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 2020-21 school year.
For many, that’ll mean making the move to a new district, and schools like Plano ISD, Lewisville ISD and Coppell are no different. The PISD trio broke away from their longtime rivals in Allen and McKinney and link up with LISD and Coppell in a revamped District 6-6A.
Throughout the summer, Star Local Media will reflect on the year that was for 6-6A’s eight schools while also looking ahead to the district’s storylines and subplots for the 2020-21 school year.
1. As summer workouts get underway, how were football teams impacted by no spring practices during the COVID-19 pandemic?
David Wolman: The physical part of football is one major aspect that teams in 6-6A missed because of the cancellation of spring football due to the global coronavirus pandemic.
Blocking and tackling weren't allowed while school was out and still is not permitted, which means that coaches will have to spend a significant amount of time at the beginning of fall practice to reacquaint their players with technique and to also get them the necessary repetitions to be ready for the season.
The installation of the teams' offensive and defensive schemes are vital during spring football, especially for incoming freshmen and sophomores, as well as for those players who are new to the team.
Thankfully, the UIL has designated one hour per day during voluntary summer workouts to allow teams to work on non-contact skills such as passing and catching.
2. How much of a factor will enrollment play in the 6-6A pecking order?
Matt Welch: Pound for pound, 6-6A has a case as the largest district in the state. The Plano ISD trio are entrenched as the state’s second-, third- and fourth-largest high schools — all sporting enrollments of at least 4,999 students — while Lewisville (4,468) and Coppell (4,088.5) also eclipse the 4,000-student plateau.
Mix in sizable student bodies at Hebron (3,757) and Flower Mound (3,651) and 6-6A has seven of the state’s 30 largest high schools.
In a district with so many heavyweight schools, enrollment figures will only take a program so far. Despite its gaudy numbers, PISD wasn’t a rubber stamp for the postseason in 9-6A — of the 12 bracket sports whose seasons were completed the previous two school years, PISD’s three schools totaled just 13 playoff appearances. For comparison’s sake, Allen totaled 10 by itself.
Those playoff spots will be just as tough to come by in the new 6-6A, but that applies to LISD and Coppell as well. Those five schools dwarfed Irving ISD in enrollment and that correlated with greater success in athletics.
Sharing a district with three of the four largest schools in the state should even things out a bit.
3. Are there any potential new rivalries that could emerge within the new 6-6A layout?
David Wolman: Old rivalries will be renewed in 6-6A between three PISD schools and four in LISD — all of whom squared off in 6-6A in 2010-12 and 2014-16. Coppell, meanwhile, will look to forge a new rivalry with Plano.
Coppell has been a traditional powerhouse in soccer with three state championships to boot in the last seven years combined from its boys and girls teams. Plano Senior and Plano West bring their own history to the soccer field as the Wildcats have 10 state championships in soccer and the Lady Wolves have won six state titles since 2000.
And even thought West’s volleyball team was hit by graduation, don’t expect much love lost when the Lady Wolves square off with Flower Mound twice a year. West is the defending state runner-up in Class 6A but dealt Flower Mound one of its four losses in 2019. The Lady Jaguars won 29 matches in a row following that setback. Coppell and Hebron have gone toe-to-toe and don’t expect that to change anytime soon.
The matchups could be just as intriguing in baseball. Coppell has been a mainstay. PISD’s teams appeared to be trending upward before the season was cancelled. Flower Mound and Marcus are always competitive. Hebron is a gritty team.
4. As Plano ISD transitions to a new district, what is the biggest difference between the new 6-6A and the old 9-6A?
Matt Welch: Time will tell if it leads to more postseason success, but PISD being out of the shadow of Allen and Prosper has to exude some relief. The two sets of Eagles lorded over 9-6A, accounting for two of the district’s four playoff spots in nine of the 12 sports whose seasons were completed across the previous two school years.
With half of the district’s playoff spots essentially penciled in for Allen and Prosper while in 9-6A, a change of scenery should open up for a bit more parity for PISD, despite the pedigrees of LISD and Coppell.
There will also a change in scheduling for the PISD girls programs, many of whom competed in just a seven-team district in 9-6A due to Jesuit only participating in boys athletics. That meant girls teams in volleyball, basketball, soccer and softball were afforded two byes during the district schedule — a reprieve to help a team heal up or get in some extra time preparing for a certain opponent.
Back in an eight-team district, every team will compete on each night of the conference schedule.