The 2018-19 high school sports year was rife with new challenges for Lewisville ISD and Coppell, which made the move to District 6-6A and welcomed Irving ISD along for the ride. The result was another year of quality athletics from several of the most prominent programs in the state.
Throughout the summer, Star Local Media will reflect on the year that was for 6-6A’s eight schools while also looking ahead to what lies in store for 2019-20.
With that said, here’s the 10th installment of Six Questions for District 6-6A.
1. What will be the storylines to monitor in 6-6A football this season?
Last season threw prognosticators for a loop with Flower Mound’s resurgence and first-ever district championship, plus Lewisville finishing second in 6-6A and snapping a decade-plus playoff drought. Both programs have some significant questions to answer during non-district play — the Jaguars graduated their entire offensive line and the Farmers return just four starters from one of the area’s top defenses — and whether or not last season was a turning point in both programs’ trajectories or merely a blip on the radar will be worth monitoring this season.
Meanwhile, Marcus’ heartbeat has been the running game for years, but 2019 could give the Marauders their most balanced set of weapons in quite some time — between quarterback Garrett Nussmeier and a deep receiving corps with J.Michael Sturdivant, Jaden Robinson and recent Denton transfer Marcellus Lockley, plus running back Tyson Edwards. How Marcus juggles that firepower should be interesting.
And then there are Hebron and Coppell, who graduated the two district MVPs from last season — Hebron’s Trejan Bridges and Coppell’s Jonathan McGill — and will be without two players whose versatility played an immense role in each team’s success last season. How much of an identity shift is in store for both teams with their linchpins of the past few years no longer on campus?
2. Which football team(s) will showcase the top offense and defense in 6-6A?
Speaking of the Marauders’ offense, the district’s top candidates on that side of the ball are widespread, with Flower Mound, Marcus and Hebron all boasting firepower worthy of piling up points and yards in bunches this season. The Jaguars have the district’s top quarterback-running back duo between Blake Short and all-state rusher Pierce Hudgens, plus an experienced receiving corps, and Hebron isn’t far behind with its dynamic backfield of quarterback Carson Harris and running backs Jaylon Lott and Isaiah Broadway.
Despite the Jaguars’ question marks up front, there’s plenty of continuity elsewhere, with Hudgens and receiver Reid Touchstone leading Flower Mound in receptions last season, and that’s enough to give that unit a slight edge as the district’s top overall offense entering the season.
Meanwhile, the Hawks have both talent and experience in their favor on defense. Darius Snow, a Michigan State commit, is one of the state’s top prospects at safety, and he has plenty of help elsewhere with all-district performers at linebacker in Carter Norris and Will White, as well as Ben Rutherford, plus a pair of impactful two-way performers in Vinson Miller and Mason Williamson to chip in throughout the secondary.
Hebron cracked the area’s top 25 in points allowed last season and has the talent to do so again this fall.
3. Which football players will claim the 6-6A passing, rushing and receiving titles this season?
If Flower Mound once again sports the district’s top offense, it’s a safe bet that Short and Hudgens will have plenty to do with that. Of the 5,161 total yards of offense the Jaguars accrued last season, their quarterback-running back duo accounted for 87.6% of that offense, with Short throwing for 2,812 yards through the air, Hudgens rushing for 1,709 and catching another 414.
Assuming the Jaguars don’t crater replacing five starters up front, Short and Hudgens should continue to produce. Otherwise, that could open the door for a player like Nussmeier or Hebron quarterback Carson Harris, who eclipsed the 2,500-yard barrier last season between his efforts as a passer and rusher, and could conceivably lead the entire district in total yards next season.
Out wide, Touchstone is the top returning receiver in the district, and should be for an even bigger year as Short’s most experienced target, plus Lewisville’s Armani Winfield should enjoy an uptick in production after earning Co-Offensive Newcomer of the Year honors last season.
But I’m going with a player brand-new to the Texas high school football limelight. Perhaps it’s placing too much weight on 7-on-7, given the way physicality is discouraged compared to 11-on-11, but Marcus newcomer Sturdivant flashed serious play-making chops as the Marauders’ top pass-catcher during the summer and has the type of vertical game that should be conducive to plenty of lengthy touchdowns this season.
4. Who are a couple potential breakout candidates in 6-6A football this fall?
Speaking of 7-on-7, one receiver who flashed some promise was Coppell sophomore Anthony Black. Although his skills were primarily on display as a freshman during basketball season, Black has impressed throughout the summer with the football team and has the physical tools, standing 6-foot-2 with a gaudy wingspan, to give opposing secondaries fits. Couple that with the Cowboys being a tad low on experience at receiver in the wake of KJ Liggins transferring to Denton Guyer, and Black should have a chance at a significant role as a sophomore.
Meanwhile, although the best running back in the district resides in Flower Mound, the deepest backfield could be at Hebron with senior Jaylon Lott and sophomore Isaiah Broadway. Lott is entrenched as the Hawks’ lead back after nearly posting 1,000 yards on the ground as a junior, but I’m curious how much Broadway’s role grows as a sophomore. The 6-6A Co-Offensive Newcomer of the Year logged 481 rushing yards, 125 receiving yards and six touchdowns as a freshman, finishing tied for second on the team in receptions at 13, and should be among the beneficiaries as the Hawks balance out their production following Trejan Bridges’ graduation.
5. Which team is most likely to go undefeated in district play in 2019-20?
The Flower Mound football, Irving MacArthur girls basketball and Coppell girls soccer teams were the only teams to pull off this feat during the 2018-19 school year, and at least two of those programs could be in store for a repeat run of the table.
The Lady Cardinals had their way with 6-6A on the hardwood last season, going 14-0 with an average margin of victory of 24.3 points — to be fair, some 40-plus-point blowouts of Irving ISD swelled that margin a bit — but with the addition of Hannah Gusters to complement district MVP Sarah Andrews, another unbeaten run for MacArthur seems plenty feasible.
Ditto for the Coppell girls, who outscored 6-6A, 52-4, over the course of its unblemished 14-0 run to the top of the district table. It doesn’t seem wise projecting any soccer team that shares a district with Lewisville ISD to go unbeaten, but the Cowgirls have enough talent and pedigree to be the outlier once again this season.
6. What is one thing you are looking forward to most about 6-6A athletics in 2019-20?
Between LISD and Coppell, there’s opportunity for parity in practically every sport, given how competitive those programs are year in and year out, and as outlined earlier, there are plenty of chances for that to shine through during football season.
On a similar accord, the 2018-19 school year was the “Year of the Jaguar,” with Flower Mound accruing all manner of championships and accolades on its way to one of the top athletic years of any program in the state. I’m anxious to see how close the Jaguars come to approximating the success of 2018-19, particularly on the volleyball court and football field.
And as someone whose ears always perk up around basketball time, Year Two of the Keyonte George era at Lewisville should be a fun one — not just for the sophomore, but for the entire Farmers program, who have one of their best overall teams in quite some time between George, KJ Pruitt and OC Girtmon. Programs like Duncanville, DeSoto and Cedar Hill are nothing to be trifled with in Region I, but Lewisville has a chance to make some noise as well this season.