We are just three weeks away from KPLC's coverage of Two-A-Days and to get ready we continue our 7-in-Seven countdown.
Countdowns will include topics from McNeese to high school football. A new countdown each week, beginning every Monday.
We continue the countdown with the top seven teams this upcoming season.
7. Leesville Wampus Cats (7-5 in 2016)
A lot of competition for the first spot on this list, but Leesville starts it off thanks to returning skill positions and an experienced defense. The Wampus Cats had a bounce back season in 2016, one that saw them win a playoff game and a co-district championship.
Leesville brings back only four starters on offense, lead by quarterback Chris Vargas (who moves over from defense). Leesville returns a pair of offensive lineman to help anchor the line. The true strength of the offense will come from skill position players McKenzie Jackson, Andrew Croker and Duwon Tolbert.
Defensively, the Wampus Cats have a lot of speed to replace, but they are strong on the back end and at linebacker. Sabian Matuu is the heart and soul of that unit at linebacker, while Jackson and Ellis man the secondary. Talyn Adams should be the key cog on the defensive line.
Overall Leesville has some high-end talent to replace, but with the move to a more even district, the Wampus Cats should make some noise in 2017.
6. Sulphur Golden Tors (8-4 in 2016)
Sulphur comes in at number six off the school's best season in nearly a decade. The Tors won a playoff game, a co-district championship and gave the eventual state champs a scare in the second round of the playoffs.
Sulphur returns five offensive starters, but must replace its all-time leading passer (Byron Walker) and rusher (J'Cobi Skinner). The Tors should be in good hands with quarterback Morgan Clark and running back Glenn Willis replacing the departing stars. Clark saw action in four games in 2016 including starting Sulphur's 31-21 win over Iowa. Willis rushed for 846 yards and 11 touchdowns a year ago splitting time with Skinner. Houston commit Christian Trahan (617 yards, five touchdowns) also returns at tight end. The biggest question mark will be on the offensive line, as Sulphur must replace three starters.
On defense, seven starters are back led by linebacker Michael DuFresne, safety Connor Cook and defensive lineman Slade Manlief. The trio of captains helped the defense come on late last season, and it should be a strength again this year. The defense is switching from a 4-3 base to a 3-4 multiple scheme, thanks to an abundance of linebackers.
Sulphur saw a resurgence under Jeff Wainwright in his third season in 2016, and with the talent in tow, it doesn't look like they are going anywhere soon.
5. Barbe Bucs (9-2 in 2016)
Down to number 5 and the Barbe Buccaneers enter the list. The Bucs lose a large senior class off a 9-2 season, but Barbe still has some strong pieces returning, especially on offense.
Four starters are back on offense, including a large portion of the receiving core (KeAndre Turner, Jaylon Smith, Devon Pauley). However, the Bucs must replace its second all-time leading rusher (Kirkland Banks) and passer (Gavin Nettles), along with its third all-time leading receiver (Nate Briscoe). A quarterback battle will ensue between Luke Richard and Ryan Smith, although Richard enters the season with starting experience from last season. Barbe will lean on running back-by-committee to replace Banks. Dana Fontenot, Javion Samuel and Dylan Lewis will each be given a workload. Only one lineman returns in Sean White. The Bucs line will be young, but won't lack size.
On defense, the defensive line will be the strength. Five Buc starters are back, led by defensive linemen C.J. Semien, LaMarcus Benton and Chandler Crawford. Only three starters return from the linebackers and secondary, so it's safe to say, it all starts up front for Barbe.
Despite the losses, Barbe is as well equipped to lose a big class as anyone in the state. The Bucs should be solid once again.
4. Oberlin Tigers (9-3 in 2016)
Another year older, another year wiser. That's the mantra of the Oberlin Tigers entering coach Durell Peloquin's second year as head coach. Oberlin pounded their way to the number four seed in the 1A playoffs a year ago, and the Tigers return key cogs from that team.
On offense, five starters return led by quarterback James Kirklin. The athletic signal caller gave defenses fits in 2016 with his legs and he boosts Oberlin up with his leadership. The rest of the backfield however, will be brand new. Collin Chatman and Cheyanne Citizen will take over wing spots, while last season's junior varisty quarterback, Levi Peloquin, will be the fullback. On the offensive line, the Tigers only have to replace the tight end and center position.
The defense should once again be a talking point for the Tigers. Oberlin's defensive line will be the strength led by Tucker Fontenot, Laronzo Gradney and all-state tackle Mackenzie Carrier. Trooper Peloquin is also back to provide a spark. The front-end starters are there for the Tigers, but Oberlin must develop depth down the stretch.
