Sachse quarterback Alex Orji and the Mustangs should be in the running for the 9-6A title this season.

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 Mesquite, Rowlett and Sachse areas, while also looking ahead to the district’s storylines and subplots for the 2021-22 school year.

After looking at the year in review, today we start to take a peak into the future, starting with the fall sports.

1. What local volleyball teams can contend for district titles?

The most obvious answer for this area is Sachse. After all, the Mustangs have not only made 17 consecutive playoff appearances, they have also earned at least a share of the district title eight years in a row and last year marked their third trip to the regional tournament.

So though Sachse did lose a talented graduating class, its pedigree shows it has the ability to reload on an annual basis and that is largely due to the system of head coach Rikki Jones.

The Mustangs return a pair of superlative award winners in senior Zoria Heard and sophomore Favor Anyanwu.

Heard, the 9-6A co-server of the year, led the team with 40 aces. Heard, who was not only named to the TGCA all-state team, but also to compete in the TGCA all-star game, was also one of the top liberos in the state, where she recorded 330 digs, averaging 4.5 per set on the season and 5.0 digs against tough non-district competition.

As a freshman, Anyanwu made an immediate splash to capture newcomer of the year, registering 127 kills, an average of 2.4 per set, to go along with 50 blocks.

Another key returner will be junior Macy Taylor, a first-team all-district selection who recorded 176 kills (2.8 kpg) and 198 digs (2.6 dpg) with 36 blocks and 24 aces and those numbers should only increase this season.

A darkhorse to keep in mind is Horn over in 10-6A. While this district has been dominated by the Rockwall schools in recent years, the Jaguars have been a perennial contender and sent a message in their regular season finale last year by rallying from two sets down to post a five-game win over Heath.

Horn had six all-district selections from that playoff squad and four are coming back.

Newcomer of the year Madison Mosley, who will be a sophomore, made an immediate impact for the Jaguars in a variety of areas. Mosley was second on the team with 167 kills, an average of 2.5 per game, and also had 10 blocks. She was also effective in the back, with 32 aces and 2.7 digs per set.

Mosley was joined on the first team by senior Makaila Harris and junior Ryan Henderson.

Harris, a three-time honoree, recorded 3.7 digs and 2.7 kills per game to go along with 33 aces.

Henderson was one of the top defensive players in the district, registering 4.4 digs per game and adding 22 aces behind the service line.

Another breakout player, sophomore Jada Shepherd, stepped into a role of setter at times, tallying 3.7 assists per game. She also ranked among the team leaders in other areas averaging 2.4 digs and 1.1 kills per set and serving 37 aces.

Horn also returns experience in seniors Samiah Williams, who recorded 48 kills and 19 aces, and senior Arianna Tubbs, who registered 3.4 digs per set.

2. What football teams will contend for district titles?

Well, according to Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine, in this coverage area, only Sunnyvale is expected to take home the 6-4A Division II crown.

Though the Raiders graduated a number of standouts, they do return 10 starters. Among that group are first-team all-district selections in senior wide receiver Joey Bruszer, junior offensive lineman Ja’lon Gillaspie, senior defensive tackle Diyan Pun, senior defensive end Brent Winfree and senior wide receiver/defensive back Landry Laird, who excels on both sides of the ball.

Poteet graduated a bulk of its playoff team, but in its district with eight other Dallas ISD schools, should be expected to compete for a title, with South Oak Cliff likely its biggest competition.

Sachse has been a perennial district championship contender, and despite last year’s odd 3-6 campaign, they still made the playoffs. The Mustangs should feature one of the most dynamic offenses in the area behind senior quarterback Alex Orji, who was effective through the air, completing 99-of-189 passes for 1,403 yards and 10 touchdowns and brought an equally dynamic element to the ground game, rushing 114 times for 926 yards and 15 scores and senior running back Brian Okoye, who carried the ball 92 times for 703 yards and four touchdowns.

One darkhorse to keep an eye on is Mesquite over in 10-6A. The Skeeters are coming off a 2-7 campaign, but have a new head coach in DeMarcus Harrs and return 15 starters, including unanimous first-team all-district quarterback Chance Edwards, who completed 110-of-218 passes for 1,608 yards and 18 touchdowns and is also a capable runner, as well as standout defensive send senior Marlon Thompson-Leatch.

3. What are some football coaching milestones to keep an eye on?

There is a pair of new head coaches in the area with Rowlett’s Derek Alford and Mesquite’s DeMarcus Harris, and many other head coaches’ careers are still in their infancies.

Sachse head coach Mark “Red” Behrens surpassed the 100-win mark two years ago to put himself in elite Garland ISD territory.

Sunnyvale head coach John Settle has a career mark of 137-63 during his 18 years with Brownsboro and the last 10 with the Raiders, and if the team reaches their goal, he could have a chance to hit the 150-mark this year.

For continued coverage on the local sports scene, follow Devin Hasson on Twitter: @DevinHasson

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