Marcus football

Marcus junior Walker Wells (20) and the Marauders repeated as District 6-6A champions and posted their first perfect regular season since 1995.

From its upset-fueled opening night on Oct. 22 until the Dec. 4 regular-season finale where five different teams were contending for playoff spots, there wasn’t a dull night on the District 6-6A football schedule.

Teams from Lewisville ISD, Plano ISD and Coppell collaborated to produce an entertaining sprint through seven weeks of district action, complete with high-stakes matchups and superstar performances.

As the dust settles from the year that was on the 6-6A gridiron, it’s time to reflect on the 2020 season with three things I liked and didn’t like from this district.

The resurgence of Plano West and Coppell

The 2020 season saw a return to form for the Wolves and Cowboys, who both missed the playoffs the year prior. For Coppell, that snapped a run of seven consecutive postseason appearances. West, meanwhile, hadn’t qualified for the playoffs since 2014. Between 2015-19, the Wolves amassed a record of 5-45, including a 34-game losing streak.

Both squads showed improvement from the start, going 2-1 in their respective non-district campaigns and staking their claim as playoff contenders in 6-6A from the onset.

Coppell enjoyed much more continuity on offense after an injury-riddled 2019 campaign and the results showed with 400.4 yards per game. West, meanwhile, used a stifling brand of defense to suffocate opponents — most notably opening district with a 27-17 upset of Lewisville.

Despite the contrasting styles, both teams found themselves slotted among the top four in the district when all was said and done.

The COVID effect

The pandemic took its toll on plenty of teams around the state and 6-6A was no different. The Nov. 6 game between Plano and Hebron triggered a chain reaction that forced six of the district’s eight teams to miss out on at least one game.

The Hawks were the first domino to fall, announcing a two-week shutdown for their program just a couple days after their 42-38 loss to Plano. On Nov. 12, the Wildcats announced that they too would be cancelling their next two games due to a virus-related outbreak. The ripple effect forced Marcus, Lewisville, East and Coppell to miss one game — a costly toll in a district where the total number of conference wins determined the four playoff teams.

For Hebron, the shutdown came just as the team had begun to heal up after playing the first half of the season down numerous starters. Plano, meanwhile, was denied a chance at immediately building off its first win under new head coach Todd Ford.

Stat power

The district’s competitiveness was strengthened by a number of skill players who ranked among the best, statistically, at their respective positions.

Lewisville accounted for the area’s leading rusher and receiver entering the playoffs. Junior Damien Martinez built an early lead for the area rushing title and never let up, closing out the year with 2,010 yards and 30 touchdowns on the ground. Entering the fourth round of the postseason, no other running back had so much as eclipsed 1,900 rushing yards.

His teammate, senior Isiah Stevens, led the area in rushing at the conclusion of the regular season with 1,157 yards and 13 touchdowns. Not far behind was Coppell senior KJ Liggins, who boosted the Cowboys’ offense with 929 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns.

That success carried over behind center, where 6-6A had four quarterbacks rank among the area’s top 11 — Marcus senior Garrett Nussmeier (2,815 yards), Lewisville senior Taylen Green (2,663), Flower Mound junior Nick Evers (2,534) and Coppell senior Ryan Walker (2,258).

Even Plano East, despite on 0-9 season, enjoyed some statistical shine thanks to a resounding debut from junior running back Ismail Mahdi. He led the Panthers in both rushing (1,054) and receiving (553), the second straight year the team’s lead running back has done so.

Another nightmare end for Lewisville

For the Farmers, this year’s area round of the playoffs had to be feel like the worst kind of deja vu.

On the heels of just the program’s second postseason win since 2007, Lewisville had its season end with a thud following a 68-0 shutout loss to Arlington Martin. The Warriors blindsided the Farmers with a 44-point first quarter, riding an avalanche of big plays on offense, defense and special teams for an outcome that was quite the far cry for a Lewisville team that produced some of the most prolific offensive numbers in the Metroplex.

Compounding matters is that the Farmers have been down this road before — last year, Southlake Carroll torched Lewisville to the tune of an 84-6 ballgame in the bi-district round. In 2018, Duncanville ended the Farmers’ season in shutout fashion in the area round, 38-0.

There’s no joy in any team having its season end in that fashion, not after the year-round grind these student-athletes and coaches subject themselves to in order to play the sport they love. 

For Lewisville’s sake, I hope its moment of redemption isn’t far off.

Marcus backs up the hype

After surviving a number of close calls during its district championship run in 2019, the Marauders left no doubt this time around.

The Marauders enjoyed their first perfect regular season since 1995, amassing a 9-0 record that included an unblemished six-game run through 6-6A. Their dominance was exuded every step of the way — on the year, Marcus averaged 447.8 yards and 46.2 points per game on offense, as well as allowing just 306.6 yards and 22.7 points per game. They were the only team in the district to rank among the area’s top 20 in 6A for all four statistical categories.

The team’s average margin of victory in the regular season was 28.2 points per game — a figure that actually grew to 30.2 points in district play. Only Lewisville held a second-half lead against the Marauders, a 38-35 edge early in the third quarter that Marcus responded to with 23 unanswered points. 

By any measure, Marcus strung together a regular season on par with the best in program history.

However… 

Injuries are the worst

It’s no secret that injuries impact the balance of a season no matter the sport and no matter the level of competition.

Unfortunately, for as impressive a year as 6-6A champion Marcus had, there remains lingering feelings of what could have been after an injury sustained by back-to-back district MVP Nussmeier on the final night of the regular season. Late in the first half of the Marauders’ game against Plano East, the LSU commit injured his non-throwing hand and would go on to miss the team’s bi-district playoff game against Prosper — an eventual 38-19 loss by the Marauders.

Nussmeier built off his 2019 MVP campaign in resounding fashion — he threw for 2,815 yards and 33 touchdowns and was the only quarterback among the area’s top 20 passers in 6A to complete more than 70% of his passes.

For Nussmeier to not get to end his high school career on his own terms made for a hard-luck end to an otherwise banner year for Marcus.

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

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