After the UIL’s biennial realignment in February dropped the Eagles to Class 5A Division I, the Eagles will be playing in District 2-5A Division I with Amarillo High, Amarillo Caprock, Amarillo Tascosa, Lubbock Cooper, Lubbock Coronado, and Lubbock Monterey. Six of the seven teams in the new district made the playoffs last year (Monterey failed to reach the post-season), and the seven teams posted a combined record of 54-30.
Lubbock Cooper was 13-2 and was a Class 5A Division II semifinalist but moves up to Division I for at least the next two seasons. Tascosa was 10-3 and reached the Division I regional semifinals and is picked to win the district in 2022 by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine. Abilene High is picked to finish second with Lubbock Cooper and Amarillo High rounding out the top four spots.
The Eagles have plenty of experience back on the defensive side of the ball, including perhaps the best secondary in the district in returning starters Noah Hatcher, Jaysen Henley, Kwame Collins, and Beckham Paul, all of whom earned post-season accolades in 2021. Henley was the district’s Defensive Newcomer of the Year in 2021, first team all-district, and an All-Big Country selection by the Abilene Reporter-News. Hatcher was also an All-Big Country selection.
Also returning are linebackers Andres Abril and Zak Davila, as well as defensive linemen Tristan Hall and Anthony Hernandez. All four earned all-district honors, including a first-team selection for Hernandez.
Offensively, the Eagles must find a replacement for Abel Ramirez, who started at quarterback each of the past two seasons and was the District 2-6A Offensive MVP in 2021. Those battling to take the position are Dylan Slack, Beckham Paul, Brelon Badon, and Rylan Stokes. Junior running back Antoine “Bam” Rashaw was a second team all-district selection in 2021 after rushing for 409 yards and six touchdowns on just 69 carries. He should get the lion’s share of the carries in 2022, and he appears to have the skills to continue the Eagles’ long-standing heritage of great talent at the running back position.
Jaycob Parker is one of the few returning players with experience on the offensive line, one of Fullen’s biggest concerns going into the season. However, he also believes that the Eagles’ defense will be strong enough to give the offense time to grow, even facing a difficult schedule that includes non-district games against Class 6A opponents Odessa Permian, Midland Legacy, and Frenship in addition to the Crosstown Showdown against Cooper (new this season to District 2-5A Division II). The Eagles won’t have a breather as they play 10 straight weeks before they finally have a bye on the final weekend of the regular season.
That, however, doesn’t change the focus for the 2022 Eagles.
“Our goals are the same: to compete for a district championship and a state playoff berth,” Fullen said. “We want to embrace the process of getting better each week and focus on what it takes to get where want to go, rather than only focusing on where we want to go.”
ABILENE HIGH SCHOOL 2022 FOOTBALL PREVIEW
Coach (seasons as head coach / overall record): Mike Fullen (4th season / 16-16)
Last season (overall record, district record, district finish): 7-4 overall (5-1, 2nd place in District 2-6A)
Last playoff appearance (year, result): 2021 (Lost 1st round to El Paso Eastwood)
Last district championship (year): 2016 (6-0 in District 3-6A)
2022 District and Opponents: District 2-5A Division I (Amarillo Tascosa, Lubbock Cooper, Amarillo High, Lubbock Coronado, Lubbock Monterey, Amarillo Caprock)
Lettermen Returning / Lost: 35/30
Starters Returning: 5 offense / 6 defense
Top Returners (name, classification, position, 2021 honors): Noah Hatcher, sr, DB/Athlete (2nd team All-District 2-6A, All-Big Country); Jaysen Henley, sr, DB/WR (District 2-6A Defensive Newcomer of the Year, 1st team All-District 2-6A, All-Big Country); Kwame Collins, sr, DB (2nd team All-District 2-6A); Beckham Paul, jr, DB/QB (2nd team All-District 2-6A); Andres Abril, sr, LB (2nd team All-District 2-6A); Zak Davila, sr, OLB (2nd team All-District 2-6A); Tristan Hall, sr, DE (2nd team All-District 2-6A); Anthony Hernandez, jr, DL (1st team All-District 2-6A); Kevion Williams, sr, DB; Jaycob Parker, sr, OL/DL (honorable mention All-District 2-6A); Austin Wood, sr, WR (honorable mention All-District 2-6A); Antoine “Bam” Rashaw, jr, RB (2nd team All-District 2-6A); Brelon Badon, jr, WR/QB; Tim Outlaw, sr, DB/WR.
Top Newcomers (name, classification, position): Collin Simpson, jr, DL; Kenneth Johnson, sr, OLB; Jackson Howle, jr, WR; Chad Lara, jr, RB; Miguel Hernandez, sr, OL.
2022 Team Strength – Defensive Experience
2022 Team Weakness – Inexperience on offense
2022 Team Goals – Compete for a district championship and a berth in the state playoffs
Coach Fullen says: “We want to embrace the process of getting better each week and focus on what it takes to get where want to go, rather than only focusing on where we want to go.”
2022 Abilene High Schedule
Friday, Aug. 26 – vs. Odessa Permian, 7 p.m. (Shotwell Stadium)
Friday, Sept. 2 – vs. Abilene Cooper, 7 p.m. (Shotwell Stadium; AHS is the home team)
Friday, Sept. 9 – at Midland Legacy, 7 p.m. (Grande Communications Stadium)
Friday, Sept. 16 – vs. Frenship, 7 p.m. (Shotwell Stadium)
* Friday, Sept. 23 – vs. Lubbock Monterey, 7 p.m. (Shotwell Stadium)
* Friday, Sept. 30 – at Amarillo Tascosa, 7 p.m. (Dick Bivins Stadium)
* Friday, Oct. 7 – vs. Amarillo Caprock, 7 p.m. (Shotwell Stadium)
* Friday, Oct. 14 – at Lubbock Cooper, 7 p.m. (Pirate Stadium)
* Friday, Oct. 21 – vs. Lubbock Coronado, 7 p.m. (Shotwell Stadium)
* Friday, Oct. 28 – at Amarillo High, 4 p.m. (Dick Bivins Stadium)
* District 2-5A Division I game