ALLEN WRESTLING

Johnny Green won a state title at last weekend’s state wrestling tournament in Cypress, one of five Eagles that won gold on the way to Allen’s 10th consecutive team title in the boys competition.

With the book having closed on 2019, it’s time to look back on the year that was in Allen-area athletics.

This year was clad in noteworthy moments across all sports for Allen and Lovejoy, including playoff success and championships won at the district and state levels.

The Allen American sports staff has compiled its top 10 sports stories of the year.

10. Gordon sprints to silver

Lovejoy sprinter Ryan Gordon wasn’t even assured a spot at the state track and field meet upon finishing third at regionals back in May. 

Gordon still found his way to Austin via a wildcard spot in the 200-meter dash and didn’t let the opportunity go to waste — running a personal-record 21.14 that was good enough to place second overall at state.

Gordon also ran a leg in Lovejoy’s 4x200 relay alongside Jake Chamberlin, Hunter Smith and Beau Iovinelli, who took fifth place with a 1:26.80. Other Lovejoy athletes in action at state included Will Muirhead in the 3,200 — where he ran a personal-record 9:21.78 for seventh place — as well as a seventh-place finish for Alaina Pierce in the high jump (5-2) and an eighth-place mark for James Rainey in the shot put (52-3 1/2).

9. Another big year for Allen tennis

For the third consecutive year, the Allen tennis team found itself one match win shy of qualifying for the state tournament.

The Eagles earned the state’s No. 4 ranking in Class 6A, a mark they amassed behind a runner-up finish in District 9-6A that included a thrilling 10-9 loss to rival Plano West in the conference tournament finals.

Although Allen fell short of a district title, it handled business in the playoffs with wins over North Garland (10-0), Waco Midway (10-1), Tyler Lee (10-0) and The Woodlands (10-5) to earn a regional final rematch with West.

The Wolves got the better of that exchange, 10-4, and went on to finish as 6A state runners-up.

8. Lovejoy freshman storms local XC scene

For years, cross country season in Lovejoy has meant accolades and headlines for the its three-time state champion boys program.

In 2019, however, it was freshman Amy Morefield who stole the show.

Morefield turned heads around the state at the start of the postseason when she won the District 10-5A championship — a race that saw her hand McKinney North phenom London Culbreath the first postseason loss of her storied high school career.

Morefield followed that up with a second-place finish at regionals and a third-place finish at state, running a 17:34.74 in the latter to conclude a breakout freshman year.

The Leopards still had representation at state on the boys side, logging a fifth-place team finish and a fourth-place run by Will Muirhead (14:59.28).

7. Clark swims to silver

One of the top swimmers to ever pass through Allen, Jakob Clark concluded his high school career on the state medal stand.

The four-year lettermen and four-time state qualifier did so after placing second overall in the 200-yard freestyle (4:24.45), just 1.5 seconds shy of first place. Earlier in the meet, Clark took fourth in the 200 individual medley (1:50.15).

“You look at what Jakob has been able to accomplish as a whole, like going to state all four years, and finishing up with a two and a four is amazing,” said Brent Mitchell, Allen head coach, after the state meet. “His career has been absolutely incredible for Allen High School.”

Clark was one of several Allen standouts who shined at state, with the program’s girls team matching its best finish at state since 2014 after placing 11th. Aiding in that effort was a fifth-place swim in the 100 butterfly by Anni Fan (55.37) and a seventh-place effort by the 400 freestyle relay (3:33.56).

6. Allen’s semifinal streak ends

For the first time since 2011, the Eagles were not among the final four teams remaining in the Class 6A Division I playoffs. In the time since, Allen had captured four state championships and played in at least the state semifinal round of the postseason seven consecutive years, but that run came to an end in 2019 at the hands of Rockwall.

The Yellow Jackets bested the Eagles in a wild shootout, 60-59, in the area round of the playoffs. The game featured nearly 1,200 yards of offense and stat-stuffing performances by Allen quarterback Raylen Sharpe (571 total yards of offense, six total touchdowns) and Rockwall receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba (258 receiving yards, six total touchdowns).

Ultimately, it was a late two-point conversion by Rockwall that spelled the difference in one of the most entertaining games of the 2019 postseason.

Although its playoff run ended prematurely, Allen turned in an eighth straight unbeaten regular season, inching closer to a state record with 75 straight regular-season wins (good for second all-time).

5. Lady Leopards back on top

For the first time since 2014, Lovejoy volleyball scaled the mountaintop in Class 5A, capturing the seventh state championship in program history in November after sweeping Canyon Randall in three sets.

The Lady Leopards rode the overwhelming arm of top hitter Cecily Bramschreiber and a defense loaded with college-caliber libero talent to a 48-5 record that culminated in a 20-match winning streak to close out of the season.

