The Fairfield Eagles football squad finds itself in a different territory this season after a reclassification to 3A Division 1 for the 2020 season.
A move back to 3A means a new slate of opponents for the Eagles, who finished 7-5 (3-3 district) in 4A Division II play last season.
One source that sees the Eagles making immediate waves in District 8-3A play is the annual Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine, which previews gridiron action on the high school, college and professional level.
The magazine broke down more than 1,400 Texas high school programs, including the Eagles’ division. In the District 8-3A preview, the magazine predicted a Fairfield second-place finish in the division, only behind Malakoff.
Three offensive and three defensive starters are returning to the field for the Eagles, with 22 lettermen departing after the 2019 campaign. The returning veterans for coach John Bachtel’s team include DB/WR Dylon Rushin, OL Bosque Monico and LB Luke Latham.
“Bachtel feels like his senior class and lack of experience are the two biggest hurdles for a successful 2020,” the preview noted.
The magazine also mentioned the return of DB/RB Tyler Smith, who was forced to miss 2019 due to injury. Smith picked up sports action during basketball season this past winter, and quickly became a pivotal member of coach Cannon Earp’s crew.
The Malakoff Tigers, the favorites in the district, were 11-2 (5-0 district) in 2019, making a run to the regional semifinals. The team brings back six offensive and five defensive starters from the dominant 2019 group, including Quarterback Darion Peace.
Peace, selected as preseason offensive Most Valuable Player for the district, accounted for 2,700 passing yards and 30 touchdowns in the 2019 campaign. According to the magazine, the twoyear starter “makes good decisions with the football.” The Tigers also bring defensive wrecker Zamir Ruiz back for 2020. Ruiz, called “a terror for opposing offenses” by the magazine, accounted for 65 tackles (22 for a loss) and seven sacks in the 2019 season.
Other district opponents for the Eagles will be Eustace, Groesbeck, Kemp and Teague.
The Eustace Bulldogs finished 2-8 (1-4 district) last season, but return 16 of the team’s 22 starters for 2020. The program will now be under the lead of coach Monty Leaf, who will be installing new systems on both sides of the ball in his first year at Eustace.
The Groesbeck Goats finished 2-8 (0-6 district) in 2019, yet also return 16 starters for this season. Among the standouts on the Goats roster are QB Allen Lewis, who started the final eight games of 2019, and OL Aaron Tyus, who was a second-team all-district selection as a junior.
The Kemp Yellow Jackets finished 3-8 (2-3 district) in 2019, and was a bi-district finalist. Coach Lee Wilkins’ unit returns 15 starters from last year’s campaign, including strong offensive and defensive line units. DE Tanner Mullen returns as the team’s best pass rusher, aided by 2019 team tackles leader Trent McBride at linebacker. The Teague Lions, Fairfield’s closest rival, are coming off of a 4-7 (3-3 district) campaign in 2019, where the team was a bi-district finalist.
Coach Donnie Osborn’s unit brings back 13 starters from last season, including SS Juan Bernal. Bernal, picked as the preseason defensive Most Valuable Player by the magazine, recorded 114 tackles and an interception in 2019.
On the offensive end, returning RB Nemier Herod will carry the load, having ran for 945 yards and 11 touchdowns last season.
Non-district opponents for the Eagles will be Rusk, Brownsboro, Athens and Robinson.
Dave Campbell’s Texas Football 2020 is now available in local stores and newsstands, with a retail price of $11.95.