The 2018-19 high school sports year was rife with new challenges for The Colony, Little Elm and Lake Dallas, which made the move to District 8-5A alongside Denton ISD and Justin Northwest. The result was a parity-heavy athletics campaign from many of the top Class 5A programs in the Metroplex.
Throughout the summer, Star Local Media will reflect on the year that was for 8-5A’s seven schools while also looking ahead to what lies in store for 2019-20.
With that said, here’s the 10th installment of Five Questions for District 8-5A.
1. What will be the storylines to monitor in 5-5A Div. I and 7-5A Div. II football this season?
Bryan Murphy: Regarding 5-5A Div. I, a huge storyline to keep an eye on will be whether or not The Colony can maintain its dominance and run the table in district play once again.
The main test for the Cougars this season will once again be Lone Star with Division I talent all across the board for both teams. It’s safe to say that the winner of that showdown very well could win the district.
In 7-5A Div. II, an intriguing story will be which team can compete with Reedy, which steamrolled the district competition a year ago.
Lake Dallas hung in there with the Lions for a half but was unable to go toe-to-toe with Reedy in the second half. Assuming Reedy is a shoo-in to take the district, a big question will be which teams shake out the remaining three playoff spots.
The Falcons graduated a bunch of talent, including sensational quarterback Ryan Depperschmidt, while teams like Lovejoy, Frisco and Denison appear to be improved from a year ago.
2. Which football team(s) will showcase the top offense and defense in 7-5A Division II?
Taylor Raglin: Frisco Reedy is poised to dominate the district once again, so it stands to reason that the Lions may end up with both the most prolific offense and the stingiest defense in 7-5A Div. II in 2019. However, there are a few challengers for those distinctions.
Lovejoy has built up a wave of forward momentum as a program and returns junior multi-sport standout Ralph Rucker, who will take over under center and should aid in a smooth transition from the Carson-Collins-led offense of 2018, so the Leopards could challenge the Lions for the title of most productive attack.
On defense, contenders Frisco, Denison and Lovejoy bring back nine, eight and seven defensive starters, respectively, and a Denison squad that finished the 2018 season giving up 20, 14, 23 and seven points in consecutive games could take further steps forward.
3. Which football players in Lake Dallas, The Colony or Little Elm stand the best chance at claiming their district’s passing, rushing and receiving titles this season?
Matt Welch: Despite Reedy’s dominance last season, it was Lake Dallas senior Brandon Engel who led the district in receiving with one of the top years of any pass-catcher in the Metroplex with 1,134 yards and 11 touchdowns. Engel’s role is a mystery heading into 2019, however, with the Falcons’ dynamic three-year letterman in the mix to take over at quarterback.
If head coach Michael Young and his staff feel one of the program’s other passers has shown enough to where Engel can still anchor the receiving corps, he’ll have plenty of chances to reprise his status as 7-5A Div. II’s top pass-catcher.
In 5-5A Div. I, The Colony senior Myles Price led the district in receiving last season at 1,089 yards and 17 touchdowns, and there’s little reason not to anticipate a repeat. How Price divvies up his production, given his role as a rusher, will be interesting, but he’s one of the area’s most electric playmakers for a reason.
On a similar accord, senior quarterback Mikey Harrington ranks fourth in the area in passing yards among returning 5A quarterbacks and with weapons like Price and senior Keith Miller at his disposal, he’s likely to eclipse the 2,000-yard threshold once again entering his third campaign as The Colony’s starting quarterback.
On paper, cracking the upper echelon of 5-5A Div. I offenses will be tough for Little Elm, but senior running back Jordan Hall gives the Lobos a formidable weapon out of the backfield after compiling nearly 1,200 rushing yards last season. Growth behind center from sophomore quarterback John Mateer should help open things up for Little Elm’s rushing attack, and Hall stands to benefit plenty from that.
4. Who are a few potential breakout candidates between Lake Dallas, The Colony and Little Elm football this fall?
Taylor Raglin: For a Lake Dallas team that experienced tremendous turnover following the 2018 season, the known commodities coming back are Engel and senior Ike Onyekwere on offense and senior Kobee Minor on defense. However, one name that could make waves defensively is senior defensive lineman Kelvin Ukah, who recorded four tackles for loss a season ago and will be leaned on heavily this fall.
For The Colony, sophomore and Creekview transfer Shafiq Taylor, who played at the varsity level for the Mustangs in 2018, could emerge as an elite defender, while Little Elm quarterback Mateer could eclipse his eight-touchdown season in 2018 and have an even more productive year this fall with a year of experience under his belt.
5. Which 8-5A team is most likely to go undefeated in district play in 2019-20?
Matt Welch: There weren’t too many down-to-the-wire district title races last season, with Denton volleyball, The Colony football, Lake Dallas boys soccer and The Colony softball all exiting their respective district campaigns without a loss, while The Colony girls basketball, Little Elm girls soccer and Justin Northwest boys basketball all won district titles following one-loss campaigns.
Of that cluster, The Colony softball, Lake Dallas boys soccer and Denton volleyball jump out as potential repeat unbeatens. The Lady Broncos dropped just four sets in all of district play last season and return nine all-district selections, slotting them firmly in the driver’s seat for another 8-5A title.
Lake Dallas boys soccer, meanwhile, has the majority of its lineup back from a team that went to the regional finals, and The Colony softball has lost only two district ballgames over the last three years. There’s a case for The Colony girls basketball and Little Elm girls soccer as well, but not to the level of the aforementioned three programs.