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After back-to-back seasons under .500, Aubrey enjoyed its winningest year since 2009 after posting an 11-2 record and making a run to the regional semifinal round of the Class 4A Division II playoffs.

Along the way, the Chaparrals posted a 4-0 sweep of their opposition in 4-4A Div. II, and Aubrey has enough talent in stock for this fall to where it should remain a fixture in the district title conversation.

If there is a viable challenger among the league’s other four teams, it could very well be perennial powerhouse Celina. One of the state’s most storied high school football programs, the Bobcats weathered a pandemic-riddled regular season and caught fire in the playoffs with a run to the regional finals. Celina has a district-high 15 starters projected back this fall and enters the year ranked No. 6 in the state among 4A Div. II programs. 

The pollsters aren’t sleeping on Aubrey either — the reigning district champions check in at No. 11 in the classification.

While all eyes remain on those two, Sanger and Van Alstyne rounded out the district’s playoff picture last season and should benefit from a pair of veteran offenses. Krum, meanwhile, took its lumps with an 0-4 mark in district play last year, including three setbacks by at least 30 points. 

The Top Five: Which Games to Watch this Year

Celina at Argyle

Sept. 10: The Bobcats play one of the toughest preseason schedules in the state, opening the year with three consecutive games against opponents ranked in the state’s top 10. The lattermost of those three are the top-ranked Eagles, the reigning 4A Div. I state champions. Celina and Argyle have plenty of history on the gridiron, having crossed paths each of the past nine years, and the rivalry has firmly swung in favor of the Eagles as winners of six straight over the Bobcats. Iron sharpens iron, however, and these two top-10 teams will look to this mid-September meeting to do just that as they prepare for their respective district schedules.

Aubrey at Celina

Oct. 8: The Bobcats were the prospective favorite to hoist a district championship last season only for those hopes to be dashed at the hands of a resurgent Aubrey squad. The Chaparrals surprised Celina for a 36-27 victory in a contest that doubled as the Bobcats’ first game in three weeks due to a pandemic-related alterations to their schedule. Celina hopes it won’t have any rust to shake off when it seeks revenge against Aubrey in October in a meeting of teams that begin the year ranked in the state’s top 15.

Krum at Van Alstyne

Oct. 8: In a five-team district, one win could very well be all that’s needed to be one of the league’s four playoff teams. That pivotal victory eluded the Bobcats last season en route to an 0-4 finish in district, but Krum hopes that an uptick in experience on defense will lead to brighter pastures this season. Such an opportunity could arise in October when the Bobcats open district with a trip to Van Alstyne. The Panthers put away last season’s meeting early with 29 first-half points en route to a 43-13 victory. A win over Krum was all Van Alstyne needed to make the postseason last year — the Bobcats will try and return the favor this fall.

Sanger at Aubrey

Oct. 15: Aubrey used a big third quarter to distance from Sanger in last season’s meeting — a 48-25 decision that was par for the course during the Chaparrals’ unbeaten run to a district play. The Indians couldn’t keep up in the shootout but have a wealth of talent back on offense this season, including quarterback Rylan Smart, to try and swing back at an Aubrey team stocked with skill position talent of its own, including two-way athlete Martavious Hill. 

Celina at Sanger

Oct. 29: The Bobcats and Indians tied for second place in the district at 2-1 but weren’t afforded a chance to settle things on the field after COVID-19 forced a shutdown of Sanger’s campus the week of the ballgame. The two are scheduled to lock horns during the penultimate week of the regular season and history has favored Celina in this matchup over the years, having won all eight of its encounters with Sanger since 2008. The matchup pits MVP candidate Smart against a stifling Bobcat defense led by linebacker Hunter Neely.

For continued news and coverage on the local sports scene, follow Matt Welch on Twitter.

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