The Tigers are coming off a disappointing end to 2016 that left the team with a sour taste in their mouth. The Tigers are the favorite in district 4-1A as Oberlin should make another strong run to the playoffs.
3. Kinder Yellow Jackets (10-3 in 2016)
The Kinder Yellow Jackets come in at three just two years removed from a state title. Kinder looks to be primed once again for another deep playoff run.
The Jackets only return three starters on offense, quarterback Trent Johnson will look to be relied on with his arm and his legs. His impact late in the season gave Kinder a much needed spark. In the backfield, Kinder must replace all-time leading rusher, Taylor Johnson. A running back-by-committee approach will be used to do just that. Hayden Thomas moves over from defense to take over Taylor's spot, AJ Hall will be used there too. Thomas Roberts, Jordan Cordova and Mike Fontenot will get carries as well. The Jackets take quite the hit on the offensive line with only Kaden Granger back as the lone starter.
Defense meanwhile brings back six starters, it'll be the strength of this team. Cordova, Joey McNeely and the rest of the front seven will anchor the unit. The secondary also returns most of its contributors from 2016. The Jacket defense will give Kinder the advantage in most games they play.
Kinder will have its chance to prove its worth in district vs the likes of Notre Dame and of course, Welsh.
2. Iowa Yellow Jackets (11-2 in 2016)
From Yellow Jacket to Yellow Jacket. Iowa comes in rank second off a quarterfinal run in 2016 that saw them fall just short vs dome team Amite. The Jackets have some pieces to replace on defense, but the offense should be buzzing once again.
Iowa returns nine offensive starters off a team that averaged over 37 points per game last season. Quarterback Dyami Huntsberry is back off a terrific season. His arm will still be the key factor in this offense, but just as we did in the back half of 2016, his running ability will be showcased too. A large portion of his receiving core returns. Wide receiver Cole Fleming remains on the outside and Marka'il Nixon slides over from the slot to replace Andre Sam. Running back is the biggest question mark. Junior Jedd Self is the projected starter coming in and Darious Daniels will slide over from defense to take carries too. The most impressive stat however is the fact that all five offensive lineman are back as well.
Defensively, the Jackets took their largest hit. Six starters are back, but all five seniors lost were all-district players. The strength of the unit a year ago was the defensive line, but that's also where Iowa lost a bulk of its starters. The Jackets however, feel good about the depth there being able to rotate in six different lineman. The secondary may be the best unit for the defense. McNeese commit Darious Daniels leads the way at free safety with Jaron Dugas (cornerback), Bryce Buquet (safety), Garren Richard (defensive back) and Koby Batiste (defensive back) providing major minutes.
The Jackets were one of seven local teams to change coaches this offseason. Head coach Tommy Johns has a lot of talent to work with his first year as Iowa enters the season the favorite to win the district.
1. Welsh Greyhounds (11-1 in 2016)
And so there was one. This was easily the toughest call to make on this list. Both Welsh and Iowa return nine offensive starters and at least half of its defense. I give the slight edge to Welsh because of quarterback Zach Hayes and the fact the Greyhounds are comparable, but play at a lower level.
Once again the Welsh offense will give defenses nightmares in 2017. Nine starters return including quarterback Zach Hayes. The dual-threat QB has added 15 pounds of muscle in the offseason and is now up to four college offers. His development has allowed the Greyhounds to implement a no-huddle, high-tempo offense in order to "crank it up another notch." Charlie Watkins enters as the starter at running back and Reggie Jackson will spilt carries. Wide receiver will also be a strength with Da'ren Zeno, Austyn Benoit, Ahmad Thorne and David Kelly. Tight end and short yardage specialist Pearse Migl also returns. Three starters are back on the offensive line-- Dylan Hughes, John Mayes and Ryan McKenzie.
On defense, the Greyhounds welcome back seven starters including linebacker Josh Pickle. Pickle is the leader on defense and was a key cog in the Welsh defense a year ago. He'll start the year rehabbing an injury he suffered late last season. The front seven will be the strength with Johnathan Daigle (defensive end), Dominic Prudhomme (defensive tackle) and Conner Richert (defensive end) all playing a big role. Brothers Iguess will also makes moves on defense. Alec moves from safety down into the box at linebacker and Cade will transition from free safety to strong safety.
They Greyhounds have the opportunity to make a deep run as they did in 2015. The district will challenge Welsh, but the Greyhounds should come out prepared to make some noise.