11-5A FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Is Sachse the team to beat?
As the 11-5A season is set to get started this week the district standings have a decidedly different look.
Perched at the top is Sachse, a team that has designs on winning its first district championship in school history after breaking into the postseason for the first time a year ago.
The Mustangs are the only team with an undefeated record through a difficult non-district slate for the Garland ISD teams.
In fact Lakeview, at 3-1, is the only other team with a winning record while South Garland is at .500 with a 2-2 mark.
Rowlett, which advanced three rounds deep in the playoffs last season, is only 1-3 and will limp into district play with a three-game losing streak.
And perhaps the biggest surprise is traditional power Garland, which is winless through the first month of the season.
But all those unique storylines mean nothing as the real pursuit of the playoffs begins this week.
Sachse has been the talk of the town during its perfect start. The Mustangs lead all 11-5A teams on offense, averaging 49.5 points and 511 yards per game.
The scary thing for future opponents is that the defense, which appeared to be a chink in the armor after giving up 119 points in its first three games, made major strides in a shutout effort in last week's 29-0 victory over Flower Mound.
"We know that every week is a tough one in district," Sachse head coach Mark "Red" Behrens said. "That is why our focus in non-district is to keep getting better so we hit district play firing on all cylinders."
If the defense continues to improve, Sachse could have the complete, all-around package, as the offense has been in midseason form since day one.
Quarterback Kent Myers has exploded onto the scene in his first year as a starter. The junior has completed 79-of-119 passes for 1,287 yards and 14 touchdowns compared with no interceptions. He also leads the team and is among the district leaders in rushing, averaging 104 yards per game.
There are no shortage of options on the outside as Tyrique Edwards (20 receptions, 361 yards, four touchdowns) and Austin Williams (23-279, 4) rank among the top five in 11-5A receivers, while Bruce Brookins has emerged as a big-play threat, averaging 19.2 yards per catch.
The Mustangs will enter Friday's 11-5A opener against North Garland as a heavy favorite.
The Raiders have found a workhorse running back in Aaron Johnson (458 yards) and while they were able to pick up a victory over Hillcrest, their other three losses came an average margin of 27 points
While Sachse's early-season success might not be much of a surprise after a playoff season a year ago, Lakeview's 3-1 start is more eye-opening.
Under new head coach Kendall Miller, who was formerly at South Oak Cliff, the Patriots opened the year with wins over Carter, Bryan Adams and North Mesquite before finally getting tripped up in a narrow 13-10 loss to Bishop Lynch last week.
Lakeview has shown off some balance on offense. Demarcus Hall is second in the district in rushing with 528 yards on 77 carries. Brent Davenport has thrown for 801 yards and seven scores, although he does have six interceptions, while Jarvis Baxter and Nick McLaughlin each have 15 receptions.
The Patriots will get to see if those winning ways are for real against Garland on Thursday.
Despite the 0-4 start, the Owls have played arguably the toughest non-district slate with games against Plano East, Horn, McKinney Boyd and Coppell.
The alarming thing about that run for Garland is that the defense, which is normally a strength, has surrendered at least 31 points in every game.
That has been too much for an offense that is still developing to overcome. E'Lon Green has been a sturdy runner and V.J. Gates has had moments at quarterback. Ja'Taveon Green, who averaged better than 10 yards per rush and catch last season, has yet to make a big impact this year.
South Garland is a team to keep an eye on. The Colonels played tough in losses to Rockwall-Heath and Plano West, and with the return of quarterback Trey Porter, they cruised past North Mesquite in a 31-17 victory last week.
South Garland leads the district on defense, allowing less than 200 yards per game, while Marquel McNac (95-643, 5) leads 11-5A rushers.
The Colonels will try to open district play with a victory against a dangerous Naaman Forest team.
Despite its 0-4 start, the Rangers have put a scare into a couple of teams, hanging around against Rockwall-Heath and Plano before falling short at the end.
A big reason Naaman Forest feels it has a shot in every game is a group of talented playmakers on offense.
Quarterback Justin Walker is second in the district with 970 passing yards and 10 touchdowns. Walker also has the ability to make things happen on the ground.
Branson Ball leads the district in receiving yardage with 21 catches for 451 yards, while Juaquin Davis powers the ground game with 376 yards and three scores.
The defense has been a problem for the Rangers, as they have surrendered 43 points per game.
Rowlett is the lone 11-5A team with a bye this week and it might have come at an opportune time, as their 45-0 loss to Rockwall-Heath last week was the worst since a 56-3 defeat to Lakeview in 1997.
Outside of last week the Eagles have been able to move the ball well. Carson Hyles has thrown for 877 yards and five touchdowns while Chris Heath (27-440) and Tyler Heath are reliable receivers.
The ground game could be the key for Rowlett in district play, as the duo of Jalen Rhodes and Derrick Imade have the potential to be the best 1-2 punch in 11-5A.