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Sunnyvale entered last season coming off back-to-back district championships, but in a season that will forever be identified as the COVID-19 pandemic year, it was Caddo Mills who was able to edge out the Raiders for the top spot.

While those two are likely the favorites once again to duke it out for the top spot, the 6-4A Division II race has the potential to be more wide-open.

The Foxes graduated 19 all-district performers from last season’s undefeated district squad, including most valuable player Tyler Townley and co-all purpose player of the year Cayden Davis.

Sunnyvale has more pieces coming back with 10 returning starters, they lost a dozen all-district selections on its own, including defensive player of the year Jake Taylor and co-all purpose player of the year Noah McDill.

Could that open the door for a Quinlan Ford team that made the playoffs last season and has 15 starters back including 1,000-yard rusher Ja’Donavan Williams, last year’s co-newcomer of the year.

Nevada Community, also a postseason team, has 13 starters back in the fold and even teams who struggled mightily such as Farmersville and Wills Point each have a nice nucleus to build around.

One other thing to remember is at the smaller classifications, a majority of the players line up both ways, meaning an impact newcomer or two can tilt the balance of the district.

The Top Five: Which Games to Watch this Year

Sunnyvale at Gunter

Aug. 27: The Raiders generally try to schedule a couple of good tests during non-district play and the Tigers certainly fit that bill. Gunter has been a powerhouse in Class 3A Division II, where a season ago, they posted a 13-2 record and advanced to the state semifinals. The Tigers will offer an early challenge in the opener, as they return eight starters on each side of the ball.

Caddo Mills at Sunnyvale

Oct. 8: This battle of district favorites was easily the game of the year last season, with the Raiders jumping out to a 17-6 lead only to have the Foxes rally to surge in front and then hold on for a 44-38 win. The rematch could have a little different look, as many of the offensive stars who provided that firepower have moved on. Still, expect another down-to-the-wire affair.

Nevada Community at Caddo Mills

Oct. 15: If there is a sleeper team in this district, it might be the Braves. Nevada Community was able to sneak into the playoffs last season for the third year in a row. They have 13 returning starters and their wing-T offense is not something many teams see. Caddo Mills will also be one week removed from its showdown with Sunnyvale, which always opens the door for a letdown performance. 

Farmersville at Wills Point

Oct. 22: Last season, these teams combined for a 3-15 record and just one district win, that being the Farmers’ triumph over the Tigers. Despite those tough times, there are reasons for optimism. Farmersville brings back 11 starters, while Wills Point has 15 back in the fold. If either team is to make a push into playoff contention, this is a game they both have to have. 

Quinlan Ford at Sunnyvale

Oct. 22: This will be the third in a three-game stretch for the Raiders against playoff teams from a year ago. Quinlan Ford has a sizable returning cast that includes a number of playmakers, most notably senior running back Ja’Donavan Williams. Last year’s meeting was a 28-14 Sunnyvale win, but the yardage totals were fairly close in that game, with the Raiders turning two Ford turnovers into touchdowns.

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

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