Taylor picked 4th in 14-4A

Elijah Tellez (#55) is one of only five returning starters for the new-look Ducks, who are projected to finish fourth in District 14-4A by DCTF.

Dave Campbell's Texas Football magazine predicts that Taylor will make a ninth straight trip to the playoffs this fall, but just barely.

The recently released publication, regarded as the 'bible' of Texas high school football, has the Ducks finishing fourth in a new-look District 14-4A that replaces Boerne and Eastside Memorial with Burnet, Lampasas and Liberty Hill.

Bolstered by the return of running back Kyle Harrison, who rushed for 2,702 yards last year, Liberty Hill is DCTF's early favorite in 14-4A. Defending champion Canyon Lake is projected to finish second, followed by Fredericksburg in third.

The Ducks are expected to grab the fourth and final playoff spot, but with only one offensive starter back, they "might have to rely on their defense to carry them" early in the season.

Senior linebacker Byron Sweet (87 tackles) anchors a defensive unit that has some holes to fill in the secondary, while senior quarterback Cole Harms takes over the offense after backing up Ryan Gardner for two years.

WR Josh Blue (14 receptions), K/P Ryan Hanson, RB Jailen Tealer and DL Elijah Tellez are other players to watch, according to DCTF.

Our prediction: After going 14-9 over the past two years, Taylor faces a bit of a rebuild. With only five total starters back, it's going to be tough for the Ducks to grab a playoff spot in an expanded district.

They should still be able to sneak into the postseason, but it could be close. Taylor finishes fourth in District 14-4A, I.

Thrall

After winning their first district title since 2010 last year, the Thrall Tigers are projected to miss the playoffs this fall.

DCTF has Thrall finishing fifth in District 13-2A, II behind Hearne, Holland, Thorndale and Milano. Only Marlin and Rosebud-Lott are ranked lower than the Tigers, who were decimated by graduation.

All but five starters are gone, but Thrall does bring back versatile junior Caden Leschber. After leading the team with 104 tackles last year as a linebacker, Leschber takes over at quarterback for the outgoing Nick Salazar.

He'll be protected by talented linemen Drew Ball and Marcus Stautz, and complimented by junior tailback Braeden West, who won Offensive Newcomer of the Year in 2017.

Other players to watch include WR/DB Garrett Rathburn and WR/OLB Tanner Landes, according to DCTF.

Our prediction: This is the second time in three years that DCTF has predicted a fifth-place finish for the Tigers.

Two years ago, Thrall proved them wrong by going 10-2 and reaching the second round of the playoffs. But this time around, it's hard to see the Tigers winning more than five or six games with such an inexperienced squad. Thrall finishes fourth in District 13-2A, I.

Granger

In 2017, the Lions went 5-6 and finished third in District 13-2A, II under first-year head coach Walt Brock.

With eight starters back on each side of the ball, the Lions are projected to finish third again this fall behind district newcomers Bremond and Iola.

Furthermore, DCTF has tabbed bruising tailback Ryan Pickett (844 yards, 13 TDs) as Preseason Offensive MVP after breakout junior season. He will shoulder most of the offensive load, but sophomore quarterback Thomas Rhoades will also look to get the ball in the hands of playmakers Isaiah Williams and Eric Corona.

OL/DL Caleb Filla, OL/DL Lee Ryder, TE/OLB Ulises Murillo, ATH Carlos Reyna and TE/OLB Wyatt Bolding are among the other key players to watch, according to DCTF.

Our prediction: With Pickett leading the way, Granger should easily make the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year.

It will be tough, however, for the Lions to finish higher than third. Bremond and Iola reached the area finals and regional semifinals, respectively, last year and bring back most of their starters. Granger finishes third in District 13-2A, II.

Hutto

DCTF has Hutto going all the way to the Class 5A, Division I state championship this fall.

The seventh-ranked Hippos are not only picked to win District 11-5A over the likes of Cedar Park and Georgetown, but also Region III.

Senior quarterback and UCLA-commit Chase Griffin (4,145 passing yards, 41 TDs) is back along with all of his top weapons, including receivers DJ Baptist (57 receptions, 1,173 receiving yards, 16 TDs) and Caleb Forrest (69 receptions, 1,255 receiving yards, 16 TDs) and tailback Chux Nwabuko (21 total TDs).

Hutto also boasts an underrated defense, anchored by rising sophomore pass-rusher Landyn Watson and linebacker Jacob Berry (100 tackles).

Our prediction: Few teams in the state have more offensive firepower than Hutto. With another year of experience under their belts, expect Griffin and co. to finally supplant Cedar Park atop the district standings and make a deep playoff run. Hutto finishes first in District 11-5A, I.

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