1. Stratford: Even with a move up to Class 2A Division I, the expectations are sky high for the defending state champions from Division II. Head coach Matt Lovorn returns most of his stingy defense, the Elks are physical on both sides of the ball and have plenty of weapons on offense. December football is looming in Elk land.
2. Panhandle: After a rough start to 2021, head coach Dane Ashley’s team pulled it together for an incredible ride through an unbeaten district schedule last year. QB and LB Landyn Hack returns as one of the top players in the Texas Panhandle totaling over 6,000 career yards with 98 touchdowns.
3. Farwell: Any fan of old school football has to love the way the Steers play the game. Farwell is gritty, and always gives itself a chance to win with its hard-nosed style. Keep an eye on running back Corey Stancell. That dude is the real deal.
4. Sanford-Fritch: The Eagles made major improvements last season and seem to have the pieces in place to make even more noise in 2022. Brayden Freeman is a highly talented back that can present problems for any defense.
5. Highland Park: Ty Stout begins a new era for the Hornets. Early in his tenure, Stout and his staff have already got the community buzzing with a new-look approach based on discipline and accountability. Expect the Hornets to surprise some folks this year.
6. West Texas High: The Comanches are ready to put a dismal year behind in 2021 and start looking forward. WT High will show improvement while having to go through the growing pains of playing a lot of freshman and sophomores.
Farwell at Panhandle, 7 p.m. Nov. 4
It may not be for the district title, but this matchup will have major playoff implications. There is also a great backstory to this new-found rivalry after the Panthers erased a 21-point second half deficit to stun the Steers 36-35 last season.
1. Vega: Under head coach Jason Porton, Vega is always going to be in the hunt when it comes to a district championship. This year’s Longhorns have what it takes up front to be successful but will need playmakers outside the versatile Joaquin Segovia.
2. Gruver: Third-year head coach Lee Brandon saw significant improvement with his Greyhounds in 2021. Though size may be an issue, Gruver has the workhorses in Ridge Holland Pratt McLain to always keep them in a game.
3. Sunray: Look out for the Bobcats offense under Armando Lujan. Don’t expect any type of sophomore slump from Lujan who threw for over 2,700 yards and 33 touchdowns in his first year on varsity. Lujan is also surrounded by a strong defense that will get Sunray back to the postseason.
4. Boys Ranch: The rough Roughriders won a pair of games last season snapping a close to 50-game losing skid. That brought major momentum to coach Aaron Wampler’s team who hope they can get some more W’s in 2022.
5. Booker: Nic Williams comes from Palo Duro to take over as the new head coach. He’ll have a hill to climb but bringing his son and run-stopper, Juice Williams, along with key returners across the board, Booker will be able to compete for a playoff spot.
Gruver at Vega, 7 p.m. Oct 14
Expect this contest to determine the outright district champion. The Greyhounds stunned the Longhorns on a last second play last year, so this one has all the makings of another great game this season.
1. Wellington: Though they graduated four-year standout Marc Ramirez, don’t expect a drop off from the Skyrockets. Wellington returns an experienced offensive line headed up by Ray Ramirez for a plethora of running backs to rumble behind.
2. Clarendon: The defending district champions have a dynamic 1-2 punch of speed with Texas Tech commit Jmaury Davis and Lyric Smith in the backfield. The question will be if the Broncos can hang in the trenches as the season goes on.
3. Shamrock: Like Clarendon, the Irish have two standouts in QB Kit Macina and running back Caden Peevey. Both rushed for over a 1,000-yards in 2021. The Irish are more than ready to throw their name in the mix and contend for a district title.
4. Wheeler: The Mustangs took a step back falling in the first round of the playoffs. But with seven starters on the offensive side of the ball returning things are looking up for head coach Matt Hoover’s squad.
5. Quanah: Depth will be the biggest factor for the Indians. There’s definitely some talent on the roster but in this competitive a district staying healthy is a major factor.
6. Memphis: The Cyclones bring back 15 starters and a very experienced senior class. If they find some playmakers this could be a Memphis team that surprises people.
Wellington at Clarendon, 7 p.m. Nov. 4
The Broncos used key special teams play to shock the Skyrockets at Powell Field in Wellington a year ago. Expect another battle on the final night of the regular season between these two skilled rivals.
1. Bovina: The Mustangs boast one of the top players in the district in do-it-all standout Darian DeLaRosa along with the size up front to compliment a strong run game.
2. Ralls: The Jackrabbits will be inexperienced at key positions but have been in this position before. Speed is a key cog on this team especially on the defensive side.
3. Lockney: Can the Longhorns find what they need at the skill position to compliment a solid offensive line. If Lockney can do that, it will be in the hunt during the district race.
4. Sudan: There is experience on the offensive side of the football to make the Hornets dangerous. QB Trent Wilson returns after throwing for 961 yards in 2021.
5. Hale Center: Dalhart graduate and head coach Jeff Smith leads a Hale Center team that returns eight starters. Injuries plagued the Owls last year, but if healthy Hale Center will be in the mix for a playoff push.
6. Crosbyton: The Chieftains hope to carry the momentum of an improved season in 2021.
Ralls at Bovina, 7 p.m. Oct. 7
We’ll know exactly where these two teams stand on the opening night of district play. It should be an exciting matchup.