Manvel Maverick football was back among Texas High School’s elite on the gridiron in 2019.
Kevin Hall’s squad captured the District 11-5A Division II title and was among the hottest 5A teams in the state until running into league foe Fort Bend Marshall in the state quarterfinals.
“We were disappointed in the way last year ended,” said Hall, whose team still finished an impressive 13-1.. “But I think we used it for a little motivation from January to March (until Covid-19 shut everything down).”
The Mavs will need that motivation going into the fall with the UIL realignment placing them back in the 5A Division I ranks and also in one of the toughest districts in the state, 10-5A. Manvel replaces defending state champion and AISD neighbor Shadow Creek, who moved up to Class 6A.
While returning only a combined four starters on both sides of the ball and facing the likes of Foster, Angleton, Hightower and Katy Paetow in league play, Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Magazine has placed the Mavs as one of the early contenders for the Region III crown.
“I really don’t pay too much attention to all that,” said Hall of the magazine’s prognostication. “I do think our district is tough enough where someone can play for a state championship.
“It can be one of several teams. You can go down the list. You are going to have to play every week.”
Manvel opens its season on Sept. 25 by hosting Dickinson at AISD’s Freedom Field, while playing at Crosby in week two on Oct. 2. Following an open date in week three, the Mavs close their non-district slate with defending 6A champion North Shore on the road. The matchup with the Mustangs is still tentative.
While the 10-5A schedule hasn’t been finalized yet, the district will be split up into two zones. Manvel joins Angleton, Hightower and Milby in Zone B, while Zone A consists of Katy Paetow, Foster, Kempner, Rosenberg Terry and Houston Wisdom.
“It’s a nine team district, so we (the district coaches) had to meet quite a bit to protect the schedule,” Hall said. “We have a lot of kids, who weren’t starters, but they got a lot of playing time. “We got to make sure that this last month of strength and conditioning gets us ready for Sept. 7 (the first day of regular workouts for all Texas High School football athletes). We’re going to be laboring on Labor Day.
“Hopefully we will be in the kind of shape that we won’t have to waste time conditioning. It needs to be strictly football and weight lifting.”
After losing running back Donovan Eaglin to graduation, along with receiver Jalen Paxton and quarterback Tucker Yarborough, the Mavs will look to reload offensively behind the running back duo of Jordon Vaughn (6-3, 215, 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash) and Demonte Seymour (5-8, 205, 4.6), receivers Jalen Walthall (6-2, 180, 4.6) and Zion Johnkins and lineman Hunter Schroeder (6-1, 20, 4.9).
The biggest question mark for Hall and company entering the season appear to be trying to replace the vacancy under center. There are currently four individuals vying for the QB spot.
“It’s going to take a while. We just don’t know yet,” said Hall of the QB decision. “It’s a process, not an event.
“Vaughn and Johnkins are really ranked high in their senior class, so we have a couple of brain surgeons there, which is real nice. Jalen Walthall is also a tremendous receiver. Schroeder will be the leader of the (offensive line) bunch. We just have a bunch of guys who have to step up and be good, because of the people we’re playing. The ones who are there, though, are busting their tails.”
Linebacker Justin Medlock (6-1, 215, 4.6) earned all-district first team honors last year and looks again to make a major impact on the Mavs’ defense, along with ends J.P. Deeter (6-3, 260, 4.8) and Josh Kennard.
“I think our defensive line is going to be a strength and that we’re going to have good size up front,” Hall said. “We could conceivably start eight underclassmen on defense, so they’re going to have to grow up in a hurry.
“We should be better defensively, overall. The question is when. How quick can they mature? The first time they walk out there and see a Dickinson or Crosby, how are they going to respond?”
The third-year head coach also sees junior Brook Honore as a potential weapon on the Mavs’ special teams’ unit.
“This is something else we have this year,” Hall said. “Brook finished last year as our starting punter and has really worked his tail off. People underestimate the use of a good punter.”
Campbell projects the four playoff seeds in 10-5A going to Manvel, Foster, Hightower and Angleton. The Mavs ranked sixth in the 5A Division I preseason poll. Denton Ryan heads the list, followed by Frisco Lone Star, Longview, Highland Park, Lancaster, Manvel, Foster, Cedar Park, Red Oak and Amarillo Tascosa.
The next 15 teams in the 11-25 order include Lufkin, Frisco Independence, Colleyville Heritage, Abilene Cooper, Corpus Christi Veterans Memorial, College Station, Corpus Christi Flour Bluff, Hightower, Weslaco East, Friendswood, Dripping Springs, Azle, Mansfield Summit, Amarillo and Lubbock Coronado.