July 10 marks the 27th ESPY Awards, the annual ceremony devoted to honoring standout professional and collegiate athletes and teams of the past year.
It’s the sports equivalent to the Oscars or Grammys, so why not put a high school spin on the concept?
Over the past school year, Allen and Lovejoy have showcased no shortage of notable individual and team athletic achievements, so it is only appropriate to put the last season of local citywide sports into an award-winning perspective. In the coming weeks, the city’s top athletes, teams and games will be recognized among nine different awards.
With that said, Star Local Media presents the seventh edition of The Varsitys.
Matt Welch: Allen vs. Duncanville football, Dec. 15
Although the end result was ultimately a sore spot for the Allen faithful, whose team suffered just its third loss since October 2012, the highly anticipated, mid-December state semifinal between Allen and Duncanville lived up to its gaudy hype.
The showcase wasn’t lacking in theatre, with the Panthers pillaging the Eagles in the first half for a 35-14 advantage before Allen drew even with a 21-point third quarter – all the more noteworthy considering Duncanville hadn’t so much as allowed a single point in the third stanza all season.
Tying the contest with 1:11 to go in the third quarter following a 15-yard touchdown run by Celdon Manning, Allen’s momentum was subdued by the Panthers’ vaunted defense long enough for quarterback Ja’Quinden Jackson to reclaim the lead for Duncanville with 3:02 left in the fourth quarter following a 40-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-two.
A safety by Panthers defensive lineman De’Braylon Carroll quashed Allen’s ensuing drive, denying the Eagles’ bid for a sixth UIL state championship.
Taylor Raglin: Allen vs. Sachse girls basketball, Feb. 19
In the Lady Eagles’ best-ever season – one that saw the program make a run all the way to the state semifinals – it was perhaps the team’s regional-quarterfinal takedown of perennial contender and state No. 5 Sachse that was its masterwork.
In a wild, back-and-forth affair, the fate of both teams landed in the hands of the smallest player on the court in Allen alum Cydni Adams. With time bleeding away and the Lady Eagles down, 49-48, after Sachse alum Avery Crouse hit a dramatic, final-seconds bucket of her own, a rebound at the other end fell right into Adams’ waiting arms.
It was then that Adams lived her “senior dream,” laying in her only score of the game as time expired to give Allen a 50-49 win and send the program to its first-ever regional tournament.
Matt Welch: Jackson Leavitt, Allen boys soccer
Leavitt didn’t begin the 2019 season atop the Eagles’ depth chart at goalkeeper, but injuries created an opportunity the netminder didn’t relinquish during a resurgent campaign for Allen’s boys soccer program.
The Eagles went 19-4-3 last season, winning their first-ever district championship and advancing to the regional semifinals for the first time since 2008.
They did so thanks to patient offense and a suffocating back line whose last line of defense was as tough to crack as any unit in the state. With Leavitt in goal, the Eagles surrendered only 12 goals in 26 matches and totaled 16 shutouts prior to suffering a 1-0 defeat in the fourth round against eventual state runner-up The Woodlands College Park.
The efforts of Leavitt, who received effusive praise from his teammates during Allen’s comeback campaign, didn’t go unnoticed elsewhere in the district with the netminder voted 9-6A Goalkeeper of the Year.
Taylor Raglin: Averi Carlson, Lovejoy volleyball
The District 10-5A Newcomer of the Year, Carlson was an integral part of the Lovejoy volleyball team’s run to its first state final since 2015.
She not only ran the Lovejoy attack, but was often asked to block, collecting 61 blocks during her rookie campaign. Those blocks went along with 121 kills, 1,567 assists and 255 digs.
In a state-semifinal sweep of rival Dripping Springs, Carlson recorded two kills and 28 assists, chipping in four digs and three blocks. Her numbers were similar in the Lady Leopards’ state championship loss to Humble Kingwood Park, which saw her collect a kill, 31 assists, five digs and seven blocks.
With three years left in her Lovejoy career, Carlson should be a key piece to potential deep runs to come for the Lady Leopards.
Matt Welch: Allen takes over the 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 on April 25-27 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).
Taylor Raglin: Allen wrestling finishes decade of dominance
Winning a state championship is difficult, and winning multiple titles in a row is often unheard of.
At Allen, the boys wrestling team capped a decade of dominance unlike anything seen in the state before, regardless of sport – the Eagles brought home their 10th consecutive team state championship, finishing off a stretch during which few have even threatened the program’s seat atop the throne.
The Eagles won five individual state championships this season, getting titles from junior Braxton Brown (113 pounds), alum Trent Dooley (138), sophomore Mario Danzi (145), senior Elise Brown-Ton (152) and alum Johnny Green (285). In total, the program had 13 wrestlers compete and a dozen of those place at least sixth.
There are no signs of the program slowing down, either, as seven of the 13 qualifiers will be back in the fold next season.