FOOTBALL 2020: Milam County rivals Cameron Yoe and Rockdale aiming to extend long playoff streaks
By GREG WILLE
Milam County rivals Cameron Yoe and Rockdale begin the 2020 high school football season seeking to extend their long playoff streaks and eventually do some damage in the postseason.
Yoe has competed in the playoffs 10 consecutive seasons and has recorded three 11-win seasons in Tommy Brashear's four years as the Yoemen's head coach. Yoe begins its season tonight, hitting the road to play Mexia at 7:30.
Meanwhile, Rockdale begins Jacob Campsey's first season as head coach (he was promoted after serving as defensive coordinator) with a road test against La Grange at 7:30 tonight.
Longtime coach Jeff Miller guided the Tigers to eight straight playoff trips – including the Class 3A Division I state championship in 2017 – before leaving during the offseason to become the head coach at Houston Cy-Fair, his alma mater.
Texas Football magazine ranks Rockdale No. 7 in the state and Yoe No. 11 in its preseason 3A D-I rankings.
Both Yoe and Rockdale play their home openers next Friday. The Yoemen will host Bellville – coached by former Troy coach Grady Rowe – and the Tigers will take on Taylor.
Yoe compiled a strong 2019 season, beating West and Diboll in the 3A Division I playoffs before losing 45-14 in a Region III semifinal to Grandview, the eventual back-to-back state champion.
Rockdale put together an 8-2 regular season last year but was eliminated in the bi-district round with a 42-7 loss to Grandview, which also was responsible for ending Troy's 12-2 season in the regional final.
Yoe and Rockdale will compete in the new seven-team District 11-3A Division I along with Academy, Troy, McGregor and down-from-4A schools Caldwell and Lorena. The Yoemen's district opener is its Sept. 25 homecoming game against Caldwell at Yoe Field. The Tigers' league opener is Sept. 25 at McGregor.
Rockdale will host Yoe on Oct. 2 in their annual “Battle of the Bell” rivalry clash. The Yoemen have won the last two meetings, including 31-3 at Rockdale last season.
With eight returning starters on each side of the ball, Rockdale is predicted by Texas Football to win the 11-3A-I championship, with No. 9 Troy picked second and Yoe third.
Rockdale's most dynamic offensive player is senior running back Cam'Ron Valdez, who rushed for 1,662 yards and 27 touchdowns last season. His college scholarship offers include Texas Christian, Texas Tech, Houston, Southern Methodist, Oklahoma State, Arizona, Arizona State, Arkansas, Georgia Tech, Iowa State, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Purdue, Vanderbilt and West Virginia.
Experienced senior quarterback Jace Robinson passed for 2,450 yards and 33 touchdowns last season, and speedy receiver KeSean Raven racked up 900 receiving yards and 11 TDs. He's also a key defensive player in the secondary.
Yoe lost a slew of standout players to graduation after its 11-win campaign, but the cupboard is far from bare despite the Yoemen's roster looking younger than normal. Aiding the cause will be many players from Yoe's 10-0 junior varsity team last season.
Fleet-footed receiver Za'Korien Spikes made 37 catches for 904 yards and 10 touchdowns last year, and he's a preseason all-state selection by Texas Football. He'll have a new quarterback throwing to him after the graduation of Braden Brashear, the head coach's son and two-year starter who passed for 2,904 yards and 35 TDs in 2019.
One of Yoe's best linebackers last year, junior Zane Zeinert was competing with two other players for the starting quarterback job during preseason camp.
The Yoemen's other top returning performers include defensive lineman Eduardo Gil, linebacker Fabian Salomon and cornerback Iverson Braziel. Athletic sophomore receiver/cornerback Pharrell Hemphill is an emerging prospect.