After laboring through competition in District 14-5A the past two seasons, things may get even tougher for Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD programs in their shift to 4-5A Division I for football.
Creekview, Newman Smith and R.L. Turner finished in the six through eight positions in 14-5A both years and are now lumped in a district that features powerhouse Denton Ryan (state semifinalists a year ago), as well as playoff qualifiers in Colleyville Heritage (third round), Birdville (second round) and Grapevine (second round).
Those four squads figure to be the upper echelon of the district again in 2018, headlined by a Ryan team that is loaded at the skill positions, though Denton is just one year removed from a 9-2 season before going 3-7 in 2017.
The Broncos are also slated to return 17 starters — the most of any 4-5A program.
Creekview isn’t far off Denton’s pace with 16 starters slated to be back as the Mustangs seek a return to the playoffs after making three consecutive trips from 2013-15.
The Trojans and Lions each have 12 starters in line to return with the latter eyeing their first playoff berth since 2001 under first-year head coach Isaiah Young — formerly Turner’s defensive coordinator.
Smith, meanwhile, is seeking to avoid its longest playoff hiatus in at least 10 years.
Five Games to Watch
Ryan at Heritage, Oct. 12
Ryan and Heritage are slated to finish as the top two teams in 4-5A Division I, and the district title could be determined by this outcome.
The Raiders were state semifinalists a year ago and went unbeaten in the regular season, while the Panthers advanced to the third round for the second straight season.
The loser, however, could still emerge as a top seed in the postseason assuming Birdville also qualifies for the playoffs.
Turner at Smith, Oct. 12
The Battle of Josey Lane goes down in mid-October when Smith hosts Turner at Standridge Stadium.
The Trojans were victorious in the series a year ago, topping the Lions, 40-30, after Turner got the better of Smith in 2016.
While neither team is projected to qualify for the playoffs out of 4-5A, bragging rights are always on the line, and the competition is fierce between these two longtime rivals.
Denton at Birdville, Oct. 18
Birdville is coming off a strong season in which it advanced to the second round of the playoffs, while Denton stumbled a bit with a 3-7 mark after posting nine wins the year prior.
But the Broncos lead all 4-5A teams in returning varsity starters and if they want to qualify for the postseason, a win over Birdville is likely essential.
The Hawks, meanwhile, can ill-afford a slip-up to qualify for the postseason unless they spring an upset over the likes of Ryan, Colleyville or Grapevine.
Turner at Creekview, Nov. 2
The Mustangs and Lions staged a classic in 2017 with latter emerging with a 28-27 victory.
Creekview will look to bounce back this year, while Turner first-year head coach Isaiah Young will likely be seeking his first win in district with the Lions after taking over for Michael Ramirez — who shifted into a role with the C-FB ISD athletic department.
Whoever takes this Nov. 2 showdown will likely avoid eighth place in the district.
Creekview at Smith, Nov. 9
Creekview and Smith will close the regular season in style when their annual rivalry renews in the final week of the year.
The contest could go a long way in determining which C-FB ISD program gets city bragging rights.
Last year, that honor went to Smith, who swept its contests with Turner and Creekview, including a 20-7 victory over the Mustangs.
As is the case with the Battle for Josey Lane, playoff implications aren’t necessary to bring out the best in both of these squads.