Nolan Countyâ€™s four high school football teams will all have something to prove, at least to one well-known statewide publication, when they take to the gridiron for the 2011 season.
At least one school has represented the county in the playoffs for the past 21 years, but Texas Football â€” Dave Campbellâ€™s legendary magazine â€” predicts that Sweetwater, Roscoe, Highland and Blackwell will all miss the postseason.
Sweetwater, Blackwell and Highland are all picked to finish last in their respec-tive districts. Texas Football also predicts Roscoe â€” which has been to the playoffs in each of the past 13 years â€” will see its long run finally halted with a fourth-place district finish. Roscoe was the countyâ€™s only play-off representative in 2010.
Sweetwater will try to end a two-year playoff drought with the return of six offen-sive and five defensive starters among 19 returning lettermen, including two who received all-district honorable mention in 2010 â€” quarterback Taylor Jones and linebacker Sam Nemir. Other top returning players and prospects according to the magazine include center Dylon Adames, offensive linemen Malcolm Jackson and Spencer Young, running back-defensive back Ryan Linebaugh, defensive end Kyle Lambert, running back Marquees Jenkins, linebacker Alex Garcia, safety Sean Morrow, offensive linemen Josh Larue and Hunter Johnson, tight end Gabriel Medellin, defensive linemen Anthony Palacios, Mateo Gonzales and Ryan Mercer, and cornerback Nick Nemir.
Landon Jones, who was defensive co-newcomer of the year as a sophomore, returns for Roscoe along with a pair of second team all-district linemen, Corey Hatcher and Matthew Cuel-lar. Hatcher was a two-way selection while Cuellar was chosen at defensive tackle and also received honorable mention all-district honors as a tight end.
The other returning players who received honorable mention all-district honors for Roscoe were Devon Freeman, who was chosen on the offensive and defensive line, and Eric Padilla, who was chosen as an inside/outside linebacker.
Jeff Shelton takes over as head coach at Highland after its longtime coach, Karry Owens, resigned to accept a similar position at Water Valley. The top returning players include Tyler Falcon, Ron Covington, Michael Hyde, Peyton Howard, Jordan Rowan and Daniel Nelson, all of whom will try to lead Highland back to the six-man playoffs. Covington (quarterback, cornerback), Hyde (utility back, safety) and Howard (defensive line) were second-team all-district and Rowan (tight end) and Nelson (safety) received all-district honor-able mention last season as underclassmen.
Blackwellâ€™s Nathan Hayes has 10 returning lettermen, led by running back Jayden Jones and ends Mark Mon-roe and Cody Shamblin. But there are just two returning starters on offense and one on defense for the Hornets, who have lost a lot of talent to graduation and may face a rebuilding season.