No. 1 state-ranked Manvel faces tough non-district schedule

MANVEL — Manvel is no stranger to accepting a tough challenge and they will have three formable opponents to kickoff the 2017 football campaign. Manvel enters the season as the pre-season No. 1 state 5A school.

Last season, some thought Manvel might start the season 0-3 since they were facing No. 2 pre-season ranked 5A Crosby, defending 6A state champion North Shore, and state-ranked Pearland in the first three weeks.

All the Mavericks did was to defeat all three decisively that set the tone for the rest of the season that saw them go 10-0 during the regular season, win the District 23-5A title, and make it to the 5A state quarterfinals before falling to Temple 24-23 to finish 13-1 overall in 2016. The Mavs have been to six state quarterfinals in the past seven years.

Once again, many are looking at Manvel as being a strong favorite to capture their first state football title as they are loaded with plenty of talent to take them to the Class 5A state throne room.

The success that Manvel has experienced under head coach Kirk Martin has attracted major colleges from all across the country to consider his players at the next level.

Martin has been at the helm of the Mavs since the day the school opened in 2007. Martin has an overall record of 95-24 and 53-11 in district action. The Mavs have won five district championships, 24-4A (2011), District 22-5A (2012, 2013), District 23-5A (2016), and District 22-6A (2014). Martin has been named district "Coach of the Year" several times and has also received "Coach of the Year" honors from the Touchdown Club of Houston in 2011.

Manvel returns six offensive and six defensive starters to go with 32 lettermen. They also have six players in the Chronicle's Area Top 100 players including: WR Jalen Preston (Texas A&M), DB Trent Gordon (Penn State), WR Kam Scott (Missouri), LB Brian Johnson (Texas A&M), RB Deneric Prince (Texas A&M), DE Steven Shaw (Undecided).

To further stack the deck for Manvel this season, a DI running back transferred to Manvel that adds to their explosive offense.

Garrison Johnson, a Division I running back prospect, confirmed he's transferring to Manvel High School. His father accepted a job in the Houston area.

Johnson, a Class of 2019 prospect and ranked a four-star tailback by 247Sports, holds offers from Nebraska and SMU.

As a sophomore, he ran for 1,568 yards and 18 touchdowns in limited games due to injury in Class 6A at Frenship High School outside of Lubbock. Johnson will join Texas A&M commit Deneric Prince in the Mavericks backfield.

Here are the non-district teams the Mavericks will face to start off the 2017 season.

Crosby Cougars - Friday, September 1 - at Crosby - 7:00 p.m.

Manvel faced Crosby last year in the season opener and the Cougars was a pre-season No. 2 pick. However, their place at the top didn't last long as the Mavs disposed of them 35-21 to knock them off.

Crosby managed a 9-3 overall mark last season and fell in the area round of the playoffs. They will have six offensive and four defensive starters returning with 25 lettermen this year. The Cougars are picked to defend their 21-5A crown.

The Coogs will be tested in their district by New Caney, Barbers Hill, Dayton, New Caney Porter, Humble, Kingwood Park, Splendora, and Caney Creek.

North Shore Mustangs - Thursday, September 7 - at Alvin Memorial Stadium - 7:00 p.m.

This game will match the No. 1 Class 5A team against the No. 10 Class 6A team in the second game of the season.

As expected -- it will probably be an offensive shootout, however, last year's contest wasn't decided until late in the game as Manvel scored late to post a thrilling 26-13 win.

North Shore is the favorite to capture the District 21-6A title and certainly a favorite to go deep in the playoffs. Both teams will be tested and will be striving to make an early statement to the rest of their competitors in 2017.

The Mustangs were 12-2 last season falling in the 6A Div. I finals in their quest to return to the state title game. They have three offensive and four defensive starters returning with 31 letterman. However, North Shore will be tested in their district by Atascocita, Kingwood, Summer Creek, Channelview, Baytown Sterling, C.E. King, and Goose Creek Memorial.

Pearland Oilers - Friday, September 15 - at Alvin Memorial Stadium - 7:00 p.m.

Manvel wasn't so kind to the Pearland Oilers last season as they traveled to The Rig and returned home with a lopsided 36-0 win.

Not offering an excuse, but the Oilers were hit by numerous injuries early in the season including Texas A&M commit QB Connor Blumrick who suffered a season-ending injury on the third play of the season opener against Clear Springs.

Pearland was on their third quarterback when they faced the Mavs and they virtually had no offense against the aggressive defense that Manvel put on the field.

This season Pearland returns nine offensive and eight defensive starters to go with 25 lettermen and hopefully the Oilers will offer greater resistance. Pearland advanced as an 6A area finalist.

The Oilers finished 8-4 in head coach Tony Heath last season at the helm of the Oilers as he retired after 20 years. Heath finished with a 195-53 career record including a 2010 Class 5A Div. I state championship.