That included a sweep of District 10-5A, where Lovejoy won 30-of-31 set played over 10 conference matches, followed by a postseason where the Lady Leopards dropped just three sets total.

Bramschreiber, who totaled 38 kills at the state tournament, earned MVP honors, while teammates Averi Carlson and Lexie Collins earned all-tournament selections. Head coach Ryan Mitchell netted the sixth state title in his decorated coaching career.

4. Allen alums aplenty in NFL draft

In amassing one of the great runs of any high school football program, Allen’s success on the gridiron resonated on a national scale in April during the 2019 NFL draft.

Leading into the draft, all eyes were on prized Eagles quarterback Kyler Murray, fresh off a Heisman Trophy campaign at Oklahoma and going from relative unknown pro prospect to the surefire No. 1 overall pick in less than a year’s time. Despite myriad questions surrounding everything from Murray’s height to how his skill set would translate to the NFL, the Arizona Cardinals were unfazed in ultimately selecting Allen’s three-time state champion passer with the top pick in the draft.

Two of Murray’s high school teammates followed not long after, with offensive linemen Greg Little and Bobby Evans drafted in the second and third rounds, respectively – Little by the Carolina Panthers and Evans by the Los Angeles Rams.

By the time the draft’s third round had concluded, Allen had more players drafted than Texas A&M (two), TCU (two), Baylor (one), Houston (one), Texas Tech (zero) and Texas (zero).

Murray played his way into the mix for the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award after passing for 3,722 yards, rushing 544 yards and totaling 24 touchdowns, while Evans and Little combined for 11 starts with their respective teams.

3. Allen soccer teams’ special year

The 2019 season was a special one for both the Allen boys and girls soccer teams, which enjoyed a myriad of milestone moments.

The Lady Eagles turned in their most successful season in 21 years, qualifying for the state tournament and playing on to the Class 6A state semifinals. Meanwhile, the Allen boys parlayed their first-ever district championship into a four-round playoff run that matched the second-longest postseason campaign in program history.

The Lady Eagles’ road to state included an emphatic run through Region II, where Allen outscored its first five playoff opponents, 17-1, including four straight shutouts from the area round through the regional finals. Defense and second-half execution were constants in the team’s ascent, with the Lady Eagles scoring 15 of their goals over the final 40 minutes during that stretch before falling short in the semifinals against Katy Tompkins.

The Allen boys were plenty airtight on the defensive end as well, with the Eagles pitching 16 shutouts en route to a 1-0 regional semifinal loss to College Park, in addition to sporting one of the area’s elite scoring talents in forward Reed Berry.

2. “Feels Like the First Time”

The Allen girls basketball team submitted its best year ever in 2019, qualifying for the state tournament for the first time in program history on the strength of a 33-7 record chalked in memorable moments.

The Lady Eagles paved their road to San Antonio behind a 12-game winning streak, catching fire over the back half of district play and riding that momentum all the way to the Class 6A state semifinals. Along the journey, Allen picked up playoff wins over Wylie (66-16), Tyler Lee (35-29), Sachse (50-49), Pflugerville Hendrickson (78-68) and Prosper (58-53) before eventual state champion Converse Judson spelled an end to Allen’s dream season.

Notable outcomes included in the regional quarterfinals, where Allen’s Cydni Adams converted a game-winning put-back just before time expired to lift the Lady Eagles over Sachse, and in the regional finals where Allen overcame a 15-point deficit to turn away district rival Prosper.

The program also enjoyed some individual merit in 2019, with star wing Nyah Green selected to play in the McDonald’s All-American Game — the school’s first-ever representative in the annual high school hoops showcase.

1. Decade of dominance

There may not be an athletics program in Texas, regardless of sport, that had a decade quite like Allen wrestling.

The Eagles hoisted their 10th consecutive state championship in 2019 and, much like the previous nine, did so in fairly convincing fashion. Qualifying wrestlers in 13-of-14 weight classes, Allen had 12 place over two days of competition from Cypress’ Berry Center and combine for five individual state titles to cruise past second-place Arlington Martin by more than 100 points in the final standings —  a margin that equaled the difference between the second- and 13th-place teams.

Title holders for the Eagles included Braxton Brown (113 pounds), Trent Dooley (138), Mario Danzi (145), Elise Brown Ton (152) and Johnny Green (285).

“It really hasn’t sunk in. Ten years is a long time and the kids have done a great job,” said Jerry Best, Allen head coach, in February following the state title win. “We’ve had a lot of support from our athletic director Steve Williams, plus (assistant athletic director) Kim Garner and the rest of the administration. We have great parent support and it takes a whole army to take care of these things. We have a great group involved that has helped us be successful over the past 10 years.”

It was business as usual for a program that has rewritten the UIL wrestling record books over the past decade.

For continued news and coverage on the local sports scene, follow Matt Welch on Twitter.

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