Three big storylines for the H.S. football season
ABILENE, Texas - With most high schools, except for Class 6A and 5A programs, beginning football practice on Monday, the KTXS sports team looked at three big storylines to watch for this season.
Abilene High replaces Abram Smith
The Eagles' three-year starting running back finished his high school career by breaking Abilene High's record for most rushing yards and touchdowns.
Now, Smith is at Baylor where he will miss his freshman season because of an ACL tear during spring practice.
But if the job of replacing Smith wasn't enough, Abilene High will also have to fill in an entirely new offensive line. Niyungeko Moise, or Mo has his teammates call him, ran for 183 yards last season and will take over the starting role this year.
The Eagles will only have two returning offensive starters to work -- receiver Raewkwon Millsap (862 receiving yards, 8 touchdowns in 2016) and tight end Tyler Bridges.
Head coach Del Van Cox knows creating depth will be an integral part to Abilene High's success, as the War Birds fight for back-to-back District 3-6A championships.
Sweetwater, Wylie come off title game runs
Both the Mustangs and Bulldogs made it to their respective state championship games, and both fell on the biggest stage.
It will be tough to reach that point again, but Sweetwater returns most of its impact players, including quarterback Chris Thompson (1,200 passing yards, 22 touchdowns in 2016) and his top target Kobe Clark (1,250 receiving yards, 12 touchdowns).
However, the Mustangs will adjust to a new coaching staff which is led by former Cooper and Brownwood assistant Ben McGehee.
Most recently McGehee was the offensive coordinator at Temple, which advanced to the Class 5A Division I title game.
Mississippi State verbal commit Cason Grant returns as an all-around offensive threat for Wylie, along with key defensive players Ryan Hamar and Anthony Guerrero. However, the Bulldogs will have to replace six players which signed to play in college.
Can a small school make state?
Last season could be described as an anomaly. No small schools from the Big Country even reached the state semi-finals, with Anson, Munday and De Leon each losing in the fourth round of the playoffs.
Will that continue in 2017, or will an area school school make it to Arlington?
Anson (10-4), Albany (11-2), Hamlin (10-3), and De Leon (11-3) are teams that have good chances to make deep playoff runs this season, and Hawley is hard to count out with four-year starting quarterback Quay Stokes.
There's also a possibility of a six-man team reaching state, picking up on the success from Big Country schools like Throckmorton.