22-5A preview: Indians, Titans early favorites

Published 10:02 am Wednesday, August 30, 2017

There was no outright District 22-5A football champion last season as three teams shared the district title.

So what will 2017 bring?

Will tri-champions of last year Port Neches-Groves, Vidor and Port Arthur Memorial separate themselves from the pack last year as they each went 7-1?

Will first-year Nederland head coach Monte Barrow, a long-time assistant for legendary retired Bulldog coach Larry Neumann, bring the Bulldogs back into the playoff fray?

What will Beaumont schools Central and Ozen accomplish with new head coaches as well?

Without a question, it should be a tight and interesting race through Friday night wars.

Last year PN-G defeated Vidor but fell to Memorial while Memorial lost to Vidor to create the logjam.

Those three schools should once again be battling it out for 22-5A bragging rights.

The PN-G Indians will look to advance even further this season and return six starters on offense and five on defense from a squad that went 11-2 and reached the 5A Division II regional semifinals.

The Indians are picked to win the district by Dave Campbell Texas Football Magazine.

Coach Brandon Faircloth welcomes back junior quarterback Roschon Johnson, who little field up as a sophomore, accounting for 3,978 total yards and a stunning 56 touchdowns.

Johnson has some nice weapons back as well in the forms of receivers Preston Riggs, who had 1,045 yards receiving and nine TDs and back/receiver Preston Hughes, who amassed over 1,050 total yards and 11 TDs.

The Indians will welcome Memorial into The Reservation Oct. 20, which could tell the tale.

The Memorial Titans, who are picked second, will see six starters return on offense and seven on defense from a 10-2 unit that also reached the 5A Division I regional semifinals.

The Titans can brag that they have the leading rusher in the district back in Elijah Hines, who zipped for 1,642 yards and 26 TDs. Keitha Jones can play anywhere at the skill positions, including quarterback. All_District linebacker Jomard Valsin powers a defensive unit that will look to make a drastic improvement.

Texas Football certainly believes in Nederland getting back into the postseason, picking the Bulldogs third.

Coach Barrow will see 11 starters return to the mix, including seven on defense. The Bulldogs return versatile back Devon Simmons, who accounted for more than 1,000 yards of total offense, to the fray. Linebacker Brady Spell returns after bulling his way to 130 tackles while defensive lineman Tiren Forney is back after leading the squad in sacks.

Over in Vidor (8-3), Coach Jeff Mathews and the Pirates will look to make some noise again with nine starters returning to Pirate Country, led by all-district twin brothers linebacker Joey Ciccio and defensive end Tony Ciccio.

The Pirates return just three starters back on offense and are looking to rebuild their offensive front but they do have two valuable backs returning with experience in Hogan Stogner and Kelby Odom, who combined for more than 1,200 rushing yards.

Beaumont Central (5-6) was the fourth-place playoff team last year. The Jaguars had a coaching change as former coach Toby Foreman left to take over at 6A Killeen Shoemaker and Jeff Nelson takes over. Nelson is a former head coach of Beaumont Ozen.

The Jaguars have some gifted speed on offense in the forms of running back Theodrick Foster and receiver Dailon Gants.

Ozen will have a new face leading its program as Edward Taylor takes over the reigns of a 1-9 Panther team that really struggled a season ago. The Panthers return four starters on offense and five on defense.

Quarterback Dominique Morris could definitely prove to be a dual threat.

The Lumberton Raiders look to bounce back from a 2-6 district campaign as Coach Chris Babin will see six starters back on both sides of the ball.

Running back Josh Ward and Remington Boykin should provide some highlights on offense and the Raiders return plenty of big guys in the trenches as they will be one of the largest teams in the loop.

The Livingston Lions will try to be a darkhorse after going 5-5 overall and 4-4 in district, barely missing the postseason.

Coach Brian Broussard will see five starters back on offense and four on defense., sparked by versatile athlete Christian Mitchell, who accounted for 20 touchdowns and averaged 28 yards per catch.

The Baytown Lee Ganders are slated to finish last again, a place the once proud Baytown school has grown accustomed to over the years.

Coach Tim Finn will have six back on offense and four on defense from a unit that went 0-8 in 22-5A play and 1-9 overall.




  1. PORT NECHES-GROVES: A ton of firepower returns for the Indians including University of Texas commit quarterback Roschon Johnson. Coach Faircloth returns a ton of talent on both sides of the ball from a team that shared the 22-5A title last season and made a three-deep run in the playoffs. A home date with Port Arthur Memorial could tell the tale Oct. 20.
  2. PORT ARTHUR MEMORIAL: The Titans certainly made their mark dropping down to Class 5A last season, sharing the 22-5A crown. Coach Harrison returns 13 starters including seven off a defense that looks to make strides. The return of 1,600-yard back Elijah Hines is a blessing. The Titans were the only 22-5A team to down PN-G in district, they could do it again Oct. 20, but will have to do it at The Reservation.
  3. VIDOR: The Pirates shared the tri-title a season ago and will look to make noise again for Coach Mathews. Vidor returns just three starters on offense but have some experience back and a young group that won on the lower levels. The plus is that nine starters return on defense and the Pirates have both PN-G and Nederland at home.
  4. NEDERLAND: The Bulldogs will look to bounce back after a tough 2016 as Coach Barrow will look to take over where Coach Neumann left off for a fine program. Nederland had made the postseason nine straight years before the 4-6 2016 campaign. The Bulldogs will lean on defense early with seven starters back and they are fortunate to host both Nederland and PN-G in big showdowns.
  5. LUMBERTON: The Raiders competed hard with a young team in 2016 as 10 sophomores started. Lumberton returns plenty of size up front on both sides of the ball. The Raiders also lost several games late in fourth quarters last year but are anticipating more depth this year as they could easily be the darkhorse in the loop.
  6. BEAUMONT CENTRAL: The Jaguars were able to crawl into the postseason late last year to make it for the fourth year in a row. New coach Nelson will look to fire up the troops to make another push. The Jaguars are a very young team that has plenty of offensive firepower but defense could be the big question mark.
  7. LIVINGSTON: The Lions barely missed out on the postseason but they lost a whole lot of talent as they will turn to a youth movement to try to stay in the hunt. Depth, as usual, could play a huge role in the Lions’ success as Livingston is by far the smallest school in the district.
  8. BEAUMONT OZEN: Once again there will be a new head coach in Panther Country as Coach Taylor looks to turn the fortunes around from a 1-9 team. Ozen always has enough talent to compete, the Panthers just need to find some consistency within the rank and file.
  9. BAYTOWN LEE: The only place to go is up for the Ganders, who went winless in the loop last season. They return 10 starters that gained valuable experience but it may not be enough in this rugged league.