While the preseason Super 25 football rankings won’t come out until late July, this is one of a series of teams that could contend in the Super 25 high school football rankings next season. We previously looked at De La Salle (Concord, Calif.), South Panola (Batesville, Miss.), Colquitt County (Moultrie, Ga.), Miami (Fla.) Central, Chandler, Ariz, DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md., IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) and Allen, Texas.
Team: Cedar Hill, Texas
2014 finish: The Longhorns went 14-2, won the state 6A-II title and finished as the No. 20 team in the Super 25 football rankings.
Tradition: The Longhorns have played in three consecutive state championship games and won the past two. Coach Joey McGuire has won three titles (2006, 2013 and 2014) since taking over as head coach in 2003.
Spring football: April 27-May 22, ending with the team’s spring game last Friday.
2015 schedule highlights: The Longhorns play host to 6A-I state semifinalist Skyline (Dallas) on Sept. 11. They close with a trio of tough district opponents in DeSoto on Oct. 23, at a vastly improved Mansfield on Oct. 29 and on Nov. 5, the Longhorns host South Grand Prairie (Grand Prairie), which lost to Cedar Hill by two points last year.
Top returnees (years listed are for next school year): Junior running back Jaylen Jackson, who had 520 total yards last season as a returner, receiver and running back; quarterback Avery Davis, who played well in the spring practices; and wide receivers Josh Stewart and Camron Buckley.
Top newcomer: Senior DB Michael Clark, a transfer from Sachse. He played cornerback last season but the senior will likely play safety for Cedar Hill. He has committed to Kansas.
Toughest to replace: DaMarkus Lodge, a first-team ALL-USA wide receiver who will play for Ole Miss next season and had 1,401 total yards and 26 touchdowns; Southern Cal signee Aca’Cedric Ware, a running back who ran for 2,440 yards and 34 touchdowns; and Liberty signee Denvre Daniels, who ran for 1,170 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Outlook: Joey McGuire turned down an offer to be an assistant coach at Texas to have a chance to coach his son, Garret, who will be a junior quarterback, receiver and deep snapper next season. It also didn’t hurt McGuire’s decision that the Longhorns return a solid defense, with five returning starters and nine players who saw plenty of game action.
“I’m really excited about our defense,” McGuire said. “All four of our secondary guys have offers.”
Davis, who played in six games last season, was a standout in the spring. He will have to adjust to playing behind a rebuilt offensive line as the Longhorns graduated four of their five starting linemen.
“I’ve had some great quarterbacks and I think Avery will be one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation,” McGuire said. “He had a great spring and he’s going to be our leader. How is plays is how we are going to go.”
Though the Longhorns don’t have as many four or five-star players this year, Cedar Hill’s system is based on a fast tempo and using the team’s depth.
“We call it Longhorn speed,” McGuire said. “It’s really not how fast you are in the 40. It’s all about movement and how fast you can go for a certain amount of time. We haven’t won a district track meet in 10 years. There are faster teams but we can play faster longer. Our goal is to find three people at each position so we really have three starters, so when those guys go in, there’s no dropoff. We don’t care who’s in the game, we have a chance. It also helps morale because guys have to be into the game because they’re more likely to play.”
McGuire was arrested on Driving While Intoxicated charges in April and said he accepted his punishment from the school district in the spring, rather than sit out a game in the fall.
“We did not want to affect the kids after my stupid decision,” McGuire said. “We wanted people to be writing about Avery Davis, not why I had to miss a game. It was demoralizing. It was embarrassing and it creates a shadow. I went from having a platform of turning down a college job to coach my son to having to talk about getting a DWI.”
McGuire said that because this year’s senior class doesn’t have as many highly recruited players, they come into the season wanting to prove something.
“Because of the success in the past, our kids do believe what we’ve been doing,” McGuire said. “We have five seniors who have offers, but they’ve heard, ‘You don’t have as big a name.’ They have gone through the offseason with a chip on their shoulder. Don’t think I haven’t fueled that fire. This senior class is really hungry.”