With the book about to close on 2020, it’s time to look back on the year that was in Allen-area athletics.
This year was like no other in recent memory, with high school sports around the country feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Amid the trying year, which included the cancellation of numerous UIL sports in the spring and the week-to-week uncertainties that plagued teams during the fall, programs from Allen and Lovejoy still managed to turn in their share of highlight moments.
The Allen American sports staff has compiled its top 10 sports stories of the year, starting with the first half of that lineup.
6. Lovejoy football has resurgent 2020
The Leopards, still playing as one of the final 16 teams in the Class 5A Division II playoffs, emerged as a state power on the football field in 2020.
Lovejoy extended its march through the postseason last week with a 49-21 victory over Everman for the program’s first trip to the regional semifinals since 2010.
That win ran the Leopards’ record to 12-0 — a first for a program that erupted in 2020 under new head coach Chris Ross. Coming to Lovejoy after turning around Red Oak over two seasons, Ross and his program navigated the pandemic, despite being hired not long before high school sports shut down.
Despite not getting a spring to work with his players, Ross and the Leopards took the area by storm. Lovejoy ran the table in District 7-5A Division II, including a signature win over state-ranked Frisco, and entered the postseason ranked No. 8 in the state.
7. A realignment shocker for Allen, Plano ISD
The UIL’s biennial realignment seldom lacks for drama, and this year’s edition included a shocking development involving Allen and Plano ISD.
After sharing a district for the previous 22 years, Allen and PISD went their separate ways after the UIL opted to realign them into separate districts.
The move caught many in Allen and PISD by surprise, considering the geographic proximity of the two cities and their high schools sporting the four largest enrollments in the state.
As the two school districts acclimated to a change in scenery, the Eagles remained alongside McKinney ISD and Prosper as part of 5-6A, along with Denton Guyer, Denton Braswell and Little Elm, while PISD joined Coppell and former district foes Flower Mound, Hebron, Lewisville and Marcus as part of 6-6A.
Although that shelved some longtime rivalries for at least the next two years, Allen and PISD have reignited their spark with head-to-head meetings between Allen and Plano West in the football and team tennis postseasons.
8. Eagles make history on hardwood
Two seasons removed from hoisting its first-ever state championship, Allen’s boys basketball team made some more history in 2020.
The Eagles went undefeated in District 9-6A action to capture their first outright district title since 1992. Allen went 31-6 overall, winning 30-plus games for the third consecutive season.
Leading the charge for the Eagles was the trio of Manny Obaseki, Bryce Kennedy and Thailand Elder, all of whom earned all-district superlatives. Obaseki and Kennedy split 9-6A MVP honors and Elder was named the offensive player of the year.
The Eagles had a tougher time translating that success to the postseason, however, bowing out in the area round for the second consecutive year.
9. Fan takes the podium
Allen turned in another strong season in the swimming pool, sending a student-athlete to the podium at the UIL Class 6A state meet for the fifth consecutive year.
Alum Anni Fan did the honors in February, placing third overall in the 100-yard butterfly in the final individual race of her high school career. Fan qualified for the state meet all four years as a Lady Eagle, winning her first individual medal after swimming a 54.51.
As a team, the Allen girls placed fifth overall with 108 points in a meet that saw multiple program records fall.
Over in 5A, the Lovejoy boys and girls teams posted nearly identical finishes. Both placed 17th overall, with the boys totaling 49 points and the girls raking in 48. Alum Jed Michael Jones came home with some gold after winning the 200 individual medley in record-setting fashion. He swam a 1:48.62 to set the top mark in UIL 5A history.
10. Soccer teams impress before shutdown
Among high school sports’ casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic was the cancellation of a soccer season that was right on the doorstep of the playoffs.
Teams at Allen and Lovejoy were in the homestretch of their respective regular seasons and had sights on not just returns to the playoffs but doing so with some district championship hardware.
When play was suspended in mid-March, the Allen boys sat in first place in District 9-6A while the Lady Eagles were second in their conference. Both had clinched playoff berths.
Lovejoy’s girls, meanwhile, made history by capturing the first district title in their history. The Lady Leopards finished the regular season at 6-2 and tied with McKinney North for second place in 10-5A. Both teams trailed first-place Wylie East by one game in the standings, and with two matches remaining on the schedule, the district ruled that all three teams would share the 10-5A championship.