Campbell picks ‘Cats to take 2nd in district

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There are 253 schools that play football in Class-5A and only two are crowned State Champion by the end of the season.

Every one of those 250-plus teams, along with their head coaches and coaching staffs has the same goal: To be one of the last two standing.

It will be more of a challenge for some than others. Following last season, 23 Class-5A schools won a single game and another seven were winless for the season.

Whitehouse finished fourth in District 17-5A but are considered improved by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine for the start of the 2017 season. With the same goal as the other 252 Class-5A schools, the Wildcats will start the season in August with two-a-days. During the summer break, the weight room has been busy and the Wildcats qualified for the recent State 7-on-7 tournament and advanced to the second round of the Championship bracket.

Two-a-days will start early Monday, Aug. 7, at a time to be announced. The Wildcats will use a scrimmage at Kaufman (Friday, Aug. 18), and one they will host with Gladewater (Friday, Aug. 25) to prepare for the 2016 season.

Adam Cook will start his fifth season as the head coach of the Wildcats. He has guided Whitehouse to a 25-19 record (.568 winning percent) in those five seasons, including playoff appearances (2-2) in 2013 and 2016.

Texas Football magazine rates the predicted finish of each district for Class-5A, and the Wildcats are predicted to finish second behind Ennis for the District 17-5A title. In order, Corsicana and Nacogdoches will fill the remaining playoff seeds. Lindale and Jacksonville are not expected to reach the playoffs in 2017.

Cook and the Wildcats, however, know it will be a battle in each district game, so the pre-season prognostications are usually considered an educated guess at best.

Whitehouse had an excellent pre-district record in 2016. The Wildcats won four of five, including victories over Hallsville, 28-13; Chapel Hill, 34-7; Sulphur Springs, 49-31, and Kennedale, 34-21. The only mar on the record was a 10-point, 23-13 loss to Carthage, which finished the season as the Class-4A, Division I State champions.

Known more for offense, Whitehouse was inconsistent on that side of the ball during the district campaign. Under first-year defensive coordinator Marcus Gold, the Wildcats were strong on defense and allowed an average of 18.6 points per game. But the Wildcats lost three of the first four district contests and had to defeat Lindale in the regular season finale to advance to the playoffs. They trailed by eight points before rallying for an 11-point victory over Lindale to qualify for the playoffs. The run lasted one round when College Station overwhelmed the Wildcats in the bi-district game.

Cook will be looking for more consistency on the offensive side of the ball. Quarterback Jake Clemons had a good run during the 7-on-7 tournament and looks poised to take up the position full time for the 2017 season.

Following the two scrimmages, Whitehouse will open the season at Hallsville. The Bobcats finished at 2-8 last season but will return 30 offensive and 32 defensive lettermen from last year’s squad. Texas Football magazine has Hallsville finishing out of the playoff picture, but the Bobcats could change that direction with a good showing against Whitehouse in the season debut.

The “Lake Tyler rivalry” with Chapel Hill is always an exciting match-up, especially as part of the Rose City Classic played in Tyler. The Bulldogs, a Class-4A, Division I squad, also finished last season with a 2-8 mark. Chapel Hill will return six offensive and five defensive starters, so the Bulldogs will enter the season with some experience.

Texas Football does not expect Chapel Hill to reach the playoffs, and predicts the Bulldogs will finish sixth in District 9-4A. Carthage, Henderson, Athens and Palestine are expected to fill the playoff seeds in that district.

Whitehouse played well at Carthage last season. The Wildcats will host the Bulldogs in the third week of the regular season. Carthage will have six offensive and five defensive starters from that State championship squad. Carthage posted a 13-2 record winning the final 10 games of the season after falling to Henderson and Kilgore (district co-champs) in back-to-back weeks last year.

The Whitehouse-Sulphur Springs game has become a friendly rivalry and an always interesting contest. Sulphur Springs finished 4-7, including a trip to the bi-district round of the playoffs. Sulphur Springs will return eight offensive and eight defensive starters for a solid core to start the season. Texas Football magazine gives Sulphur Springs a nod to reach the playoffs as the third place team in District 16-5A.

The Kennedale Wildcats reached the State semifinals round of the playoffs last year, and finished with an 11-4 mark. Kennedale will have eight offensive and seven defensive starters back. Texas Football picks Kennedale to repeat as the District 5-4A champion.

Whitehouse will enjoy a bye week following the game at Kennedale and before the start of District 17-5A competition.

Right out of the gate, Whitehouse will have to face the favorite to finish tops in the district, Ennis. The Lions had a rough pre-district march last year, but rebounded for a 4-1 district record to advance to the first round of the State playoffs. Ennis will return five offensive and seven defensive starters and is poised for a longer run in the playoffs. In addition to being selected to win the district, Texas Football selected Ennis as the 20th team on the pre-season top-40 poll. The Lions are the only District 17-5A team in the poll.

The Jacksonville Indians surprised a few teams last season, including Whitehouse. The Indians handed the Wildcats an 18-14 loss and Jacksonville finished with a 6-5 record, including a trip to the playoffs. The Indians return four offensive and eight defensive starters, but Texas Football once again has the Indians finishing out of the playoff picture. The same prediction was made for Jacksonville and Whitehouse last season but both advanced into the playoffs.

Nacogdoches was expected to do well last year but the Dragons finished at 4-6, including a 1-4 mark in district play, and they failed to make the playoffs. Nacogdoches will have three offensive and six defensive starters, so there will be some work to put an offense together. Texas Football magazine predicts that the Dragons will be able to get things going soon enough to finish as the fourth place team and enter the playoffs.

The Corsicana Tigers have been an enigma to solve for the Wildcats in recent season, including a 17-9 loss to last year. The Tigers will return six offensive and three defensive starters, so there will be a lot of work at the start of the season. Texas Football predicts that the Tigers will finish right behind Whitehouse for the third place spot in the seeding for a playoff spot. The Tigers shared the district title last year but fell in the first round of the playoffs.

The goal before meeting Lindale in the regular season finale is to have clinched a spot in the playoffs. Texas Football has the Eagles finishing fifth and out of the playoff race, but never count out Lindale. The Eagles have five offensive and six defensive starters returning and will have a stout nucleus on which to build this season.

For now, the predicted finish for District 17-5A, according to Dave Campbell’s magazine is Ennis, Whitehouse, Corsicana, Nacogdoches, Lindale and Jacksonville.

Listed on the Texas Football Preseason All-State is Whitehouse defensive back Javier Neal.

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