The Prestonwood Christian Academy football squad heads into 2017 on a mission to finish what they started in 2016. The Lions went unbeaten in district play a year ago, took down SPC champion All Saints in week one, then fell one game short of the state championship game after losing to Bishop Lynch in a nail biter in the semifinals.
If the Lions are to repeat as district champions, they will have to do so on the arm and legs of a new starting quarterback. M.J. Rivers led the team in passing and rushed for over 1,100 yards last season and has since transferred to Frisco Lone Star. Rivers’ departure gives opportunity for senior Wiley Green to lead Prestonwood back to state in 2017. Green saw limited action at QB a year ago but has put in the work to be successful. An indication of that hard work is the first college offer Green received from Brown University. The Jonathan Moxon similarities probably stop there.
The Lions will have a ton of viable options for Green to utilize in 2017. The biggest target for Green will be Oklahoma commit, tight end Austin Stogner. The junior hauled in 5 TD receptions last season and will be the most visible option on the field at 6’6″. Also returning is Josh Cunningham, the top returning receiver, who also sees time at running back. Newcomer Ricky Baker, a transfer from Denton Guyer, and sophomore Luke Savage round out one the top receiving corps in the state.
In the backfield, expect Cunningham and sophomore Ian Kelly to carry the load. Kelly rushed the ball 52 times as a freshman and averaged 6.6 yards per carry. Prestonwood should be able to get similar results in 2017 due to a very seasoned offensive line. Anchoring that line will be center Jake Kell, a 4-year starter, and Austin Rodriguez, who will be starting for his third season. Add in the experience of seniors Nick Crouse and Ian Hebert and you have a very solid line and maybe most experienced in TAPPS I-1.
Defensively, the Lions will be led by Duke commit, Jeremiah Lewis. The senior DB will share the defensive backfield with junior Virdel Edwards (6’2″, 180) and Solomon Turner (6’2″, 205), both juniors. Matthew O’Reilly, a junior, returns at linebacker.
The PCA defensive line is stacked to open the season. Returning is all-state winner Harrison Haynes (6’2″, 306). The senior had 3 sacks last season and fills the gap to stop the run. Sam Boese, a senior, returns and gives the Lions a quick option at defensive end. Boese comes back after collecting 50 tackles and 6 sacks in 2016. Pierce DeVaughn (6’4″, 220) is a transfer senior from Frisco High School and and will add immediate help to an already experienced defensive line.
On paper, there is not much reason to think the Prestonwood Lions are not capable of repeating the success of last season. Having to replace the team’s leading rusher and passer will be a tough task but the Lions have the personnel to make a return trip to state. Coach Chris Cunningham feels confident his team will have a successful year. “We should be strong, but we are in a strong district.” The experience and abundance of skill players should give Prestonwood an advantage over their district foes, but the Lions will have to stay healthy and make key plays just like everyone else.
The first team units are among the best in the state, but a lack of depth could prevent the Lions from taking down the other state heavyweights come playoff time. PCA will need to improve their defense to make a serious title run and having the upperclassmen leadership and experience is the way to do that. The Lions defense surrendered almost 35 points a game a year ago, a statistic that should improve.
We will get a chance to see how deep the Prestonwood squad is when they kickoff the season against TAPPS newcomer and defending SPC champion, All Saints. The Lions defeated the Saints in week one last year only to get pummeled by Episcopal the next week (70-21). That loss made for a long bus ride back to Plano the team has not forgotten.
Prestonwood opens district play after the bye week on September 29, at Liberty Christian.
Record: 10-2 (7-0, 1st TAPPS I-1)
Playoffs: Concordia Lutheran (57-21), Bishop Lynch (43-48)
Head Coach: Chris Cunningham – 23rd year, 141-84 (87-27 at Prestonwood)
Coaching Staff: Steven Greek (OC), Chris Jones (DC), Robert McAllister (OL/DL), Scott Turner (DB), Odell James (WR), Michael Keith; Michael Roach (LB), Shanon Purcell (QB), Eric Diaz (RB)
Bryce Young – WR
Nate Tribon – OL (TAMU-Commerce)
MJ Rivers – QB (Frisco Lone Star)
9/1 – All Saints
9/8 – Episcopal (Bellaire)
9/15 – @ Lake Dallas
9/29 – @ Liberty Christian
10/6 – Parish
10/13 – @ Bishop Lynch
10/20 – Nolan Catholic
10/27 – @ Bishop Dunne
11/3 – John Paul II
11/10 – @ TCA
2017 Roster: MaxPreps