The end of one chapter gives way to the start of another, and such is the case as teams around the state begin preparations for the 2021-22 school year.
For some, that means a fresh start as they look to get back on the winning track, while for others, it represents an opportunity to build on what they accomplished in the past year.
Throughout the summer, Star Local Media will reflect on the year that was for the Rowlett, Sachse, Frisco and Mesquite areas, while also looking ahead to the district’s storylines and subplots for the 2020-21 school year.
1. Pound for pound, what was the best team in Frisco ISD?
This is a tough question, as FISD enjoyed success in a number of different sports.
With a 10-team district made up exclusively of FISD schools, that means the school district automatically gets four teams into the playoffs in every standings-based sport, giving them multiple chances to excel in the postseason and many took full advantage.
The fall featured a number of teams advancing three to four rounds deep and that continued throughout the school year.
There were a number of close calls in terms of state championships, with the Liberty girls basketball team looking to defend its crown and nearly doing so, advancing all the way to the state championship game before suffering a narrow loss to Cedar Park.
The Wakeland girls soccer team advanced all the way to the state title game before dropping a tough match against Dripping Springs and earlier this month, the Wakeland baseball team made it all the way to the regional finals before falling to Hallsville and the Sachse baseball team made its deepest postseason run in program history.
But one team that rose above every challenge put in front of them was the Wakeland boys soccer team, who brought home the Class 5A state championship in impressive fashion.
The Wolverines rolled to the 9-5A championship behind offensive player of the year Brennan Bezdek, goalkeeper of the year Connor Pettigrew and first-team performers in Ryan Greener, Jak Keith, Micah Kelley, Jacob Rulon and William Heidman.
Wakeland opened the playoffs with solid wins over Proper Rock Hill (3-1) and Adamson (7-0) and then survived a tough match against Carrollton R.L. Turner in the regional quarterfinals.
The Wolverines kept things going with shutout wins over Nacogdoches (2-0) and Longview (1-0) to advance to the state semifinals, where they doubled up El Paso Del Valle in a 4-2 victory.
The title match featured a showdown against Humble Kingwood Park, marking the team’s fifth consecutive trip to the championship game.
Wakeland struck first when Marlon Williams set up a goal by Bezdek to take a 1-0 lead in the ninth minute.
Kingwood Park would tie it early in the second half, but the Wolverines struck back just two minutes later, as Williams again was the facilitator on a score by Kelley.
Wakeland extended its advantage in the 57th minute when Keith scored off an assist from Bezdek to make it 3-1, and though Kingwood Park would make things interesting with a late goal, the Wolverines were able to hold on for the 3-2 victory.
The win put the finishing touches on a 24-1-1 campaign and gave Wakeland its fourth state championship in program history.
2. Are you surprised the athletics season was completed despite the COVID-19 pandemic?
When the pandemic forced the cancellation of many of the spring sports last year, there were doubts heading into the 2020-2021 school year as to if that would carry over into the future.
While safety was the primary goal for the University Interscholastic League, there was a strong urging from athletic administrators, coaches and athletes that the show must go on.
There were a few hiccups along the way, but they did find a way.
Though the fall sports season did not pass seamlessly, as many teams were forced to miss or postpone games due to COVID-19-related quarantines, the seasons were completed and state champions were crowned.
Those issues continued during the winter and spring sports seasons, but as time went on, and the pandemic numbers continued to drop, the restrictions started to ease.
There were still issues, as some soccer, softball and baseball teams were forced to play as many as five games in a week after dealing with quarantine issues, but unlike a year ago, those sports got to see closure, with state champions being crowned.
3. What effects did realignment have on the 2020-2021 school year?
This is a major issue in some years, where the district and playoff landscape takes on a whole new landscape.
When the 2020-2022 realignment was announced, it was not a major shake-up for the local programs, with much of the terrain remaining unchanged.
For all sports other than football, the 9-5A grouping of the 10 Frisco ISD teams remained intact.
On the gridiron, there were some changes. Centennial, Heritage, Independence, Lone Star and Wakeland remained in 5-5A Division I with The Colony and Little Elm, but were also joined by fellow FISD member Reedy, as well as perennial power Denton Ryan, making for one of the toughest districts in the state.
In 7-5A Division II, Liberty dropped down to join Frisco, Lebanon Trail and Memorial along with Lake Dallas, Lovejoy, Princeton and newcomer Prosper Rock Hill.
The seven teams in Garland ISD, including Rowlett and Sachse, remained intact and were once again grouped in with newcomer Wylie.
There was a shift, however, as they moved from 10-6A to 9-6A, leaving them a different playoff match-up in the first round.
The new 10-6A included the three Mesquite schools—Mesquite, North Mesquite and Horn—along with Rockwall, Rockwall-Heath, Tyler Legacy and Skyline, who replaced Longview.
Perhaps the biggest change involved Poteet and West Mesquite. The teams remained in 13-5A along with Forney and North Forney. But after losing Lancaster, Terrell and Kaufman, they were replaced by all-around power Highland Park, a very good Royse City program, as well as Crandall and Greenville.
It was also a very different scene in football, where the Pirates and Wranglers were separated into different districts for the first time ever.
West Mesquite remained in 7-5A Division I in a monster district that included Highland Park, Longview, McKinney North, Tyler John Tyler, Sherman and Wylie East.
The Pirates, meanwhile, had a much more favorable draw, dropping down to 6-5A Division II with eight Dallas ISD programs.