July 10 marks 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: Prestonwood vs. St. Pius X football, Sept. 28
The Lions and Panthers staged an instant classic in the 2017 Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools Division I state championship – one that occupied this exact space a year ago – and their late-September, non-district rematch was every bit a worthy successor.
With 105 total points and 1,037 total yards left on the field at Lion Stadium, Prestonwood staged some last-minute heroics after alum Dylan Cadwallader, who scored six touchdowns in the win, scored on a run from 4 yards out with 19 seconds left to lift the Lions to a 57-48 victory.
Prestonwood’s razor-thin verdict came after St. Pius overcame a 16-point, second-half deficit to seize a 48-44 lead with 2:39 remaining in the fourth quarter before Cadwallader and Co. marched downfield one last time.
The battle between eventual all-state quarterbacks Cadwallader and Grant Gunnell was worth the price of admission alone, with the Prestonwood passer throwing for 438 yards to complement his six scores and Gunnell lobbing 506 yards and six touchdowns as well.
Taylor Raglin: Plano West vs. Rockwall boys basketball, Feb. 22
The Wolves’ area-round matchup with Rockwall, which promised some up-tempo and wild action, was as advertised, with the Yellow Jackets denying what would have been a dramatic final-seconds shot to take down West, 57-56, and end the Wolves’ season.
The fan bases showed up to Lovejoy in droves, sent into dueling frenzies by back-and-forth action and swings of momentum throughout the contest. After a layup from West alum Daylen Minor, the Wolves were down by what would prove to be the final, one-point margin and got a possession with fewer than 10 seconds left.
Minor kicked it to junior Chase Ross in the corner, whose shot was inhibited by aggressive Rockwall defense and floundered harmlessly to the floor.
The Wolves bring back a healthy talent pool in 2019-20, but they’ll be hard-pressed to take part in a contest as exciting as their second-round showdown this winter.
Matt Welch: Caleb Bergman, Plano East baseball
The Panthers took their lumps in 2019, going just 1-13 in district play, but unearthed a gem in Bergman, who turned in an all-state campaign as just a freshman.
Splitting time between shortstop and the outfield, with the ability to chip in on the mound as well, Bergman hit .390, scored 18 runs, knocked in 14 more and added three doubles and a triple at the top of head coach Jordan Byrd’s lineup.
Coaches near and far took notice, with Bergman being the only freshman to crack the 9-6A all-district first team and one of only two freshmen named to the Class 6A Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association all-state team.
And with three years of varsity ball to go, it’s likely that Bergman’s best is yet to come.
Taylor Raglin: Tagen Jamison, Plano West Wrestling
The Plano West boys wrestling team engineered Plano ISD’s best-ever finish this season, taking fourth in the state as a group and seeing one member of the Wolves’ squad crowned a state champion.
While alum Ashley Lekas dominated her way to a state title, as well, Jamison broke out with gold of his own in just the second year of his varsity career. Wrestling at 132 pounds, Jamison took down Austin Vandegrift’s Noah Gochberg in the state championship match.
Jamison also won the Region II-6A title in the same weight class, taking down Luke Sloan (also of Vandegrift).
Jamison will enter next season ranked No. 1 over Sloan in the 132-pound class by wrestlingtexas.com, and he’ll have two more shots at gold during his West career.
Matt Welch: The Plano Super Bowl
Plano Senior is as steeped in football tradition as any high school in the state. And for the first time ever, the city’s oldest high school added a Super Bowl champion to that lineage.
In February, Super Bowl LIII carried plenty of intrigue locally, with Wildcat alumni suiting up for both NFL teams involved – running back Rex Burkhead of the New England Patriots and offensive lineman Joseph Noteboom of the Los Angeles Rams.
Ultimately, it was Burkhead’s Patriots who came out on top in a 13-3 victory where the Plano icon chipped in plenty during New England’s sixth title win – carrying the ball seven times for 43 yards, including a 26-yard run late in the fourth quarter that helped cement the victory.
Capturing a championship in his sixth year as a pro, Burkhead returned to his hometown in April to host his annual fundraiser, the Team Jack Trifecta – with Noteboom helping coach the event’s youth football camp – and had the prestigious Vince Lombardi Trophy on display.
Taylor Raglin: West volleyball overcomes midseason slump, heads for state
Somewhere in the middle of 9-6A play, the much-hyped Plano West volleyball team and first-year head coach Justin Waters stopped looking like title contenders.
In fact, the Lady Wolves began to look as if they would flirt with missing the playoffs entirely or, should they enter, be quickly dispatched and be left wondering what might have been.
Instead, Waters and his athletes found a second wind, winning five of their last six conference games (with the only loss coming in a five-set thriller against district champ Prosper). From there, a dominant postseason run ensued that included wins over both Prosper and The Woodlands in the regional tournament before a state-semifinal loss to Ridge Point finally ended West’s campaign.
Behind returning seniors Iman Ndiaye and Jill Pressly and a number of other veterans, more success could be on the horizon in 2019.