This eight-team group remained intact in the new realignment, with the only difference now being in 9-6A.
Sachse has won at least a share of the district title in each of the last four seasons, tying Wylie for first place last year. But perhaps no district in the area is as wide open as this one, as all eight teams have legitimate reasons to believe they can make the playoffs.
The Mustangs’ ground game will be solid behind a good offensive line, but the defense returns only one starter. The Pirates have even more questions with only five returning starters.
Rowlett will look to rebound after having its Garland ISD record of 14 consecutive playoff appearances snapped.
Naaman Forest has never won a district championship in its 30-year history, but this could be the year, as they return all 11 starters on offense and seven more on defense.
Lakeview features the best player in the district in five-star running back Camar Wheaton, who averaged 6 yards per carry last season.
North Garland has the longest playoff drought, one that started in 2010, but was 6-4 overall and finished just one game out of the postseason picture.
Garland and South Garland finished at the bottom of the standings, but there are reasons for optimism. The Owls have 15 starters back, highlighted by running back Jayshon Powers and wide receiver Jordan Hudson, while the Colonels have 13 returners, including quarterback Jalil Brown.
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Naaman Forest at Rockwall-Heath
Oct. 9: The Rangers are projected to contend for their first district title ever and this early-season match-up will be a good measuring stick.
Naaman Forest returns 18 starters, including its entire offense and has one of the top players in the district with wide receiver/defensive end DeVean Deal, as well as running back Kingsley Bennett (172-888, nine touchdowns).
The early question is can the Rangers slow down quarterback Josh Hoover and the Hawks, who have district title aspirations of their own.
Sachse at Lakeview
Oct. 15: The 9-6A season opens with a matchup of district title contenders. Last season, the Mustangs forced a late turnover and then scored the winning touchdown with a minute left to pull out a 17-14 win.
The key could be the ground games.
Sachse features Brian Okoye, who averaged more than 6 yards per carry as a backup last season. Meanwhile, Lakeview’s Camar Wheaton is one of the top-rated running backs in the country, but the Mustang defense did the job last year, holding him to only 64 yards on 31 carries.
Rowlett at Sachse
Oct. 30: This has become the best rivalry in GISD during the last 15 years and the 2019 edition was a classic, with Sachse stopping a two-point conversion with 21 seconds left for a 42-40 win on the final day of the regular season that ultimately knocked Rowlett out of the playoffs.
The Eagles dominated the early stages of the rivalry, winning the first eight meetings, but the Mustangs have claimed six of the last eight to narrow the series to 10-6.
Rowlett at Wylie
Nov. 27: Last season, Rowlett outgained Wylie by more than 100 yards, but two costly turnovers proved to be the difference in a 14-13 loss. It was a particularly painful result considering the Eagles were edged out of the playoffs on a tiebreaker.
Rowlett’s running game will be solid with Colton Yarbrough and Dwonyae Newton, but will be breaking in a new quarterback. Conversely, Wylie returns quarterback Marcus McElroy, but needs skill players to step up around him.
Naaman Forest at Sachse
Nov. 27: The regular-season finale could be for the district championship. The Rangers enter the season with a decided experience advantage, but that should not be a factor at this point. Last season, the Mustangs battered the Rangers with Shon Coleman, who had 36 carries for 228 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a 42-28 win.
Naaman Forest is in search of its first district title ever, but will have to exorcise some demons against Sachse, which has won the last 10 head-to-head meetings.