DALLAS CHRISTIAN FOOTBALL GABRIEL GRUBBS

Gabriel Grubbs and Dallas Christian won state title No. 9 with a 33-14 victory over Houston Second Baptist.

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 2022-23 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 Mesquite, Rowlett and Sachse areas, while also looking ahead to the district’s storylines and subplots for the 2022-23 school year.

1. Which team had the biggest breakthrough in 2021-2022?

This area has seen some memorable playoff runs over the years from different programs in different sports.

This past year was somewhat of an anomaly, as due to a few teams going through a rough patch, as well as a rigorous Region II field, success in the playoffs was hard to come by.

There were some very good runs, such as the Sachse volleyball team returning to the regional tournament, but while it did make for a successful season, it was not anything new for the Mustangs, as they were at the same place a year ago.

So when looking to address the question, we are looking for teams that made history and achieved something none of its predecessors have done before and a pair of teams fit that criteria.

The Sunnyvale volleyball team was no stranger to the playoffs, having made eight playoff appearances from 2010-2018, but it had never been beyond the third round.

This did not necessarily look like the season it would make history.

While the Raiders did break a three-year postseason drought, they finished third in 13-4A, setting them up for a tough playoff road.

But by the time the third round of the playoffs came to an end, Sunnyvale was the only district team left standing.

Behind a trio of first-team all-district honorees in seniors Hailey Delamar and Paige Delamar and sophomore Hillary McMahan, Sunnyvale pulled a seeding upset in the bi-district round, rallying for a 28-30, 25-22, 25-23, 17-25, 15-12 victory over Brownsboro.

The Raiders had to work extra in the area finals, as well, but they held off Lindale for a 25-12, 25-19, 17-25, 21-25, 15-6 win.

That sent Sunnyvale to the third round for the third time in program history and first since 2016.

The Raiders drew 16-4A champion Bullard and dropped the opening set. But they had an immediate answer, as they again stormed back to claim a 19-25, 26-24, 29-27, 25-20 victory to punch their ticket to the regional tournament for the first time.

The road came to an end in the regional semifinals with a loss to Aubrey, but the Raiders raised the bar for future teams to follow.

The Sunnyvale boys soccer team followed a similar script.

The Raiders had not missed the playoffs since their inaugural appearance in 2017, and had, in fact, already secured a berth when the season was halted in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But during that stretch, they had only made it out of the first round twice—in 2017 and 2018.

Sunnyvale was determined to change that this season with a talented cast that included 12-4A MVP Max Pate, midfielder of the year Landon Marquez de la Plata, goalkeeper of the year Jake Pecina and first-teamers in juniors Nash Aziz and Adam Hamad and sophomores Dominic David and Henry Hartmann.

After finishing second in district, the Raiders took care of business in the playoff opener against Melissa in a 6-0 shutout.

That brought them an area-round match against Williams Prep. It was a close affair, but Sunnyvale got goals from Marquez de la Plata and Aziz and a good defensive effort to claim a 2-1 victory to advance to the regional quarterfinals for the first time ever.

The road came to an end with a narrow 1-0 loss to Nevada Community in the third round, but like the volleyball team, it marked another push forward in the program’s legacy.

2. Which team had the biggest turnaround in 2021-2022?

The 2019-2020 athletics year was a unique one for many teams, particularly in the spring sports, many of which had their seasons partially, or nearly completely erased due to the pandemic.

That left a lot of uncertainty about what to expect when they did indeed return to action.

This past year, though there were hiccups, things largely went back to normal, giving teams a better grasp of where they stood and what the expectations should be.

A trio of Mesquite ISD teams warranted mention in the conversation for this question.

The North Mesquite basketball team won just one district game in 2020-2021 and finished with a 6-20 overall record.

But behind head coach Hollis Johnson, defensive most valuable player Tamorrian Grigsby, first-team forward Cordale Russell and second-teamers Corey Love and Dalan Hicks, the Stallions turned things around, going 6-6 in district and 19-15 overall to return to the playoffs for the first time in four years.

The Mesquite baseball team won only two district games and finished last in 2021, but under head coach Todd Purl and all-district performers in Addison Patton, Kaleb Lair, Brian Lee, Luis Castillo, Steve Rodriguez and Adrian Davenport, the Skeeters were able to do what it took to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

But the nod here goes to the Mesquite football team.

