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This district featured one of the widest separations of talent in the state last season.

Though there were several games that were forfeited due to the COVID-19 pandemic, no contest that was played was decided by single digits, and that included the match-ups between the top four teams.

That did not help them in the playoffs, as three of the four teams exited in the first round, with district champion South Oak Cliff bowing out the following week.

After cruising through 6-5A Division II with Poteet the only team offering up any real resistance those two are once again the favorites to battle it out for the district crown.

The Golden Bears have the edge on paper, with 12 returning starters, including quarterback Kevin Jennings, who ironically started his high school career at West Mesquite and sophomore of the year wide receiver Randy Reece.

There are many more questions for the Pirates, who must replace 16 starters from last year’s squad.

The other contenders do have standouts returning, including first-team receivers with Shannon Cruse from Hillcrest and Kyron Henderson from Kimball, Seagoville returns 10 starters from a team that finished one game out and Conrad could be intriguing with 14 starters back.

There is also history to overcome for the teams that finished in the bottom four of the standings, as Spruce, Conrad, Thomas Jefferson and Adamson have combined for only eight total playoff appearances since 2007.

The Top Five: Which Games to Watch this Year

Poteet at West Mesquite

Sept. 3: The UIL threw the Pirates and Wranglers a curve ball when they split them up in different divisions two years ago. The rivals made certain that the series would continue in non-district play. This is a particularly big game for the Pirates, who because they play in a nine-team district, this will be only the second of two chances to prepare for 6-5A Division II play.

South Oak Cliff at Poteet

Oct. 1: These two teams largely dominated the district slate a year ago en route to a 1-2 finish atop the standings and the expectation is this season will be a similar story. Because of the large disparity between some of the teams in the district, this will be an important measuring stick for both as they head into the stretch run. Last year, the Pirates hung tough for much of the night, but SOC was able to earn a 27-14 victory.

Hillcrest at Seagoville

Oct. 8: There was a very clear design to the final standings last season with the nine teams falling in line, with one game of separation between each spot. That left the cutoff for making the playoffs seeing fourth-place Hillcrest’s 5-3 record edging out Seagoville’s 4-4 mark courtesy of their 57-38 shootout in the head-to-head meeting. If a similar story plays out, this game could prove to be huge to the winner for the tiebreaker implications at the end of the season.

South Oak Cliff at Kimball

Oct. 29: If there is team that could challenge South Oak Cliff and Poteet for the district title, it could be the Knights, who finished third a year ago. If that happens, Kimball would have to make strides after losing to the Golden Bears, 30-0, and dropping a 40-14 decision to the Pirates. The key to beating South Oak Cliff, as has been the case many times, is finding a way to slow down their variety of playmakers on offense.

Kimball at Poteet

Nov. 5: This matchup could determine the second seed in the playoffs as it did a year ago. In that game, the Pirates spotted the Knights an early 7-0 lead before reeling off 40 consecutive points en route to a 40-14 win. One factor that is impossible to foretell, but does often affect outcomes is the depth of a team. In the final week of the regular season, injuries and attrition have taken their toll, and if that is a factor, it likely favors Poteet. 

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

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