The 2020-21 high school sports year was rife with challenges for Allen, Prosper, Little Elm and McKinney ISD, from navigating athletics during the COVID-19 pandemic to acclimating to a revamped district landscape as part of 5-6A.
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 5-6A’s seven schools while also looking ahead to what lies in store for 2021-22.
1. Pound-for-pound, what was the best overall team in 5-6A in 2020-21?
Matt Welch: Between regular season and playoff success, 5-6A had multiple teams who wouldn’t look out of place in this space.
Prosper had a score of district champion programs during the school year, as its volleyball, girls soccer and softball programs all advanced at least three rounds deep in the playoffs.
Allen’s tennis team had arguably the most dominant run through district play of any 5-6A program. The Eagles outscored their league opponents 113-6 during the regular season and handled Prosper and Guyer by a combined margin of 22-0 in the district tournament.
Factoring in the quality of the district in a particular sport, the nod goes to Prosper girls soccer. The Lady Eagles spent the bulk of the season ranked No. 1 in Class 6A and lived up to that standard during the regular season — Prosper outscored its 5-6A foes 53-5 on its way to a 12-0 record and a 22-0 overall mark heading into the postseason. At no point up until the Lady Eagles’ regional quarterfinal loss against Flower Mound did the team ever trail during the season.
Prosper girls soccer didn’t check every box, to be fair. The Lady Eagles had a deeper playoff run in softball and Allen tennis was arguably more dominant. But Prosper girls soccer’s overall body of work can’t be denied, despite falling short of a state title.
2. How did Little Elm and Denton Braswell handle their transitions to 6A?
David Wolman: The transition to Class 6A was met with plenty of obstacles along the way for Little Elm and Denton Braswell, but the Bengals persevered and had the better of success between the two schools -- and this coming during a school year when the COVID-19 pandemic ran rampant.
The most noticeable success for the Bengals came on the hardwood. The boys basketball team qualified for the Class 6A playoffs and even scored a 70-55 victory over Lewisville in the bi-district championship. The Lady Bengals were also a playoff participant, matching up against Plano in the first round.
Little Elm didn't have a team qualify for the playoffs, but success was noted in individual sports.
The Lobos fielded a wrestling team this past school year for the first time in school history and two wrestlers, Jax Brown and Kayce Bolle, advanced to the Class 6A state tournament. Brown became Little Elm's first-ever state placer after he earned fifth place at 285 pounds.
On the hardwood, Amarachi Kimpson earned a selection onto the Texas Girls Coaches Association All-State team in basketball, while Jason Alcala broke the school records in cross country as well as in both the 1,600 and 3,200.
3. What lies ahead in 5-6A cross country in 2021?
David Wolman: Guyer alum Brynn Brown dominated the high school cross country landscape last year in Texas, on her way to capturing the Class 6A state championship in record fashion.
But Brown has since graduated and will run for North Carolina this fall, leaving the door open for other runners in District 5-6A to ascend to the top of the podium. One of them is incoming Prosper senior Aubrey O'Connell, who is no stranger to success herself. O'Connell won the Class 6A state championship as a sophomore in 2019, and last year as a junior, ran to fourth in the state.
O'Connell won't be alone.
Allen's Mia McGlade introduced herself to the high school scene last year when she was a freshman and ended up being a state qualifier.
On the boys' side, Little Elm’s Alcala broke his own school record not just once, but twice, last fall.
4. What is one new rivalry from 5-6A that could emerge during the 2021-22 school year?
Matt Welch: Prosper and Guyer didn’t have any history on the gridiron prior to the 2020 season. Things will have changed quite a bit by the time the Eagles and Wildcats square off later in the fall on Oct. 1.
The two 5-6A rivals squared off twice last season and both produced fireworks. Guyer bested Prosper in the regular season with an Eli Stowers touchdown run as time expired for a 24-23 come-from-behind victory on Oct. 30. The Wildcats repeated that feat later in the postseason on Jan. 2 after Stowers ran in the winning touchdown for a 30-24 victory in triple overtime in the 6A Division II Region I final.
Both teams should be formidable once again this season. Guyer will be in its second year under head coach Rodney Webb, and coming off a traditional offseason for a change, and Prosper should once again be stocked for a promising season.
Expect this to be one of the most anticipated matchups across all sports in 5-6A during the 2021-22 school year.