1. Dumas: A famous pro wrestler wasn’t talking about Dumas football when he said “To be the man, you have to beat the man.” But those words say it all about Dumas football under fifth-year coach Aaron Dunnam. In the four previous years under Dunnam Dumas has won 41 games, four district titles and ride into 2022 owning a massive 19-game winning streak. Dumas has earned the favorite role to make it six district titles in a row (the first was won with Aaron as an assistant and his brother Chad the head coach). Forget those impressive numbers for a second. Dumas wins because it seems every Friday night it is the most physical and disciplined team on the field. Dunnam returns a strong nucleus from last year’s 9-3 team with six starters on each side and will be led by a defense featuring one of the top 4A defensive backs in the state in Emmanuel Ibanez.
2. Randall: Wait, didn’t Randall lose key depth and a few starters to new Canyon ISD school West Plains? Yes it did. And aren’t the Raiders under seventh-year head coach Gaylon Selman (22 years overall at Randall when you include being an assistant) getting no respect despite dropping down a class from 5A to 4A? Truth. That’s why Randall will finish runner-up to Dumas this year because these Raiders will play with a chip on their shoulder. Randall only returns seven starters, led by speedster Nathan Baker The Playmaker at wide receiver and tackling machine Mason Gilbert at linebacker. But these Raiders are coming off a playoff season and under Selman have a knack to play their best late in the season and win close games.
3. Canyon: This is year two for the Eagles under always-glass-half-full enthusiastic coach Todd Winfrey. Canyon is coming off a strong 8-3 season and returns four starters on each side of the ball. Number one key will be developing strong lines on both sides of the ball with graduating taking sone standouts away. However, fair or not, a lot of the focus will be on senior quarterback Derek Clements, who at 6-foot-3 can sling it. Clements threw for 1,961 yads and 18 TDs last year and will be the first to tell you he wants to be most consistent this year. If that happens, this team could be the one ending Dumas’ reign at the top. And let’s be fair, it’s not all on Clements as running back Elijah Smothermon is set for a breakout year and the Eagles defense must find ways to hold these 3-4A offenses under 20 points.
4. Hereford: The Whitefaces, like district opponents Canyon and Pampa, will have a second year under their coach Adam Narron. Hereford was a solid 6-5 last year, an improvement of three wins from 2020, and returns nine starters. Narron still has the mindset to “create a championship caliber program” and to get that path started this year the Whitefaces have to answer a lot of question marks on offense with a young backfield and line. Defense is another story as three-year starting linebacker Jose Solorzano leads the way coming off an 81-tackle season. With five teams in this district, unlike the previous few years, I see the Hereford-Pampa and Hereford-Canyon matchups critical in determining the four playoff teams. Also, opponents visiting Hereford this year will see quite a site with a new turf field meaning for the first time ever this district will play on all turf fields.
5. Pampa: Man, somebody has to be fifth, but this could change in a heartbeat under second-year coach Cody Robinson. That’s if the Harvesters can replace that slew of departed studs on offense – remember that epic 75-60 district loss to Canyon last year – which included lightening in a bottle running back Peanut Landers. Robinson has a nucleus returning in 10 starters and some of that experience gives Pampa an edge in the trenches with OL-DL Madox Jones, OL-DL Andres Cervantes, DL Preston Stroud and DL Cooper Smith. Linebacker/defensive back Tae Sessions proved he can get it done on Friday nights returning as the leading tackler at 98. Obviously, Pampa will need to develop confidence on offense during its non-district games. If that happens, no doubt the Harvesters will prove this pick wrong and make the playoffs.
Dumas at Randall, 7 p.m. Oct. 8
Calm down. Calm down. I know picking the game of the year as a district opener with so much of the season remaining might sound like I’ve lost my mind, but trust me on this one. Winner of this one wears the 3-4A, DI crown. Dumas, like I said, owns a 19-game district winning streak and its strong senior class wants no part of seeing that streak end under their watch. Randall, like I said, feels disrespected as few think they can win district because of losing depth and starters to West Plains. To me, this one is primed to be a classic at Happy State Bank Stadium. Both teams will be 0-0 in district. Both teams have a point to prove. The winner is 1-0 in district having beaten one of the big dogs. To me, both teams playing on this night mean we are in store for Friday Night Lights at its best.
