McKinney North made program history last season by running the table in 7-5A Division I to capture its first outright district championship.
Quite a bit has changed within the conference since then.
Although district runner-up Mesquite Poteet is now duking it out in Class 5A Division II, state powerhouses Highland Park and Longview join the fray to create one of the most talent-rich districts in the Metroplex.
The Scots aren’t too far removed from a run of three consecutive state championships from 2016-18, while Longview hoisted just its second-ever title in 2018. Both teams won 11 games last year and are fittingly enough ranked Nos. 3 (Longview) and 4 (Highland Park) in the state to begin the season.
Tyler is plenty accustomed to contending for championships as well with three state semifinal trips over the past decade and look to get back in the mix despite just six returning starters.
North, despite its success in 2019, has some work to do with the majority of its record-setting offense having graduated, but tradition is on its side with playoff appearances in six of the past seven years.
The Bulldogs could meet some resistance from Sherman, a team that missed out on a third straight playoff berth last season due to tiebreakers, while West Mesquite and Wylie East look to bounce back from a pair of two-win campaigns. The Wranglers will be under new leadership after bringing aboard Frank Sandoval from Mexia.
The Top Five: Which Games to Watch this Year
West Mesquite at Poteet
Oct. 2: Although Poteet has dropped down to Class 5A Division II, they’ll still keep their annual rivalry showdown with West intact. Scheduled to take place at Mesquite Memorial Stadium, the Pirates had a six-game winning streak over the Wranglers snapped last year as West rode a hot start to a 31-17 victory over a Poteet squad that would qualify for the playoffs. Should the Wranglers make it two in a row this season, it would be quite the feather in the cap early into new head coach Frank Sandoval’s tenure.
Tyler at McKinney North
Oct. 23: The highlight bout during the first week of 7-5A Div. I action pits Tyler against North in a meeting of playoff hopefuls. Both squads have qualified for the postseason the previous two seasons since being aligned into the same district, but both have their work cut out after graduating plenty of key seniors from last season. As North looks to get a largely inexperienced offense up to speed, the Bulldogs should get a worth gauge on where they stand in the district pecking order in this game.
Highland Park at Longview
Nov. 6: The marquee bout in this district, and arguably the 5A Div. I classification, pits the state-ranked Lobos against the Scots in a meeting of teams in the preseason top four. The two sides haven’t squared off since the 1986 postseason and both carry state championship aspirations into this meeting a Lobo Stadium. Highland Park reloads as seamlessly as any program in the state, and although Longview graduated a wealth of contributors from its 2018 state title team, the cupboard is hardly bare of talent.
Nov. 19: The Bearcats had a two-year playoff spurt quashed by tiebreakers last season but have still managed to stay competitive despite the talent in 7-5A Div. I over the past couple years. That has meant some competitive scraps with North, splitting their past two head-to-head bouts and going 3-3 against each other during the past decade. Sherman has a do-it-all athlete in Benji Omayebu who can attack defenses in a variety of ways, and North has one of the top receivers in the state in J.J. Henry.
Highland Park at Tyler
Nov. 20: There’s plenty of tradition between these two programs with a combined seven state semifinal appearances over the past decade, including three state championships for the Scots. Their last meeting came in the 2018 state quarterfinals and featured an instant classic where Highland Park rallied from a 21-point deficit to stun Tyler, 42-35. With this matchup leading into Thanksgiving break, both teams should be far enough along in their development and this one could weigh heavily on the district’s playoff seeding.