Despite UIL realignment, Class 2A, DI Valley Mills Eagles find itself themselves right back in another district with some of state’s best
VALLEY MILLS – Coming off back-to-back trips to the postseason in 2018 and 2019, the Valley Mills Eagles have come up short in their quest to return to the playoffs during the last two seasons.
With overall team speed and experience at key positions, Valley Mills’ second-year athletic director and football head coach Bob Featherston thinks the Eagles just might have what it takes to get into the postseason tournament.
But to do so, Valley Mills will have to get past some of the best the state has to offer in what could be considered Class 2A, Division I’s “district of doom.”
While leaving behind Rio Vista, Hamilton and Tolar as District 7-2A, DI opponents, seventh-ranked Crawford and Bosqueville will join Valley Mills in moving to District 8-2A, DI, which will include fourth-ranked Marlin, Bruceville-Eddy, Moody, Riesel and Rosebud-Lott.
“I was little surprised on moving that direction,” Featherston said. “I’m not sure when Valley Mills has gone that direction. It’s going to be a tough district, just like last year.
“Going to an eight-team district definitely changes how things can play out for the playoffs, more scenarios, etc. Central Texas has good football whichever direction you go, so that doesn’t change how you approach the season. It’s going take good football to win games.
“We are in a very tough district the next two years, but we were in a tough district the previous two years also. I think we have a lot of good football players with experience and it will be some exciting football throughout the season. Can’t wait to see how the kids respond.”
With five offensive and six defensive starters returning from a squad that finished in fifth place just missing a playoff berth, Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine picked the Eagles to finish sixth this season behind Marlin, Crawford, Bosqueville, Rosebud-Lott and Riesel.
“I think the actual placement of teams is going to be very different when the smoke clears,” Featherston said. “We feel that we have the right combination of players to compete with anyone that steps on the field.
“Marlin and Crawford both have a lot of seniors returning from deep playoff runs. But with our type of offense and physical defensive play, we feel that we are a top four team in the district.
“Of course, kids have to stay healthy and continue to get better every week in order for that to happen. It’s going to be fun for sure.”
With only 13 returning lettermen, depth at various positions remain a concern entering the season. But junior Elandis Taylor returns as the signal caller after passing for 1, 954 yards and 22 touchdowns and rushing for three more scores last season.
“We must eliminate turnovers on offense, become more efficient in the red zone, and develop a greater sense of urgency when we have the ball,” Festerston said. “Defensively, we must eliminate big plays and make teams show they can drive the length of the field without mistakes. It is also important for us to make plays defensively when given the chance.
“We had too many missed opportunities on both sides of the ball last year. I think with the experience coming back and development in the weight room, we are a much better football team.”
Defensively, the Eagles will be led by senior defensive end Pecos Dutschmann (75 tackles, 15 tackles for losses in 2021), junior safety Cason Johnson (65 tackles, two interceptions), sophomore defensive lineman Josh McKain (60 tackles, two TFL) and junior linebacker Will McDonald (57 tackles, six TFL).
Following the first scrimmage against Meridian, Featherston liked what he saw from the Eagles on both sides of the ball.
“A lot things factor into football games especially at the 2A level with a limited number of athletes,” Featherston said. “If we keep improving in the off-season, and can stay healthy, I believe this team can compete well in this district and have a great season.”
Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS
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