By David Jenkins
Big things are expected out the varsity football teams at Wylie East High School, and Wylie Preparatory Academy in the coming 2017 season.
All of the programs were selected to make the playoffs in their respective districts by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine. In addition, the schools had players named preseason MVP’s and were listed among the top recruits in the state.
The publication also highlighted former athletes from the schools that should have an impact during the coming college football season.
The Pirates were tabbed for a second appearance in the playoffs, after Dave Campbell’s has them finishing third in 6-6A, behind Allen, Denton Guyer and Plano East.
Head coach Bill Howard welcomes back six starters on the offensive and defensive sides, and 19 lettermen overall.
Linebacker Jordan Hunt was named the preseason defensive most valuable player and Allen running back Brock Sturges was the offensive MVP.
Hunt, Andrew Nwachukwu, Gasevan McGrue, Zuri Henry, Kevin Watts, David Addo, Donovan Ollie, Luke Whitworth, Austin Riffe, Chance Miller, Stacy Conner, Rashad Dixon, Chris Shaw, Miles Berg, Kingsford Quaye and Jimmy Oyewole were named players to watch.
Howard told the publication experience and depth is the difference going into this year, as the Pirates return six starters on both sides of the ball. Hunt leads the defense and is one of four starting linebackers returning in the team’s 3-4 scheme. Nwachukwu will be a featured weapon on offense for either QB’s Dixon or Conner.
McKinney North will be the Pirates first game on Sept. 1. That is followed by at Hebron (Sept. 8) and with Lake Highlands (Sept. 15).
The Raiders will make the cut in 15-5A, placing fourth, according to the magazine.
Ahead of them were defending state champion Highland Park, state semifinalist Mesquite Poteet and West Mesquite. Missing the cut were Lovejoy, North Forney and Royse City.
Wylie East also earned votes in the 5A Top 40. Highland Park was selected to win 5A Div. I Region II and fall to Region III predicted champion Manvel.
Preseason district honors went to Highland Park quarterback John Stephen Jones on offense and West Mesquite free safety Drake Cheatum was the defensive pick.
Head coach Joe Lepsis brings back 16 lettermen, with four returning defensive starters and three offensively.
Players to watch for are Jordan Jeffrey, Justin Smith, LaeZhon Johnson, Corbin Johnson, Zack Halland, Zack Young and Darius Lark.
The Raiders made a nice run in the state playoffs last year, but lost 32 lettermen, including star running back and Arizona State signee Eno Benjamin. Replacing Benjamin won’t be easy, but Corbin Johnson has the talent to be the focal point in the Raiders’ spread offense. The defense will be young, but there are some key pieces to work with. Smith is the “heart and soul of the defense,” according to Lepsis. Jeffrey is hard to stop in the trenches and will give the Raiders an advantage in the trenches. They’ve been a postseason regular, but the Raiders will have to overcome youth this season.
Wylie East opens the year Sept. 1 with Rockwall-Heath at Wylie ISD Stadium. Remaining contests before district are with Hallsville (Sept. 8) and at Denton Ryan (Sept. 14).
Wylie Preparatory Academy
The Patriots were predicted to take second to Waco Methodist Children’s Home in TCAF Div. I, District 2.
Below them were McKinney The Cornerstone, Dallas Inspired Vision, Dallas Academy and Uplift Mighty Prep.
The state semifinalist returns seven lettermen, with five on the offensive side and four defensively under head coach Larry Uland. Key players are Gavyn Jarrett, Jack Spitaletto, Nico Ruiz, Aardus Minto, Brendan Dye, Dylan Boyd, Zack McWhorter, Michael Kerr, Zack Baughier, Christian Chambers, Lane Weiss, Henry Rhodes and Evan Weiss.
According to Dave Campbell’s, Jarrett has a big arm and plenty of power. Defensively, Spitaletto leads a speedy unit.
The Patriots open the season Sept. 2 with Savoy. Predistrict contests left on the slate are with Tioga (Sept. 9) and Fruitvale (Sept. 16), at Milford (Sept. 22) and with Founders Classical Academy (Sept. 30).
(For the complete story, see the July 5 edition of The Wylie News)