Football preview for District 9-5A Division I:
Port Arthur Memorial has excelled since dropping to Class 5A, going from consecutive three-win seasons in 2014-15 to 19 total victories over the last two seasons and a share of the district title both years. There will be a change at the top with Kenny Harrison moving to Summer Creek after nine years (and seven playoff trips) and Brian Morgan, a Port Arthur native, taking over the Titans. Morgan inherits an experienced defense led by defensive tackle DaJuan McMillan and outside linebacker Lazarus May. The offense will be young with three returning starters, though the unit does have a valuable – and versatile – piece in Javontae Hopkins.
Next in line
Jim Holley has already done the unthinkable at Porter, which won a combined 10 games in six years before Holley’s arrival and seven in each of his two seasons leading the Spartans. The key offensively will be how quarterback Zane Russell takes his next step under center. Porter did graduate do-it-all standout Carlos Norman, but Russell is expected to better the 1,453 yards and 10 touchdowns he had in 2017. Wideouts Tayler Baker and Sevonne Rhea both return after 900 receiving yards. The defense will be a little young. Expectations are high as the Spartans look for their first-ever playoff win.
Continuing its success outside of an all-HISD district will prove to be a challenge, but Austin does have plenty going in its favor. That starts with 17 total starters returning from last season’s 7-2 team that came within five points of its first playoff win in 63 years. The offense is near intact with nine starters back – one that seems to be missing is star quarterback Malik Hornsby, who has transferred to Fort Bend Marshall. The 6-foot-3 junior totaled 2,370 yards and 30 touchdowns in 2017 for Austin and is garnering plenty of college interest. However, his top target in junior Donald Harper is in the fold. Austin will host both Port Arthur Memorial and New Caney.
Best of the rest
New Caney graduated one of its biggest stars in quarterback Jordan Cooper, now at the Naval Academy, and then lost another when junior Dwight McGlothern, a five-star recruit, announced on social media his transfer to Trinity Christian School in Cedar Hill. The losses hurt on both sides of the ball, but the good news is New Caney has built its program into a perennial playoff contender. Kingwood Park reached the playoffs last season for the first time in three years and will count on a veteran defense to lead early while an offense that only returns three starters gets its footing.
Players to watch
B.J. Peterson, Jr., RB, Goose Creek Memorial
The Patriots struggled in their two seasons at the state’s largest classification, but Peterson was one of the few bright spots. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound junior ran for more than 1,400 yards as a freshman at Div. II-2A Hull-Daisetta in 2016 before moving and eventually earning all-district honors in Class 6A.
Julian Macias, Sr., QB, Galena Park
The Yellowjackets return nine defensive starters. But having a talent like Macias, who starred at receiver and will bring true dual-threat ability to the quarterback position, is just what Galena Park is looking for. Macias excels in open space, as he earned all-district honors as an outfielder in the spring.
Javontae Hopkins, Sr., ATH, Port Arthur Memorial
The 5-foot-9 Hopkins is as versatile as they come. He’s excellent in coverage as a defensive back for the Titans, but also can show off his speed lining up at running back or in the return game on special teams. With only three offensive starters back, watch for Hopkins to make an impact.
Photo: Kim Brent/Beaumont Enterprise
Games to watch
New Caney vs. Porter
7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9, Texan Drive
Porter is trending upward as a program with back-to-back playoff appearances, but the Spartans are missing a key line on their resume – beating rival New Caney in the Battle Line on 59. The Eagles are 8-0, which includes last season’s 28-0 in which New Caney held Porter to 84 total yards of offense.
Austin vs. Kingwood Park
7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2, Turner
Despite their recent success, wins will be harder to come by for Austin. But if the Mustangs do plan to continue what they’ve built, they’ll need to find a win or two on the road.
Deer Park vs. Port Arthur Memorial
7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 31, Memorial Stadium
In July, it looked like Port Arthur Memorial would be playing 10 road games after a project to fix a walkway to the press box was set to take two months. But after an emergency meeting, the timetable was reset to only five weeks and the Titans will open at home against the Deer.
Bringing football back to Wisdom hasn’t been easy. Now entering its seventh season after the program was discontinued from 2000-11, the Generals are a combined 4-54 since 2012. They carry a 16-game losing streak into the season.