Talent, tradition and experience make the Allen Eagles the logical choice to head the ESPNHS Texas High School Football Preseason Rankings.
Three years removed from winning its first Class 5A Division I state title, Allen has 14 returning starters including running back Jonathan Williams (Missouri commit) and quarterback Alec Morris (Alabama commit). Williams rushed for 2,073 yards and 20 touchdowns in his junior season and Morris threw for 2,534 passing yards and 32 touchdowns.
Defensively, linebacker Thaddeus LaGrone (Baylor commit) had 87 tackles, five sacks and three interceptions. Such talent is also good enough to earn them the No. 3 spot in the POWERADE FAB 50 preseason football team rankings.
In its 2010 area-round playoff elimination, Allen played valiantly in a 37-35 loss to then-No. 1 Euless Trinity.
Starting on top is nice recognition, but it will mean a lot more to Allen coach Tom Westerberg if 17 weeks down the road his team is still No. 1.
ESPNHS Texas High School Football Preseason Rankings
(Last season’s record in parentheses)
1. Allen (10-2)
The Eagles open against speedy Cedar Hill in the nightcap of the Tom Landry Classic Saturday at Southern Methodist University’s Ford Stadium.
2. Katy (13-1)
Quarterback Brooks Haack and linebacker Bo Brown will be looked to for leadership after the graduation of 14 starters. The six-time state champions host No. 12 Galena Park North Shore (Houston) on Friday.
3. Euless Trinity (15-1)
The Trojans spent most of the 2010 season atop the POWERADE FAB 50 until their 28-24 loss to Pearland in the Class 5A Division I state title game. Trinity, minus the graduation of 4,000 yards of rushing offense, opens Friday at home against Tyler Lee.
4. Aledo (16-0)
With 2010 ESPN HS Mr. Football USA national player of the year Johnathan Gray leading the way, the Bearcats begin a run at a third consecutive Class 4A Division II state title. Aledo risks its 29-game winning streak on the road Friday against Stephenville.
5. Pearland (16-0)
Linebacker Kendall Ehrlich is one of seven returning defensive starters for the 2010 Class 5A Division I state champions. The Oilers open against Madison (Houston) on Thursday.
6. Coppell (13-1)
Marked improvement on defense pushed the Cowboys to the elite level in 2010 and key returnees William Uneh, David Busby and Jacob Logan want to see the trend continue. First stop is Friday’s road game against Horn (Mesquite).
7. Lake Travis (Austin) (14-2)
Heading the list of seven returning defensive starters is linebacker Blake Burdette. The Cavaliers begin their quest for a fifth straight Class 4A state title Friday at the University of Texas’ Royal-Memorial Stadium against Austin Westlake (West Lake Hills)
8. Denton Ryan (15-1)
Can any team control defensive end Mario Edwards, ranked No. 1 nationally in the ESPNU 150? The first to try will be Sulphur Springs in an ESPN telecast Saturday night from Denton.
9. DeSoto (11-3)
Five Eagles have made college commitments: DB Bryson Echols and OL Curtis Riser (Texas); DE Michael Richardson (Texas A&M); DB Jalen Mills (LSU) and RB Devin Rushing (Air Force Academy.) DeSoto opens Friday at home against Leander.
10. Stony Point (Round Rock) (14-1)
The Tigers, 40-5 over the last three years, face a rebuilding season with only four returning starters. First up Friday is a home game against University of Nuevo Leon (Mexico.)
11. Steele (Cibolo) (14-2)
There is life for the 2010 Class 5A Division II state champs after the graduation of University of Texas-bound running back Malcolm Brown. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong and company open against Madison (San Antonio) on Friday.
12. North Shore (Houston) (11-2)
Kevin Alexander heads the list of six returning defensive starters. The Mustangs defense will be tested in Friday’s opener against No. 2 Katy.
13. Cedar Park (13-1)
The Timberwolves’ only 2010 loss (21-20) came at the hands of District 25-4A rival Lake Travis (Austin) in the Region IV title game. Quarterback Brian Hogan and the Wolves open at home against Westwood (Round Rock).
14. Arlington Martin (10-3)
Leading the Warriors’ secondary is Amoako twins, Eric and Stephen, who have orally committed to Oregon. Arlington Martin opens Friday on the road at Plano West.
15. Longview (10-5)
The Lobos followed two Class 4A state title game appearances by going to the Class 5A semifinals in 2010. Longview on Friday will host Marshall in the 101st meeting of the East Texas neighbors.
16. Denton Guyer (13-3)
Wide receiver Connor Crane, No. 1 academically in a class of 500, is one of the seven returning starters for last season’s Class 5A Division II state finalist. The Wildcats open against Garland on Saturday.
17. La Marque (11-4)
The Cougars tumbled out of the Top 25 after losing to Aledo, 69-34, in the 2010 Class 4A Division II state title game. Talented running back Tim Wright and new coach Mike Jackson are eager for Friday’s season opener against B.F. Terry (Rosenberg).
18. Southlake Carroll (10-4)
As a sophomore, quarterback Kenny Hill led last year’s team to its deepest playoff run since 2006, the last of the Dragons’ three straight Class 5A state titles. Copperas Cove supplies the opposition for Friday’s season opener.
19. Klein Collins (Spring) (11-1)
The Tigers have posted back-to-back unbeaten regular seasons. Quarterback Tyler Stehling and company open on Thursday against Fort Bend Travis (Richmond).
20. Cypress Woods (10-4)
The Wildcats return 13 starters from a team that made it to a Class 5A Division II regional final. Their opener against A&M Consolidated (College Station) will be on Sept. 2.
21. Lufkin (9-2)
Defensive lineman Tomme Mark and running back Jamarcus Walker are the top returnees. The Panthers open at home Friday against John Tyler.
22. Skyline (Dallas) (9-3)
The Raiders had a streak of three straight 12-win seasons snapped last fall, but linebacker Peter Jinkens and company are eager to make amends. Skyline meets the first of two out-of-state opponents Saturday when it faces Ridgeway (Memphis, Tenn.)
23. Cooper (Abilene) (11-2)
Quarterback Clayton Nicholas, a Texas Tech commit, is coming off a 3,000-yard, 30-touchdown season. The Cougars open Friday on the road against Rider (Wichita Falls.)
24. Smithson Valley (Spring Branch) (10-2)
The Rangers return key skill players including quarterback Parker McKenzie. First stop is a taste of Friday Night Lights, on the road against Permian (Odessa).
25. Klein Oak (Spring) (8-4)
Expectations are high for quarterback Nicky Baratti. The Panthers open Friday on the road against A&M Consolidated (College Station).
On the bubble
Copperas Cove (9-2)
Cedar Hill (8-4)
Dawson (Pearland) (8-5)
Highland Park (University Park) (12-1)
John Tyler (12-2)
Marcus (Flower Mound) (8-3)
Prestonwood Christian (Plano) (12-2)
Warren (San Antonio) (8-4)