The 27th ESPY Awards, the annual ceremony devoted to honoring standout professional and collegiate athletes and teams of the past year, is set to air on July 10.
It's the sports equivalent to the Oscars or Grammys, so why not put a high school spin on the concept?
Over the past school year, Northeast Dallas County has showcased no shortage of notable individual and team athletic achievements, so it is only appropriate to put the last season of local varsity sports into an award-winning perspective.
In the coming weeks, the city's top athletes, teams and games will be recognized among nine different awards.
With that said Star Local Media presents its seventh edition of The Varsitys, the first of a three-part series.
Female Breakthrough Athlete of the Year
Madison McClarity, Fr., Softball, Sachse
On a team loaded with returning playmakers, McClarity not only proved she belonged on the field, she emerged as one of the top players in the area.
McClarity wasted little time establishing herself as one of the top hitters in the area, displaying the ability to hit for power and reach base on a consistent basis. She posted a .500 batting average with six home runs, one triple, 21 doubles, 27 runs and 36 RBIs. She also drew 13 walks, helping her to an on-base percentage of .571.
McClarity also flashed her talents on the mound, going 7-1 with a 3.16 ERA and 41 strikeouts and only 18 walks in 44.1 innings and should be ready to take on an expanded role in the future.
As if that were not enough, she had a .981 fielding percentage after committing just one error in 52 chances at third base.
McClarity was voted by Star Local Media and 10-6A as the newcomer of the year as she helped the Mustangs to a 24-7 overall record, a second-place finish in the district and their 14th playoff appearance in the last 15 years, including their 12th in a row.
Male Breakthrough Athlete of the Year
Kendrick Smallwood, Fr., Track and Field, Poteet
Many track and field athletes spend their entire high school career striving to make it to Austin only to never realize that dream.
Smallwood was able to achieve that goal during his freshman year.
It was not just the face that he qualified for the state meet, it was the progress he made through the spring to do so.
At the District 13-5A meet, Smallwood qualified for the area competition by taking second in the 110 hurdles (14.86) and fourth in the 300 hurdles (41.32).
Though he dropped his time by more than three-tenths of a second to a personal-best 14.54 at the area meet, his fourth-place finish did not bode well in terms of his chances at regionals.
But Smallwood’s steep learning curve continued at the 5A Region II meet, and he defied the pre-meet projections by clocking a 14.23 to place second and earn a spot in Austin.
Smallwood did not falter on the big stage at the state meet as he posted a time of 14.27 to place fifth, but just eight-hundredths of a second out of a silver medal in the tightly-contested race.
Co-Games of the Year
Poteet vs. Tyler John Tyler Football
This game is likely to stir up bad memories for Pirate fans, but it provided a little of everything, including a furious Poteet comeback and a memorable finish that was talked about around the state.
The stakes were high with the 7-5A Division I championship essentially on the line and it did not look good for the Pirates early on, as Tyler John Tyler raced to a 21-0 lead at the end of one quarter.
Poteet refused to lie down. They showed signs of life when Seth McGowan scored on a 7-yard run and Dalton Dale hit Devon Martin on a 50-yard scoring strike, but the Lions were able to counter late in the half to take a 27-15 lead into the break.
The Pirates twice made it a one score game, in the third quarter on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Dale to Cam Lampkin, and in the fourth on a short scoring run by McGowan, but John Tyler answered both times and Hawkins’ 56-yard run gave them a 41-29 lead with just 6:21 left.
Poteet’s resiliency showed once again, as McGowan had a 2-yard touchdown to make it 41-36 and the defense then stuffed the Lions on fourth-and-four to get the ball back with 1:43 left.
Dale converted a third-and-10 with a 50-yard completion to Lampkin and two plays later, McGowan’s fourth touchdown of the night seemed to complete a storybook ending as they took a 44-41 lead with 15 seconds left.
Unfortunately for the Pirates, that was just enough time for a miracle finish. Lion quarterback Devlen Woods and wide receiver Ke’Andre Street had given Poteet fits all game and their fourth scoring connection of the game was a heartbreaker, as they completed a 49-yard Hail Mary as time expired to claim the 48-44 victory.
Sachse vs. Rowlett Girls Soccer
Sachse and Rowlett is the best rivalry in Garland ISD and it normally brings out the best in one another. Throw in the caveat of a district championship being on the line on the final day of the regular season and the stage was set for a memorable night.
The Eagles had held a slim lead over the Mustangs in the standings for much of the 10-6A season and had a one-point edge heading into the finale.
If Rowlett had hoped that its home field would give them an edge, Sachse quickly dispelled that notion.
Less than four minutes into the match, Paige Baumgartner made a strong run up the left side and while her shot was saved, Storm Harris punched in the rebound to give the Mustangs a 1-0 lead.
Just a few minutes later, Sachse was back on the attack and made it 2-0 when Kaitlyn Valatis scored on a 24-yard free kick.
Rowlett had been quiet for much of the first half but started to get things going and then broke through when Grace Fedosky crossed to Jolie Terry, whose volley into the net cut it to 2-1 with 10:33 left until the break.
The teams traded chances, but the score remained the same until late in regulation when Terry fed Taylor Conway, who dribbled around a defender and beat the keeper to tie it at 2-2 with only 7:38 left.
Momentum was on the Eagles side, but it would not last long, as just more than a minute later, Chayse Thorn buried a shot from 30 yards out with just 6:26 left to give them a 3-2 lead and that would prove to be the game-winner, as the Mustangs captured the game and their seventh straight district championship.