1. Seminole: Former Pampa coach Greg Poynor brings his high-level enthusiasm to his second season at Seminole. In a district which none of the five teams are coming off a winning season, give Seminole the nod because of their gunslinger at quarterback senior Blake Flowers. Flowers thrived in Poynor’s Air Raid offense last year throwing for 3,255 yards for the 5-6 playoff team. Flowers is one of 11 starters returning with Division I prospect defensive lineman Ritker Connally leading the way for the Seminole interior. This is definitely a travel district with Perryton being 320 miles (one way) from the southernmost team in Seminole. Not sure that will matter to these teams so used to travel. Poynor guided Seminole to a 3-1 district record last year. Look for that and maybe even a zero in the loss column.
2. Perryton: This is year three for Kurt Haberthur coaching his alma mater and he returns six starters on each side of the football from last year’s team reaching the area round. Perryton has good team speed across the board and during fall practices its defense has stood out. The Rangers return all three starting linebackers in standout Isaias Dominguez, Stetson Garcia and Dalton L’Esperance, with Daniel Hernandez leading the way in the secondary. Not to put pressure on the young man but the play of new junior quarterback Julian Cervantes will go a long in deciding Perryton’s offense consistency. I think the Rangers will give Seminole all it wants for this district title.
3. Borger: This is definitely the mystery team not only District 2-4A DII but maybe the entire Texas Panhandle. Borger has struggled in recent years and is coming a 3-8 season ending the bidistrict playoffs under Duane Toliver. But returning from those 11 games last year is 26 seniors and 16 starters (seven on offense, nine on defense). Toliver has been waiting on this class to be seniors and knows them well as his senior dual threat quarterback is his son, Tray. Tray missed the first half of last year with an injury but showed what he is capable of over the second half throwing for 807 yards. Borger’s offensive line has experience in Barrett Watkins, Ty Clawson and Antonio Heredia. Coach Toliver is also anxious to see how his nine returning starters on defense plays out. That defense is led by Logan Grey, arguably the best LB in the district coming off 119 tackle season.
4. West Plains: Something blue and new is in this district as new school West Plains Wolves play their first-ever UIL football season in 2022. Coach Adam Cummings took over the program back in January and brings strong credentials to the table having spent several years as an assistant coach in Canyon, his latest head coaching stop four years at Sundown where he was 35-15. What West Plains has to overcome early is lack of varsity experience as the team opens the year with eight seniors, three of those projected starters. Leading the way on the line for West Plains are a pair of juniors in Damian Benavides and Duke Blaser. The key quarterback duties will be decided between junior Breland Franklin and freshman Reid Macon. Both QB candidates also play safety on the defense and their athleticism is something Cummings want to get on the field. The excitement surrounding the West Plains program is off the chart and its first-ever football will be played against Bushland Friday night at Happy State Bank Field. “I’m so impressed with the buy-in from all these players,” Cumming said. “Not once have I had to worry about that.”
5. Levelland: Last year the Lobos went 1-9 overall and 0-4 in district under coach Lyle Leong, his first with Levelland. To turn things around Leong is hoping lessons learned from his 23 returning lettermen which includes 14 starters. If Levelland is able to turn things around and make a run at the playoffs returning quarterback Konnor Alexander will lead the way. The talented Alexander missed most of last season with an injury.
Perryton at Seminole, 7 p.m. Nov. 4
This is the final night of District 2-4A DII play and I predict both these teams will enter unbeaten in district each having survived a scare (likely from Borger or overlooking West Plains). That’s a brutal road trip even for Perryton who is used to brutal road trips. Perryton will bring physicality to the game, trying to slow the passing of Flowers, who Poynor will let fling it. Both teams will have playoffs clinched, but knowing Haberthur and Poynor like I do, a district title means a whole lot to them, their program and their fans. Expect a big time game, not a coast the week before the playoffs.