leading passers in 2016 and 2017.
With 17 college scholarship offers to his name, Nussmeier’s potential prompted head coach Kevin Atkinson to adopt more 7-on-7 during the offseason, where Marcus had its most successful campaign in nearly two decades — qualifying for the state tournament for the first time since 2002.
For years, the Marauders’ offense has been defined by an assembly line of talented running backs, and although the team should still be potent on the ground with senior Ty’son Edwards, Nussmeier’s growth behind center, coupled with a talented receiving corps, could have Marcus poised for a big year through the air as well.
Gerale Flye, DB
The Cardinals are low on returning varsity experience on both sides of the ball, and even more on defense following defensive end Blake Burris’ transfer to the private school gridiron at Parish Episcopal. That leaves Flye as the lone returning starter for MacArthur’s defense after the safety submitted an all-district campaign as a junior last season.
In 2018, Flye totaled 43 tackles and had a penchant for creating turnovers behind four interceptions, three forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries, and he’ll be called upon to shepherd a young defense on a MacArthur squad that swept its two Irving ISD rivals for the second consecutive season last year.
Chance Hernandez, QB
Although his junior season was cut short early, Hernandez was productive during his brief time behind center. He quarterbacked the Vikings through non-district play to a 3-0 record and did so by passing for 538 yards on 67% completions plus eight touchdowns and only one interception.
Exiting during the district opener against Hebron, the Vikings finished the year with just one win over their last seven games — although to be fair, an uptick in opposition throughout 6-6A likely had a hand in that as well.
Hernandez is no stranger to Nimitz’s spread attack, and a full year on the field could be a major boost to the Vikings’ prospects for 2018 — be it nearly springing an upset over one of the district’s upper echelon clubs like last year versus Marcus, or besting a rival like MacArthur.
Chris Navarez, OL
Although the Tigers went 0-10 last season, they’ve got an experienced nucleus back with a district-high 16 returning starters. Head coach Eric De Los Santos and crew hope to emerge all the wiser after a difficult run through the 6-6A hot house, and one of the pillars in that retrenching effort resides up front.
Navarez, who casts an imposing shadow at 6-foot-2 and 340 pounds, was an all-district selection for Irving last season as only a sophomore and returns for his junior campaign entrenched as one of the focal points for the team on both sides of the ball.
“Chris had a great offseason and made great gains in the weight room and on the field this spring,” De Los Santos said. “He has a great frame and he moves well. He will be a huge part of our success offensively as well has be a strong contributor to our defensive line. As good of a football player as he is, he’s an even better young man and student. I’m more proud of that than anything else.”