The end of one chapter gives way to the start of another, and such is the case for Plano ISD athletics.
After a successful, four-year run in 6-6A, all three PISD schools are headed to Region II where they will join Allen, McKinney ISD, Prosper and Jesuit in 9-6A for the upcoming high school athletics year.
Throughout the summer, Star Local Media will reflect on the year that was for 9-6A’s eight schools while also looking ahead to what lies in store for 2018-19.
With that said, here’s the first installment of Six Questions for District 9-6A.
1. Which 9-6A school had the most impressive athletics year in 2017-18?
Matt Welch: Allen not only turned in the best athletics year among the rest of their district counterparts, it stands to reason fans just watched the best athletics year in school history.
The Eagles made the playoffs in all eight bracket team sports, from the football team’s near-two-decade-long streak of consecutive postseason berths to the softball team advancing to the tournament for the first time in 13 years. Football, boys basketball and wrestling all concluded with UIL state championships, and Allen qualified athletes for state competition in tennis, track and swimming – medaling in the latter two.
Expectations will always be high at Allen, and despite its 6,500-plus enrollment and sharing a district with the second, third and fourth largest high schools in Texas, the Eagles somehow managed to raise the bar in 2017-18.
2. Which sport best exemplifies the depth of 9-6A in 2018-19?
Taylor Raglin: Trying to nail down a single sport that highlights the potential depth of this district is a tall order.
Ignoring Allen’s football and girls soccer dominance and McKinney Boyd earning an unsurprising boys soccer title, district champions and playoff surprises came from up and down the league. Plano West took the crown in volleyball, state champion Plano Senior took the state girls basketball title, Allen won state in boys basketball after a runner-up finish and the Lady Eagles made the softball postseason for the first time since 2005 – and that’s just some of what went on in the wild 6-6A landscape.
For the sake of making a prediction, it’s hard to argue any sport is more representative of the parity the new 9-6A could exhibit than baseball. Last season, Allen won 6-6A by two games largely thanks to a strong start, while West, Boyd and Plano all tied for second place.
Throw in Prosper – a perennial contender in 5A making the jump to the largest classification – and No. 2 seed out of the previous 9-6A incarnation Jesuit, and the league promises more of the same in 2019.
3. What lies ahead in the 9-6A cross country landscape in 2018?
Taylor Raglin: On the boys side, 6-6A champ Wylie won’t make the jump to 9-6A, which could open the door for a couple of strong PISD programs. West had both the first-place and runner-up finishers in last season’s district meet, with junior Pete Johnson taking the title and fellow junior Preston Wilschetz coming up just nine seconds shy of Johnson’s 16:06.36. The Wolves graduated just one of their best five district finishers and could be primed to make a run at the 9-6A trophy.
Plano East (third in 6-6A), Boyd (fourth) and McKinney (fifth) could also make runs, with Allen right behind that group in sixth. Newcomers Prosper and Jesuit will also be in the mix, as the Eagles took the 14-5A title last season and Jesuit brought home a runner-up finish in last year’s 9-6A.
For the girls, Boyd figures to be primed for strong season. While the Lady Broncos finished as runners-up to East this season, they’ll return all but one of their best five finishers, while East graduated Martha Brown, the Lady Panthers’ only top-10 finisher in 6-6A. Individually, Plano should make some noise with junior Ashlyn Hillyard – last year’s bronze medalist at state – back in the fold.
Just like on the boys side, Prosper won the 14-5A girls title handily and should be a player in 9-6A despite jumping up a classification.
4. What is the biggest challenge facing the new 9-6A?
Kendrick E. Johnson: The biggest challenge facing the new 9-6A will be getting through the Houston-area schools like the Cy Fair and Conroe districts in their respective sports.
In soccer, a lot of the best teams in the state will reside in 9-6A, 14-6A and 15-6A, basically meaning some of the best teams in the state will be eliminated by the regional quarterfinals.
Also, baseball and softball will be extremely tough to get through this region for 9-6A as those same districts are strong in those sports as well.
5. What should expectations be for Prosper in their first year as a Class 6A high school?
Bryan Murphy: Prosper’s reign of terror in Class 5A comes to an end this fall, but don’t be surprised if the Eagles can carry that over against the big dogs in 6A.
Prosper is coming off of dominant district title runs in 14-5A in volleyball, football, softball, baseball, girls basketball and girls and boys soccer but will have much stiffer competition over the next two years.
Although the number of district titles will undoubtedly dip against powerhouse programs such as Allen and Plano, the Eagles should remain atop in volleyball, girls basketball and baseball next season.
6. What are you looking forward to covering most with this new 9-6A alignment?
Matt Welch: One of the perks of realignment is the opportunity to cover new schools and how they shake up the competitive balance of the programs we’ve reported on for years. Couple that with Jesuit and Prosper sporting two well-rounded athletic programs, and it should make for a fun couple of years in 9-6A.
Kendrick E. Johnson: I’m looking forward to covering soccer for both boys and girls, as well as volleyball, because the playoff teams from 9-6A have legit chances to make deep playoff runs. Also, it will be very interesting to see how playing two less district games and having a bye in the middle of district affects the girls teams due to the addition of Jesuit.
Bryan Murphy: This one is easy for me, and it’s all about whether or not Prosper can maintain its dominance among Class 6A competition. Like I mentioned above, I firmly believe the Eagles will remain a playoff team in various sports, but it will be intriguing to see how they fare in football against the likes of juggernauts like Allen.
Taylor Raglin: I’m excited to see if 9-6A baseball can live up to the roller-coaster ride that was 2018’s 6-6A baseball campaign.
Can Allen once again embody every cliché in the book on its way to a title? How will 2015 5A state champ Prosper adapt?
The supply of interesting questions is nearly endless, and it’s hard to believe we’ll get anything less than another year of potentially bonkers answers.