Wednesday marked the 27th ESPY Awards, the annual ceremony devoted to honoring standout professional and collegiate athletes and teams of the past year.
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, the Plano area has showcased no shortage of notable individual and team athletic achievements, so it is only appropriate to put the last season of local citywide 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 the seventh edition of The Varsitys.
Matt Welch: Plano Senior football vs. El Paso Eastwood (Sept. 7)
The Wildcats have played more football games than nearly any high school in Texas, but few rival the bizarre twists and turns of the team’s non-district victory over Eastwood last September.
Plano won the contest, 72-48, in its highest-scoring performance since 1939 – a notable accolade in its own right. But how the Wildcats accrued those 72 points required a level of efficiency seldom seen in Texas high school football.
Plano procured the 24-point win despite being outgained, 552-414, and outsnapped, 105-25. Despite being held scoreless in the first quarter, the Wildcats erupted with touchdowns in nine straight offensive possessions, at one point scoring 53 points over a 12-snap span in the second and third quarters.
Averaging 15.9 yards per play through three frames, Plano got big nights from alum Kyron Cumby (seven carries, 146 yards, three touchdowns), junior Tylan Hines (four carries, 99 yards, three touchdowns) and even alum Scott Albrecht, who recorded a pair of pick-sixes.
There wasn’t a performance in Plano more stupefying in its execution than this.
Taylor Raglin: Tatum Boyd vs. McKinney Boyd softball (March 12)
In a wild, 11-inning contest that pitted Boyd against Boyd, it was Plano West alum Tatum Boyd that got the last laugh against McKinney Boyd and standout junior hurler Kinsey Kackley. The West star and Stanford signee carried the Lady Wolves in a marathon 4-1 win, working all 11 frames in the circle and becoming the decisive factor at the dish with some extra-innings heroics.
In the top half of the sixth, Boyd doubled home fellow alum Elisa Rosado to knot the game at a run a side, a score that would stand until the 11th in the face of the pair of dominant arms.
In the visitors' half of the 11th, Boyd came through once again, touching up Kackley for a solo homer that would hold up as the game-winner. West would go on to tack on two more runs in the frame, though the one-run advantage was all Boyd would need to close the door on the Lady Broncos in the home half.
Though Kackley was outstanding in her own right, collecting an eye-popping 25 strikeouts over a complete-game performance of her own, Boyd's overall contributions were the difference in the matchup. She struck out 19 Lady Broncos in her complete-game victory, walking just one and allowing a lone hit to go along with the Lady Broncos’ single run. At the plate, she finished 3-for-4 with the double and the home run, driving in her program's two biggest RBIs and hauling West over the finish line on its way to an undefeated 9-6A run.
Matt Welch: Jeff Clarkson, Prestonwood boys basketball
After six seasons at Plano East, Clarkson took over one of the state’s premier private school basketball programs – one with seven Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools state championships to its name.
The Lions ultimately put themselves in position to win another, advancing to the state title game after an up-and-down year that included the team’s leading scorer and top overall player, Justin Webster, transferring to a military academy in Virginia, plus a myriad of injuries and inconsistencies that contributed to Prestonwood flying under the radar as the playoffs began.
Unranked heading into the postseason, Clarkson helped steer the Lions toward an upset-minded run that included playoff wins over rivals Bishop Lynch and John Paul II before narrowly falling to San Antonio Antonian in the TAPPS state title game, 70-67, in overtime.
Taylor Raglin: Justin Waters, Plano West volleyball
When then-interim head coach Justin Waters took over the West volleyball team just weeks before the start of the regular season, it was difficult to place any sort of expectations on the talented program. With athletes like seniors Jill Pressly and Iman Ndiaye in the fold, among others on a loaded roster, the talent was certainly there, but questions lingered about the impact of the late coaching change and a stout 9-6A.
Those questions seemed to be answered by a dominant preseason, but a mid-district slump dredged them up once more. The Lady Wolves looked lost, stumbling through the middle portion of 9-6A and on the verge of either missing the postseason entirely or producing a middling season, at best.
Instead, Waters, who has since been named the permanent head coach, got his group back together to the tune of a 5-1 finish to league play and a postseason run that culminated in an appearance in the state tournament. Along the way, the Lady Wolves took down 9-6A champion Prosper and perennial power The Woodlands in the regional tournament, with each win coming by a count of 3-1.
With the majority of the West roster returning and Waters appearing to have gotten the buy-in he needs from his players, West should be set up for another deep run in 2019.
Matt Welch: Plano West boys basketball defeats Jesuit (Jan. 15)
There’s an old adage in combat sports that “styles make fights.” That rang true in 9-6A boys basketball last season between Plano West, Allen and Jesuit. Although the Wolves struggled to handle the athleticism of the Eagles, their size matched up quite well with the Rangers, who spent most of the year ranked in the state’s top 10.
On Jan. 15, West proved to be far more than a tricky style matchup for Jesuit, scoring a 63-59 victory that doubled as one of only six losses suffered by the Rangers last season.
The Wolves cracked Jesuit across the jaw in the second quarter, outscoring the Rangers 16-7 to seize a 29-21 lead at halftime that swelled to 46-35 by the end of the third quarter. Despite Jesuit limiting West’s leading scorer, Ryan Zambie, to just seven points, the Wolves’ scoring depth paid off behind 19 points from Daylen Minor and 11 apiece from Shemar Pearl and Alec Zambie. In fact, Pearl nearly battled Jesuit big man Julius Marble to a draw by holding the Michigan State signee to 13 points.
The victory helped springboard the Wolves back into the playoffs and an eventual area-round appearance.
Taylor Raglin: Plano Senior football defeats Plano East (Oct. 19)
While it's difficult to call any result of Plano-on-Plano violence an upset, as the trio of Plano ISD teams define the cliché of throwing out the record books when rivalries are contested, Plano’s 41-19 defeat of a high-flying Plano East team last October was particularly shocking.
With a blowout loss to Allen the only blemish on the Panthers' 5-1 record entering the game, it seemed that alum Brandon Mallory and the high-flying East offense would be able to fend off Plano, then 2-4 and coming off a 17-7 defeat at the hands of McKinney. East hadn't scored fewer than 26 points in any contest and had eclipsed 40 twice, making the rivalry with Plano seem like a mismatch.
Instead, the Wildcats ran wild from the jump, dominating the contest from start to finish and handing East its second consecutive conference loss. They produced five rushing touchdowns, three of them from alum Kyron Cumby, who rumbled for 146 yards on just 16 attempts. Mallory was uncharacteristically inconsistent, as well, matching three passing scores with three interceptions, and East couldn't establish anything on the turf, with the Panthers collecting just 34 rushing yards.
Many expected an East return to form and fireworks from Mallory and his contingent of talented wideouts, but onlookers were instead treating to a good, old-fashioned, run-you-over beating from a Wildcat team that would rattle off another two wins following the victory over its crosstown rival.