RUSK — Rusk has made the playoffs in each of the past five seasons; yet the Eagles have not had a winning season since 2017 when the Red and Black went 9-3.
According to Dave Campbell's Texas Football magazine, the Eagles will make the playoffs this season and will finish in fourth place, behind Class 4A-II state champion Carthage, Jasper and Center.
Madisonville and Sheperd round out the order of finish.
Of the schools predicted to be in the post-season chase, Rusk has the second highest number of starters returning — 11 — and trails only Carthage, who has 13 starters returning.
A noteworthy returnee is quarterback Owen McCown, who verbally committed to Colorado earlier this year.
McCown was a late arrival from North Carolina last year and he didn't have much time to get familiar with his new surroundings before it was time to lace 'em up and get on the gridiron on Friday nights.
Despite that fact, he passed for 1.080 yards and nine touchdowns in his first season as a varsity starter.
With a full off season under his belt to refine his skills along side head coach Thomas Sitton and offensive coordinator Clint Harper, McCown should be ready for a senior season to remember.
Other key returnees on the offensive side include Trey Devereaux and Aiden McCown, Owen's younger brother. Devereaux and Aiden McCown should be on the receiving end of a fair number of passes from Owen McCown this fall.
Offensive linemen Micah Givens and Donavan Burist will be the focal points on the offensive line.
The Eagles also have at least one stud returning to the defensive side in linebacker Caleb Ferrera, a senior.
Ferrera racked up 122 tackles and made five stops for loss in 2020. He is one of the top defensive players in the entire district.
This will be Sitton's second season at the helm of the Eagle ship. It is often said that there is a big improvement in a team from a new head coach's first season to his second. If that holds true for the Eagles, it is not out of the question that Rusk could finish as high as second in the standings.
The Eagles open the season on Aug. 27 by entertaining Fairfield.
On Oct. 8, District 10-4A-II play will begin with the Eagles in Jasper to test the Bulldogs.