Crockett Bulldogs Reload for Another Deep Playoff Run
By Will Johnson
CROCKETT – The 2016 realignment in Class 3A DII didn’t see many changes in the new District 10-3A DII. Other than changing names from District 11-3A DII and swapping Deweyville for Frankston, the same cast of characters will slug it out for the district championship.
And just like last year, the Crockett Bulldogs and Newton Eagles are expected to battle for the first and second seeds as the playoffs kickoff in November.
The Bulldogs will look somewhat different on offense as QB Case Robinson along with RB/WR AJ Phillips graduated and took a huge chunk of the offense with them as they headed off to the next level.
Athletic Director/Head Coach Jimmy Thompson said, “We have a lot of athletes coming back. We have good linemen coming back, but our biggest problem is going to be replacing Case and AJ on offense and finding a leader on defense. Someone that goes out there and takes over on D. Once somebody goes out there and shows they can be physical, I think the rest of the team will be that way. Defensively we haven’t had that.”
“Offensively,” Coach Thompson continued, “we’re losing our leaders. We have a lot of skill people coming back. It’s just going to take a lot of time to figure out where to put them and where to use them.”
He said the offense will be a work in progress with quite a bit of tinkering as the season gets underway.
“We have several weeks to figure out who gives us the best chance to be successful and that’s what we’ll be doing early in the season,” the coach said.
One of the team strengths will be on the offensive line anchored by All-State OL Tim Riley. Harvey Stewart and Houston Arledge will also return from last year’s regional finalist team to pave the way for an explosive running game.
At the skill positions, the return of WR Lucky Daniels should open things up for the running game. Along with one of the fastest athletes in the state in sophomore WR Damarcus Richardson, teams will have to figure out ways to contain the Bulldogs’ speed.
At the QB position, Thompson said, “BJ Anderson is really going to have to come through for us. He’s going to get first shot at it. Xavion Dixon is also going to be big for us out of the backfield. Alton Owens is another kid we’re expecting big things from. He could be one of the quickest kids around.”
Defensively, Crockett will be led by Dekeidrian Rollins at LB and Defensive Newcomer of the Year DB Derrick Sherman.
“We need Tyler Elmore to step up big on defense as a returning linebacker. Buster Colter is another lineman who needs to play,” he said.
“We really feel like we have a ton of athletes. Linemen-wise, we‘ve got some good ones but we just don’t have as many as we would like to have. We’re obviously going to run the ball a lot more than we did last year, starting out. We’re condensing our offense somewhat and as a result we have to better at what we do,” Thompson said.
What We Saw in 2015: The Crockett Bulldogs fell to the Franklin Lions, 76-50, in the Regional Finals in one of the best games of the season. The score is somewhat deceptive however, as the Bulldogs overcame a 30 point lead to cut the lead to less than a TD and had a chance to win the game heading into the final two minutes.
While the Bulldogs finished the year with a 10-4 record, the season did not get off to a great start as Crockett fell to Alto in the season opener, 60-33. The Bulldogs took care of business against Rusk but couldn’t hold on to the ball against Diboll and after three games, their record was 1-2. Close wins against Shepherd and Madisonville led to a blowout victory over Corrigan. After nearly pulling off the upset against District Champ Newton, the Bulldogs caught fire and blazed their way to the Regional Finals.
What we can Expect to see in 2016: The Bulldogs open the 2016 season with three straight home games against Trinity, Diboll and Rusk. They take to the road after that for games against Madisonville and Coldspring. All five non-district opponents are much improved from the 2015 season and none will be a pushover. Crockett should be able to head into the district part of the schedule with a 4-1 or 3-2 record as they get a feel for a new style of play.
After an open date on Sept. 30, the Bulldogs stay on the road as they travel to Newton and Corrigan. They return home to take on Frankston, travel to Garrison and close out the season at Monte Jack Driskell Stadium against Hemphill. A lot of pundits pick Newton to compete for the state title, but look for Crockett to upset Newton at home.
Unfortunately, Corrigan will be lying in wait the following week and will nip the Bulldogs for a small measure of vengeance for last year’s thrashings.
Bottom line – Crockett goes 8-2 and ties for the District 10-3A DII Championship.