The 27th ESPY Awards, the annual ceremony devoted to honoring standout professional and collegiate athletes and teams of the past year, aired on Wednesday.
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 second of a three-part series.
Iron Athlete of the Year
Lily Jacobs, Jr., Sunnyvale
There were several multi-sport athletes who enjoyed success in different fields, but few put together an all-around resume quite like Jacobs.
It started back in the fall in volleyball when she was named to the 13-4A all-district first team after helping the Raiders return to the playoffs.
While she was doing that, Jacobs was juggling duties on the cross country team, where she won the individual title at the 13-4A meet, placed second at the Class 4A Region 2 competition and took sixth at the 4A state meet at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock with a time of 11.51.78.
She carried that success over into the spring.
As a member of the tennis team, Jacobs finished second at the district tournament to earn a spot at the Region 2 event, but she was unable to compete due to a conflicting schedule with the area track and field meet.
It proved to be a good choice.
Jacobs won the 13-4A, area and Region 2 individual championships in both the 1,600 and 3,200. That earned her a trip to Austin for the state track and field meet, where she claimed a silver medal in the 3,200 with a time of 11:02.91 and nearly added another medal but settled for fourth place in the 1,600.
Co-Coaches of the Year
Jeff Fleener, Mesquite football
Zach Mikesell, Sachse boys basketball
Fleener’s first year at the helm did not go according to plan, as the Skeeters endured their share of struggles during a 1-9 campaign.
The team immediately turned its attention to the offseason and an increased focus on getting stronger as a team.
That commitment to the weight room during the spring and summer paid dividends in the fall.
Mesquite shook off an opening-week loss and began to enjoy the fruits of their labors, as confidence grew with wins over Plano West and Hurst L.D. Bell.
The 11-6A opener provided the Skeeters a chance to make a statement and they seized their moment.
Facing off against crosstown rival and reigning district champion Horn, the teams traded punches for four quarters. After Horn tied it with a touchdown with only 1:03 left, Mesquite marched right back down the field and earned a signature win when Iram Perez kicked a 42-yard field goal as time expired for a 20-17 victory.
The Skeeters suffered a hiccup against Rockwall-Heath, but bounced right back with a 42-22 win over North Mesquite and a 24-14 victory over Tyler Lee to earn their first playoff berth since 2013 in one of the biggest turnarounds in the state.
For all of the all-around success that Sachse has enjoyed during the last 15 years, consistency in boys basketball had eluded them, having made only three playoff appearances during that time.
The 2017-2018 season was one to forget, as they endured a midseason coaching change on their way to a 2-25 record.
As an assistant coach across town at Lakeview, Mikesell saw a program that had untapped potential and when the head coaching position was offered, he jumped at the chance.
Mikesell set about implementing a belief in his players that they could be successful and it took less than two weeks for the Mustangs to double their win total from a year ago.
Though undersized compared to many teams, the Sachse staff was able to develop a guard-oriented approach that was adding up to wins.
Building on a strong non-district run would mean nothing, however, if it did not translate into district play, and Sachse refused to have a letdown, establishing itself as a true contender with a 63-62 buzzer-beating win over Wylie, who was state-ranked at the time.
A late losing skid put them in a precarious position, but the Mustangs bounced back with wins over rival Rowlett and Naaman Forest to secure their first playoff berth since 2016.
Though the road came to an end in the bi-district round against Jesuit, Sachse set a program record with 18 victories on the season and raised the bar for future teams to meet.
Story of the Year
MISD athletic director Steve Bragg retires
Longtime Mesquite ISD Athletics Director Steve Bragg announced his retirement in December at the conclusion of the 2018-2019 school year. It capped a long tenured history with MISD.
A graduate of North Mesquite, he got his start with the Stallions as an assistant football coach from 1983-1989. During that time, he was also the head boys soccer coach, guiding North Mesquite to the state tournament in 1986 and 1987.
From there, he moved across town to take over as the offensive coordinator at Poteet from 1989-1999.
After a pair of one-year head coaching stints at Pittsburg and Commerce, Bragg returned to North Mesquite as the head coach, where he served from 2001-2006 before being promoted to Athletics Director in 2007.
During his 12 years in the position, Bragg served as the district chair for 12-5A/11-6A/12-6A/5A D1 District 7-5A. Under his leadership, MISD has been recognized statewide and regionally as a top athletic program. MISD, the first public school district in the nation to begin a Concussion Return-to-Play Policy, was also a leader in drug and steroid testing and lightening policies for athletes. All of these safety measures have become state-mandated.
In 2018, he was instrumental in creating the Memorial Stadium’s Hall of Honor and assembling its inaugural class representing our district’s first century of athletic excellence.
In February, MISD announced the promotion to Athletics Director of Kody Groves, who had been serving as the head football coach at Poteet since 2013.