The Skeeters were coming off a 2-7 season and had to make a transition at the top when head coach Jeff Fleener departed for Forney and DeMarcus Harris took the reins.

There was talent, with the likes of co-defensive MVP tackle Marlon Thompson-Leatch, first-team quarterback Chance Edwards and first-team defenders in linemen Ashton Donald and Cornelius Darden and linebackers Forest Gatlin and Joshua Williams.

But they still had to put it together on the field.

Mesquite got off to a 0-2 start with losses to Flower Mound and South Grand Prairie, but began to show its gritty style.

After bouncing back with wins over Grand Prairie and Arlington, the Skeeters entered district with a 2-2 record and momentum.

Mesquite grinded out a 16-6 win over Skyline in its 10-6A opener, and even in a loss, opened a lot of eyes the following week with a narrow 25-22 setback to high-powered Rockwall.

In perhaps the defining game of the season, the Skeeters put the clamps on Horn in a 12-0 victory, followed that up with a crosstown win over North Mesquite and they closed the regular season with another low-scoring 21-9 decision over Tyler Legacy to head back to the playoffs.

Mesquite was not quite finished, as it ran into another high-octane offense in Sachse and the defense again rose to the occasion for a 42-19 victory to advance to the area finals.

The Skeeters ran into the Duncanville machine in the area round, where the road came to an end, but there are plenty of reasons for optimism for the future.

3. How did Dallas Christian measure up during the last athletics year?

Dallas Christian has historically been among the powerhouses in the ranks of the state’s private schools.

From 1983-2021, the Chargers captured 32 team state championships in 10 different sports, including eight in football and eight in baseball, and many more individual titles.

They added to that total during the past athletics year.

As is generally the case, Dallas Christian had success in a variety of sports.

The volleyball team set the tone with a district championship and a trip to regionals.

The boys basketball team won its district title and advanced to the state semifinals and the boys soccer, softball and baseball teams all had solid playoff runs.

The Chargers also had several standouts in individual sports along the way.

But two teams claimed the ultimate prize.

The Dallas Christian girls basketball team won back-to-back state championships in 2016-2017 and were primed for another run.

The Chargers took some lumps early on, hardening their game against several strong public programs, as well as some of the top larger private schools in the state.

That proved to help down the road.

Behind first-team all-district honorees in senior Ansley Hughes, juniors Kennedy Chappell, Caitlynn Jordan and Maddie Perkins and sophomores Jacquelynn Schlegel and Leeza Dayian, Dallas Christian hit its stride in the playoffs.

The Chargers rolled through three playoff wins over Fort Worth Christian, Frisco Legacy Christian and Fort Worth Southwest Christian by an average of 31.3 points.

The championship was expected to be tougher, and it was, but Dallas Christian was able to claim a 47-41 win over Houston Second Baptist to claim the state title.

The crown jewel of the year, though, was the football team capturing state championship No. 9.

Dallas Christian had established itself as one of the top private school programs in the state over the years, but it had not won a title since 2008.

Even worse, the Chargers seemed somewhat hexed, as a number of strong seasons ended in heartbreaking fashion in the state title game.

Dallas Christian had good reason to think this was the year to break the drought. There was star power all over the field with the likes of freshman quarterback Luke Carney and senior running back Jalil Brown. There was talent on the outside with wide receivers Mac McAda and Gabriel Grubbs and in the trenches with linemen Nick Dore and Cole Burk, as well as kicker Jacob Hoelzle.

The defense was just as loaded with linemen Ty Williams and Devontay High, linebackers Jackson Barry and T.J. Lucas and defensive backs Grubbs, McAda and William Nettles.

The Chargers rolled through their first three games before suffering a non-district loss to TCA-Addison.

It would be their last setback of the season.

Dallas Christian swept through its district slate by a combined score of 165-17 en route to the title.

The first two rounds of the playoffs featured lopsided wins over Flower Mound Coram Deo (62-0) and Fort Worth Christian (63-35).

The Chargers got a challenge in the semifinals, but prevailed in a 24-14 victory over Fort Worth Christian to set the stage for the championship game.

There, this time, Dallas Christian would not be denied, as it rolled to a 33-14 win over Houston Second Baptist to finally raise the trophy for state title No. 9.

For continued coverage on the local sports scene, follow Devin Hasson on Twitter: @DevinHasson. Email Devin with sports story suggestions at dhasson@starlocalmedia.com.

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