COVID-19 and its impact on high school sports
Years from now, many will look to publications such as the Hays Free Press to see just how much COVID-19 impacted our daily lives, both big and small. And while the medium of athletics across the globe tried to hold out hope of conducting business as usual amid the rapidly growing crisis, not even sports was immune to the impact of a global pandemic. Without question, the most impactful moment in high school sports this season was the UIL’s decision to shut down its 2019-20 season due to COVID-19. That choice, made by UIL officials in late April after numerous attempts to restart, effectively ended the seasons for countless soccer, softball, baseball and track and field programs statewide. Locally, 16 varsity level athletic teams were still in action when the UIL initially shut down play March 13. That list includes three total soccer teams that were slated to begin postseason play in mid-March.
Wimberley football reaches state title game
After an eight-year hiatus, Wimberley High in 2019 triumphantly returned to Texas high school football’s promised land when they qualified for the Class 4A, Division II state title game in December. Ultimately, dreams of a third state title in program history were dashed at the hands of Texarkana Pleasant Grove. However, the path Wimberley forged to reach AT&T Stadium will live on in minds of many, as well as the history books. Take for example the program’s stunning 42-41 last-second win over Raymondville in the area round of the playoffs which spurred the start of the Texans’ run. That victory, mixed with a double-digit win over district rival Geronimo Navarro in the Alamodome in mid-November, were key elements in helping Wimberley outlast Silsbee in a wild 56-43 state semifinal shootout in Katy. Leading the way was Texan senior quarterback Cooper McCollum, the 2019 All Hays Free Press/News-Dispatch football Most Valuable Player, who amassed more than 4,300 yards of total offense and 60-plus touchdowns.
Realignment shakes up area sports landscape
The times they were a changin’ both in life and in Texas high school athletics this February after the UIL completed its biennial realignment and reclassification process. Those changes drastically altered the landscape of high school sports in Hays County with three programs – Lehman, Johnson and Dripping Springs – slated to compete against one another in the 5A ranks. One of the more surprising, and perhaps dramatic, elements of realignment was how Lehman High dropped from Class 6A to 5A. In October 2019, Hays CISD officials released “snapshot” enrollments for each campus, per UIL rules, which are used to realign districts. However, Lehman’s snapshot was six students more than the 2,220-student threshold for 6A programs unveiled by the UIL in February. An 11th hour appeal by Hays CISD officials, however, allowed Lehman to use student population projections for its snapshot as opposed to an actual enrollment figure. It was all done based on an existing UIL rule allowing schools to use an enrollment projection whenever a new campus is opened. As a result, Lehman fell to the 5A ranks, joining Dripping Springs, which stayed in 5A, and a Johnson High program that starts team sport varsity level play in 2020. Meanwhile, Hays High and San Marcos High will remain in 6A and will compete in the new 26-6A.
Dripping Springs soccer dominates on the pitch
Had it not been for COVID-19 and the shutdown that came with it, Dripping Springs High boys and girls soccer teams might have been bound for Georgetown and the UIL state tournament. At least that’s what their records seemingly indicated in 2020 after both programs scored more than 20 total regular season wins and an undefeated district title. On the boys side, Dripping Springs finished 22-3 overall under second year head coach Josh Hill and dominated District 25-5A by outscoring opponents 64-10. Not to be outdone, however, was the Lady Tiger soccer team, led by second year coach Bailee Perinne, which pummeled opposition in 25-5A in 2020. Over the course of 14 games, the Lady Tigers outscored opponents 87-4 and recorded 10 clean sheets along the way. Dripping Springs’ boys team finished the year on a 15-game win streak, while the girls program had a 14-game win streak.
Lady Lobo soccer returns to postseason form
Like many teams across the state this spring, the Lehman Lady Lobo soccer program ultimately became a victim of circumstance. After a wildly successful campaign that saw the program punch its first ticket to the playoffs in five seasons, the Lady Lobos were denied a chance to see their dreams fulfilled when the UIL shuttered play days before the start of the postseason. Despite it all, first year Lady Lobo head coach Sean Dickson said earlier this year the shortened schedule couldn’t diminish the effort his program put in this season. In 2020, Lehman scored 12 total district wins and finished in third place in the 25-6A standings.
Rebel football posts back-to-back playoff campaigns
For the first time in close to a decade, Hays High’s football program, led by second year head coach Les Goad, scored back-to-back trips to the playoffs. Guided by a senior-dominated roster and aided by critical wins over Bowie and Del Valle, Hays did just enough to capture the fourth playoff spot out of 25-6A for the second year in a row. Leading the charge was senior Xavier Green who finished the season with 1,200 of the team’s 3,400 yards on the ground.
Tiger football collects fourth straight district title
Not one, not two, not three but four straight district championships in a row are now in the Dripping Springs Tiger football team’s possession after completing the quadfecta this past fall. Dripping Springs’ accomplishment came after the Tigers ran the table in District 12-5A, Division 1 with a 7-0 record. It marked the first time since the 2017 season Dripping Springs had claimed an outright district title and finished play with an unbeaten record. It also marked the fourth district title won under six-year head coach Galen Zimmerman. Highlighting it all was a thrilling 17-14 victory over Austin LBJ in a defensive stalemate. Dual threat quarterback Preston Alford guided the Tiger attack by amassing 1,600-plus yards and 22 total scores.
Hays boys basketball reaches postseason play
By trusting the process instilled under fourth year head coach Matt Sandoval, Hays High’s basketball program punched the program’s first postseason ticket in several years. The Rebels did so by finishing fourth in a wildly competitive 25-6A district that featured state-ranked Westlake and a resurgent Anderson squad. Few games were as impactful for the Rebels as back-to-back-to-back wins over Lake Travis, Del Valle and Anderson in the final 11 days of the regular season. Each victory played a role in Hays eventually clinching the final playoff berth.
Tiger volleyball wins 8th straight district crown
Check the word “domination” in the dictionary and the Dripping Springs Tiger volleyball team’s logo might just be pictured next to the definition. Well, maybe not. But after clinching the program’s 8th straight district crown in a row, as well as notching its 86th straight district win, it’s hard to argue the dominance of Tiger volleyball in Central Texas, especially when one considers the quality of opposition Dripping Springs has faced during that time. Over the course of those eight seasons, Dripping Springs has felled powerhouses such as Alamo Heights, Kerrville Tivy, Boerne Champion and more during district play. All of it has led the Tiger program to craft a 107-4 district record during that eigh-year span. In 2019, Dripping Springs kept up the pace by blitzing 25-5A en route to 14-0 district record aided by the play of seniors Avery Kalsu, Mackenzie Murray, Brynne Potter and Kylar Raymond. In addition, Tiger head coach Michael Kane, who has helmed Dripping Springs’ volleyball program over the past 10 seasons, clinched his 700th career victory in early October.
Lady Tiger hoops wins second straight district title
Not even the absence of a critical player for most of the 2020 season kept Dripping Springs’ girls basketball program from notching back-to-back district crowns. In March, the Lady Tigers completed a 14-0 record in 25-5A and clinched the program’s second straight district championship under second-year head coach David Norris. The accolade was accomplished minus standout sophomore guard Ally Beck who missed most of 2020 due to a knee injury suffered in the off-season. Seniors Avery Johnson and Kline Stafford and junior Taylor Huslig each shouldered the load as the Tigers finished the season as bi-district finalists.