After the dust had settled following last February's bi-annual realignment by the University Interscholastic League, the Rusk Eagles found themselves in a new, albeit more difficult conference, surrounded by mostly familier opponents.
Joining head coach Ted Patton's Red and Black from the old District 19-3A are Fairfield, Groesbeck and Mexia.
Completing District 7-4A-II's roster was the addition of Lorena and Waco Connally's Cadets.
Lorena went 9-2 a year ago while Connally forged out a 9-3 record.
Despite their success in 2013, it was Fairfield, however, that caused the gentlemen at Dave Campbell's Texas Football magazine to take note — DCTF has given their preseason nod to Fairfield, with the Cadets and Lorena pegged to come in second and third, respectively.
The Black Cats of Mexia are predicted to take fourth, with Groesbeck and Rusk completing the order of finish.
Fairfield has 17 carryovers from last year's state finalist team that went 15-1.
The maroon Eagles look to be especially gnarly on defense this year, with five starters returning.
Defensive tackle Josh Gallegos (6-foot-4, 240-pounds) leads the way and is coming off of an 80-tackle season a year ago.
Fairfield's vaunted 4-3 defense will also benefit from the services of Dedrick Garner, who racked up 109 tackles and 29 tackles for loss in 2013.
Connally's position of strength appears to be at running back where Josh Terrell (1,435 yards rushing, 25 touchdowns) and James Davis (1,147 yards rushing and seven touchdowns) both return.
Graduation losses took 27 letter winners away from Lorena, the most of any team in the district, but the folks at DCTF still believe there is enough returning talent for Lorena to be firmly entrenched into the playoff picture.
Mexia sports a massive defensive front and Black Cat quarterback, Jaylen Gipson, a sophomore, has a year of varsity seasoning under his belt and should be much improved. Gipson ran for just north of 400 yards last season.