The 2020-21 high school sports year was rife with challenges for Plano ISD, Lewisville ISD and Coppell, from navigating athletics during the COVID-19 pandemic to acclimating to a revamped district landscape as part of 6-6A.
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 2021-22.
1. Pound-for-pound, what was the best overall team in 6-6A in 2020-21?
Matt Welch: Across the school year, 6-6A produced four undefeated district champions in Marcus football, Plano East girls basketball, Plano West tennis and Flower Mound softball.
Although the Lady Jaguars didn’t go unbeaten in conference play on the pitch, it’s tough to deny the body of work from a program that hoisted a state championship by season’s end.
Flower Mound finished atop the district standings for the second straight season, going 11-1-2 and posting a plus-26 goal differential. Despite a February setback to Hebron, the Lady Jaguars responded with a resounding close to the season by going unbeaten over their final 14 matches.
That included a decisive sprint through the postseason where Flower Mound outscored opponents 21-4 including three shutout wins. The Lady Jaguars downed a who’s who of soccer powerhouses, from handing top-ranked Prosper its first loss in the regional quarterfinals, blanking rival Marcus in the regional finals and besting the duo of The Woodlands and Vandegrift by a combined margin of 6-1 in the state semifinals and state finals, respectively.
No one on the pitch or in 6-6A was better.
2. What impact did the addition of Plano ISD have on the overall competitive balance in 6-6A?
Matt Welch: Save for a few occasions, the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years had numerous instances where five teams battled for four playoff spots in an otherwise top-heavy district.
LISD and Coppell lorded over the previous iteration of 6-6A alongside the three Irving ISD schools of Irving, Nimitz and MacArthur.
Trading Plano ISD for the Irving trio created more parity in the district across the board, but the lion’s share of the league’s success still belonged to LISD and Coppell. Of the nine UIL sports that include playoff brackets, Marcus qualified a district-high eight times, followed by Coppell (seven), Hebron (five) and Flower Mound (five) during the 2020-21 school year. Plano checked in one spot below with four playoff qualifications.
The PISD trio still accounted for eight total playoff berths and won district titles in team tennis, boys golf and girls basketball.
The revamped conference made for a more competitive brand of high school sports in 2020-21 and closed the gap that existed the two previous years, but there was still an apparent disparity.
3. What lies ahead in 6-6A cross country in 2021?
David Wolman: Flower Mound added to its great tradition in sports last fall when the Lady Jaguars defeated 6A champion Southlake Carroll to capture its first state title in cross country in program history.
The best news for Flower Mound fans is that the Lady Jaguars are slated to return four runners off that state championship team -- incoming senior Natalie Cook, who finished seventh overall at the 2020 state meet, seniors Allison Buemi and Virginia Knight and sophomore Samantha Humphries -- while on the boys' side, Brayden Kennedy is fresh off a breakout sophomore season in which he placed 13th in the state.
Across town, Marcus senior Austin Owen is slated to return for the Lady Marauders after earning a state qualification her junior year.
Coppell's boys three of its top four runners off last year's district championship team to graduation, so the Cowboys will look to build around incoming junior Andrew Mullen, who ran to 25th overall in the state last year.
4. What is one new rivalry from 6-6A that could emerge during the 2021-22 school year?
David Wolman: The high school baseball season wrapped one week ago. But judging by the results of the earlier rounds of the 6A playoffs, Coppell and Plano both showed that they can answer the bell on any given day.
Coppell defeated two state-ranked teams in Jesuit and Prosper to advance to the regional semifinals for the first time since 2016. And for Plano, the Wildcats upset 5-6A champion McKinney Boyd in the first round followed by a two-game sweep of South Grand Prairie in area.
Plano and Coppell played each other twice in a span of four days in mid-March. The Cowboys pounded out 17 hits in a 13-4 win over the Wildcats in the first meeting, but the Wildcats rode eight strikeouts from Kyle Bade in a 3-2 victory in the rubber match.