The road to the postseason: A look ahead in District 12-5A, Division I

As the majority of teams in District 12-5A, Division I are idle this week, we at the Hays Free Press and News-Dispatch aim to prepare our sports readers with a look ahead to what our local teams will be facing as district play starts up. Here, we take a look at our three local programs (Dripping Springs, Lehman and Johnson) and how they might stack up against the remaining teams in the district.

Johnson Jaguars, Current record: 2-1
So far, so good for the Johnson Jaguars who in their first full year at the varsity level have exceeded many people’s expectations. That includes last week’s tough-luck loss to a hardened Alamo Heights team. But will that early success translate to victories in what could be a grueling run through district? Additionally, how will the Jags fare in a full 10-game varsity level season? Propelling the Jaguar offense thus far is an aerial assault led by dual threat sophomore quarterback Jesse Medina and wide receivers Ethan McAlister, Connor Crabtrey and Rich Kelly. Defensively the Jaguars are led by linebacker Alex Izaguirre and defensive lineman Grayson Allred.

Dripping Springs Tigers, Current record: 2-1
Following a slow 1-1 start, Dripping Springs woke up in a big way Oct. 9 by exploding for 800-plus yards and a school-record 76 points in last week’s win over Lockhart. Aided by sophomore quarterback Austin Novosad, who came in late in the team’s Oct. 2 loss against Hays, Dripping Springs is once again a favorite to claim the district crown. Backing up Novosad are wide receivers Cameron O’Banon and Parker Alford, as well as running back Hunter Pierpoint. But can the Tiger defense hold firm? The Tigers have allowed 30-plus points in the past two contests.

Lehman Lobos, Current record: 2-1
Were it not for a missed two-point conversion in its week one game against Marble Falls, Lehman could have harbored an unblemished mark ahead of district play. Even so, to say the Lehman Lobos’ red-hot two game win streak is the biggest surprise in 12-5A, D1 is a vast understatement. A powerful stable of running backs in Robert Vasquez, Joey Mojica and Noah Martinez, along with quarterback Joey Guajardo, pace an offense that’s been relatively balanced so far this season. Don’t count out the Lobo defense, either. Lehman has allowed only 48 total points through three games, the third fewest in the district so far. Could this finally be the year Lehman breaks through and earns its first ever playoff berth? Only time will tell.

Seguin Matadors, Current record: 1-1
While Seguin’s offense hasn’t put up the flashy numbers as their fellow district counterparts thus far, it’s their defense that might play a big role as the season goes on. Through two games, Seguin has allowed only 37 points; of that, 35 was scored by a strong 6A foe New Braunfels a week ago. Offensively, Seguin offers a balanced attack led by quarterback Micah Rodriguez and running back Marquest Washington. A plethora of junior and senior experience guides a Matador team that’s eager to make a return trip to the playoffs.

New Braunfels Canyon Cougars, Current record: 3-0
An old-school frame of mind has carried New Braunfels Canyon to new heights so far in 2020. Defense has been its hallmark so far as the Cougars allowed a district-low 26 total points so far through three games. That includes holding perennial power Alamo Heights to a shockingly low 12 point output Friday. Canyon’s offense, meanwhile, is predicated on the run, led by a triumvirate of running backs in Micah Williford, Jacob Alcorta and Drew Barry. Expect the Cougars, who have wallowed in mediocrity for the last few seasons, to be a force in the district and to fight for, at the very least, a playoff berth.

San Antonio Veterans Memorial Patriots, Current record: 2-1
Run, run, run is the mantra for a Veterans Memorial team that’s amassed close to 800 of its 950-plus yards of offense on the ground. Look for running backs JC Solitare and Alex Alva to shoulder the load for the Patriots. Meanwhile, the Vets Memorial defense is nothing to sneeze at either. Save for a 35-0 loss against Boerne Champion, Vets Memorial has allowed only 23 points since then. Led by an experienced junior and senior squad, the Patriots, playing in their third season at the varsity level, seek a third straight trip to the playoffs and first district title.

San Antonio Harlandale Indians (0-0) and San Antonio McCollum Cowboys (0-0)
Few teams in 12-5A, Division I have been impacted as much by COVID-19 protocols as Harlandale and McCollum, who have yet to play a game this year. Harlandale ISD, which both schools are a part of, suspended in-person athletic competitions until the week of Oct. 24. Both teams’ first games of the season will be their district opener.

Harlandale, 2019 record: 5-5 overall, 3-3 in district
A new year will mean plenty of new faces for Harlandale which will have to replace its quarterback and top wide receiver, both of whom graduated this past summer. Stepping up into the role could be Joseph Rodriguez, who passed for three touchdowns in limited action in 2019. Harlandale could also rely heavily on senior running back Joe Anthony Vallejo and senior wide receiver Victor Perales. That could spell an uphill climb for a team that leaned heavily on the pass last year. Meanwhile, Harlandale’s defense, which gave up 60 or more points three times last year, could equally struggle against much stiffer district competition in 2020.

McCollum, 2019 record: 0-10 overall, 0-6 in district
Conventional wisdom says there’s no where else to go but up for McCollum after a winless campaign a year ago. However, facing a higher level of competition in 12-5A, Division I, could mean another season of struggle for the Cowboys. McCollum is slated to return junior quarterback Sean Tejada, who paced a balanced Cowboy offense a year ago, and junior running back Isaiah Leffler. Shoring up their defense might be the largest struggle for McCollum. Last season, McCollum lost all six of their district games by an average of 24 points per contest.

Hays Free Press/News Dispatch Projected 12-5A, Division I finish
1. Dripping Springs
2. New Braunfels Canyon
3. Lehman
4. Johnson
5. Seguin
6. SA Veterans Memorial
7. SA Harlandale
8. SA McCollum

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