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 2020-21 school year.
For many, that’ll mean making the move to a new district, and schools like Allen, Prosper, Little Elm, McKinney Boyd and McKinney are no different. Allen and the McKinney ISD duo broke away from their longtime rivals in Plano ISD and will be joined by Prosper, Denton Guyer, Denton Braswell and Little Elm in a revamped District 5-6A.
Throughout the summer, Star Local Media will reflect on the year that was for 5-6A’s seven schools while also looking ahead to the district’s storylines and subplots for the 2020-21 school year.
1. What is one team whose athletic fortunes were drastically altered by the cancellation of their season by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Matt Welch: Soccer teams braved practically all of the regular season and were on the doorstep of the postseason, only for the pandemic to relegate all that hard work to thoughts of what could have been.
Allen and Prosper were among just four schools in Region II-6A to have both its boys and girls soccer teams ranked in the top 10 of the Texas Association of Soccer Coaches’ post-district regional polls. Particularly on the girls side, where the two sets of Lady Eagles sported combined records 34-2-4, the odds of at least one of the District 9-6A powerhouses mustering a run to the regional tournament were high.
Ditto for the boys side, where Allen carried the state’s No. 15 ranking into a postseason one year removed from its first regional semifinal berth since 2008.
Those programs should remain formidable in 2021, but the landscape will change drastically between realigning to a new district and relocating back to Region I, where there should be a few more hurdles to clear than in Region II.
It all amounts to a lost opportunity — one that was out of the players’ hands entirely.
2. Which sport best exemplifies the depth of 5-6A in 2020-21?
Kendrick E. Johnson: Football -- out the seven teams in the district, Allen, Denton Guyer, Denton Braswell, Prosper and McKinney all made the playoffs last season. Even more impressive is that each won at least one playoff game last season -- notably, Guyer advanced to the Class 6A Division II state championship game and Prosper qualified for the state quarterfinals. Furthermore, Allen, Guyer, Prosper and McKinney have all been to the playoffs in consecutive seasons.
McKinney Boyd should also be better in year two of the Joe McBride era, which would mean six teams that will be playoffs threats in 2020.
Despite the district having plenty of talented teams, there are a lot of question marks due to nobody going through spring ball due to coronavirus or having a full offseason, which sets the table for this district being one of the most unpredictable to forecast.
A close second would be volleyball, as five of the seven schools reached the playoffs last season as well, so there will for sure be a playoff-caliber team not reaching the postseason from this district in 2020.
3. What are realistic expectations for Little Elm in its first year as a 6A high school?
Chris Jackson: Little Elm had a lot of success in numerous sports at the 5A level, and there’s no reason not to think it can continue making playoff appearances when it transitions up to 6A next school year. But 5-6A is a tough district in just about every sport you can think of. Allen is a football power. So is Denton Guyer. McKinney has appeared in the playoffs each of the last three years. Prosper went to the regional semifinals last year. Denton Braswell’s climb under Cody Moore has been evident as well. And that’s just football alone.
The gauntlet is going to be tough no matter what sport you name in 5-6A, however, there is a lot of talent flowing through the school across the board and numerous sports have made steady improvements and some deep playoff runs in the last few years.
4. What are you looking forward to most with this new 5-6A alignment?
Matt Welch: Find your nearest calendar and circle Oct. 16, 2020. At 7 p.m. that night, Allen’s Eagle Stadium will host maybe the most highly anticipated district ballgame in the venue’s relatively brief history. That night, Allen welcomes Denton Guyer in a meeting between two perennial powerhouses with state championship aspirations.
Seldom has Allen shared a district with a program that can match its top-end talent, but Guyer -- fresh off a state title game appearance -- fits the bill. Couple that with the Wildcats’ recent hiring of head coach and offensive mastermind Rodney Webb, who coached Rockwall to a second-round upset of Allen last season, and it shouldn’t take much to muster some excitement for this one.
Chris Jackson: It’s hard not to say football just because the sheer power that resides in this district. From Allen to Guyer and Prosper, there are numerous teams consistently vying for state bids over the last decade. I just can’t wait to see the turnout for a lot of these games and how many college recruiters step foot on campus every single week.
Kendrick E. Johnson: I am looking forward to watching these seven talented athletic programs duke it out in sports across the board. With six of the seven schools located off the Highway 380 corridor, it will very interesting and exciting to watch new competitive rivalries occur throughout the entire district.