If you head outside of the immediate Amarillo area, you’ll see just how much of a factor Class 3A football can be in the Lone Star State.
The Texas Panhandle has some of the best 3A teams in the state, including defending 3A Division II state champion Canadian. All eyes will be on the Wildcats as they look to defend their title, but many of its rivals will come from familiar squads.
The District 3-3A Division II is as top-heavy as you can imagine.
Canadian will face stiff competition from Childress and Spearman, with both teams stacked with talent — one at the Division I level. The fact that all three reached the Region 1-3A semifinal round, with Childress and Canadian facing off in the regional final, shows how much quality these teams have.
In Dave Campbell’s Texas Football in the Class 3A Division II preseason rankings, Canadian was ranked No. 3, ahead of No. 6 Childress and No. 12 Spearman.
Canadian will have the most to prove, given they lost 17 seniors — many of which were starters and had at least three seasons of experience on varsity. The Wildcats have a young squad that will be led by junior quarterback Camren Cavalier and sophomore running back and wide receiver Luke Flowers.
Even though head coach Chris Keotting hinted that Canadian won’t be as talented as last years’ team, it’s hard to count out the Wildcats, who have won three state titles in seven years and are always a deep playoff contender.
Those most likely to challenge Canadian’s throne in Region I are the aforementioned Childress and Spearman.
Childress has plenty of returning talent to pick from, including senior quarterback Collin Bishop, a 3A all-state honorable mention. Alongside him will be receivers Lamont Nickeberry and Avery Jalomo while Dareon Mathis will put in yards on the ground.
Spearman will be led on offense by Brenen Thompson, a highly recruited senior who is capable of playing at multiple positions, including running back and wide receiver. Joining him will be Brayden Klafka, who is also a vital cog as a receiving option for the Lynx.
Keotting, Spearman coach Aaron Witten and Childress coach Jason Sims each said virtually the same thing about this district.
Sims put it best and most bluntly.
“We feel like we’re in the toughest 3A district in the state,” Sims said. “The other teams in the district are also well-coached and you can’t overlook them. You’re going to have to play ball every week.”
In the 3A DI, Bushland leads the way for area schools.
The Falcons are tabbed as favorites to win the District 2-3A title again over Dalhart, Littlefield, River Road and Muleshoe. Bushland has secured the crown in three of the last four years.
Bushland made the furthest playoff run in the district, reaching the regional semifinals before losing to Pilot Point 49-19. The Falcons escaped the area round with a 28-27 overtime win over Wall.
With the likes of Kash Bradley as a key piece on both sides of the ball and Matthew Bridges and Brecken Reed anchoring the defense, the Flacons will need players to step up if they want to keep their deep playoff hopes strong.
Bushland hopes to make another playoff push this season, though it won’t be an easy task having to face the likes of Pilot Point, Brock and 3A D-I state champion Jim Ned in the latter rounds of the Region I bracket of playoffs.
Dalhart is also looking to make a deeper run than last year, falling to Jim Ned 31-14 in the area round. Dalhart will need to replace the core of offensive seniors if they are to match last year’s exploits, but the Golden Wolves’ defense still looks solid with Max Baca returning.
The other district teams who made the postseason, Littlefield and River Road, were booted in the bi-district round.
No matter where you look 3A football in the Texas Panhandle is filled with talent and storylines to follow. Best to not miss out on it.