District 12-4A, Division II could be wide open once again this year.
Sealy (9-3, 5-0) edged out Bellville (9-2, 4-1) 31-28 to claim the district championship in 2020.
The Tigers return 11 starters, including all-state quarterback D’Vonne Hmielewski, while the Brahmas return 12, including 1,000-yard rusher Richard Reese and preseason defensive MVP Tyler Fishbeck.
While those two are likely to duke it out for the district’s top spot, it’s a microcosm of the competitiveness in the six-team district. Wharton, despite a winless season a year ago, was just two wins away from the playoffs.
“We’ve just got to make a commitment to reassert, reestablish our standards and expectations,” said Wharton head coach Chad Butler. “We’ve got a lot of new kids, a lot of young kids coming in that were a part of the subvarsity team. We do have some returners, but all in all it’s kind of a perfect time to start new. That’s basically what it’s been about. We’re just wanting to remember how it felt last year, but not let that define us moving forward.”
The Tigers know what it’s going to take to get back to the playoffs. Last year was just the second time since 2011 that they didn’t reach the postseason.
To get back, they need to focus on the tiniest of details.
“It’s been all about the details. Doing everything exactly right,” Butler said. “From how we dress to how we take the field, how we move around from station to station. We just want to be high energy, high tempo and high intensity.”
Scoring may be at a premium in the district again this year. Sealy allowed just 64 points during district play last year and Bellville allowed a miserly 48.
Butler knows every team is going to have to play a full game if they have dreams of being in the playoffs.
“Just playing four quarters of football,” Butler said. “Give the best effort for four quarters and see where we are when the last second ticks off. It’s so easy to get in the mindset of ‘Here we go again’ when things are going bad. But you’ve got to play, you’ve got to play all four quarters and you can’t lose focus, can’t lose your intensity. Just sticking together as a team and playing four quarters of football.”