All five of Wood County’s high school football teams kick-off their seasons Friday night. Mineola, Alba-Golden and Winnsboro are at home while Quitman and Hawkins hit the road. All the games have 7:30 p.m. kick-offs.
Mineola vs. Wills Point
Coach Luke Blackwell’s Mineola Yellowjackets open the season at home against Class 4A Wills Point. The ‘Jackets are coming off a successful scrimmage against Caddo Mills last week. Mineola moves into rugged District 10-3A DI with Tatum, Gladewater, West Rusk, Winnsboro, Sabine and White Oak.
The Yellowjackets have shown in early scrimmages they have a powerful running game and quarterback Shaw Franklin is capable of breaking the long play with his passing ability and running talents.
The Yellowjackets’ offensive efforts start up front with a talented offensive line anchored by Cameron Wise and Seth Kirk. Last year’s freshman running back sensation Trevion Sneed is back for what should be a premier sophomore season. On the defensive side of the ball, Sneed is also one of the area’s top linebackers.
After Blackwell’s young team made the playoffs last year, Blackwell expects the varsity experience will pay off. “We worked really hard in the off season. The younger guys got to play for us at the end of the season last year and have worked hard in the off season,” Blackwell said. ‘The Jackets return experience with seven offensive and six defensive starters returning.
They will take on a Wills Point team that went 5-5 last year and returns six offensive and 10 defensive starters this year. Although the Tigers lost their top running backs, they return their entire offensive line and quarterback Demontre Hill who has good speed. Tight end Cameron Penny at 6’3” and 240 pounds is a huge and talented target for Hill.
In most pre-season predictions the Tigers are picked to finish third in District 7-4A DII after Rusk and Brownsboro.
Quitman at Cumby
The Quitman Bulldogs open the 2018 season with a positive outlook for the upcoming season.
“I have seen a lot of positive things so far this year. We have really been working with our kids to fight through adversity no matter how tough things are,” Head Coach Bryan Oakes said. “In the past, sometimes we would get hit in the mouth and we wouldn’t fight back, but this group does fight back and stand their ground. We are looking forward to getting our season started.”
After successful scrimmages against Hawkins, Paris Chisum and Como-Pickton, the Bulldogs travel to Cumby to open the season against the playoff veteran Trojans. The Trojans were 7-5 last year and are led by quarterback Cameron Scott. Scott rushed for over 1,500 yards while scoring 18 touchdowns. “Everything Cumby does will go through their quarterback. He is a talented young man,” Oakes observed. “They play tough on defense and really fly around after the football. They have a winning tradition and Coach Dracos (Tom) does a great job over there.”
The Trojans return all-district performers in linebacker /running back Wil Chapin and defensive lineman Elijah Matthews. Cumby has six offensive and eight defensive starters back from last year’s playoff squad.
The Bulldogs are focused on ending the 43-game losing streak dating back to Oct. 2014. “Once we get that first win under our belts, there is no telling where it could end,” Oakes said. “We have our work cut out for us this because Cumby has a good and experienced ball club. We can’t let mistakes get us down, we must play through them.;”
Hawkins at Alba-Golden
Alba-Golden is excited about their home opener after taking it to a Kemp Yellow Jacket team in last week’s scrimmage. Kemp is picked to win district 6-3A DI after a stellar 13-2 playoff run last year. The Panthers held their own in the scrimmage, holding the powerful Kemp offensive in the live quarter.
Coach Derek Smith is expecting his team to be in the playoff hunt this year. “That’s always our goal, the playoffs, and we feel like we have the experience and talent to get there this year,” Smith said. “We have better depth and experience at the skill positions this year and have much more size, strength and knowledge of the system.”
The Panthers are led by quarterback Zach Smith who directs an explosive offense which can travel by ground or through the air. Linebacker Tom Mitchell returns after breaking a foot in the first game last year and Zack Kellis returns to anchor the offensive line. Jon Michael Chadwick and Dylan Arenas will give the Panthers running back options this time around.
The Panthers will face off against county rival Hawkins in their second year under Coach Scott Evans. The Hawks have shown scoring punch in pre-season scrimmages being led by talented running back Jordan McGown who stands 6’1” and 225 pounds with 4.5 speed. Lineman Josh Caruso leads the offensive line and is also a defensive stalwart. Senior Akim Richmond brings back four years of varsity experience in the backfield.
This one should be a high-flying, high-scoring affair.
Winnsboro vs. Winona
The Winnsboro Red Raiders open their season of rebuilding against Winona at Red Raider Stadium. The Red Raiders are depending on younger players to come through early to get ready for district play.
Winona has five offensive and seven defensive starters returning from a 4-7 playoff team last year led by Keylon Kincaide who does it all. Kincaide played receiver and safety last year and saw time at quarterback and running back too.
Another key for Winona will be the play of Dakota Pullum who had 57 catches for 1,033 yards and 13 touchdowns last year. The 6’1” 190-pounder moves under center and takes control at quarterback this season. Team speed in Winona’s biggest threat, but the Wildcats must improve on defense where they gave up 35 points a game last year.
Winnsboro went 4-6 last year and returns six offensive and five defensive players to this year’s team. The Raiders will depend on running back Landry Deaton who rushed for over 700 last year and linemen John McCurdy and Fernando Garcia.