Collin County’s growing soccer talent leading to some of area’s most heated district races

Collin County’s growing soccer talent leading to some of area’s most heated district races

Flower Mound women’s football coach Misail Tsapos has seen the region’s talent come into focus throughout her career.

When he moved to the metroplex in 1989 and got his first coaching job at Mansfield High School in 1990, many of today’s powers in Frisco and the northern suburbs did not exist. But over the past three decades, the talent that once existed south of the city has moved north.

“A lot of young parents at the time came to the North,” Tsapos said. “Then a lot of clubs developed here, starting with FC Dallas. The growth of football is therefore in the northern part of DFW.

Frisco Lone Star boys coach Clinton Hollingworth witnessed something similar. He used to coach in Carrollton and saw a larger talent pool closer to downtown Dallas, but as he moved north to Frisco, so did many of the best in the region.

This movement of talent north has led to the saturation of a few districts with the best programs in the region and the state. In the latest Dallas Morning News Top 10 rankings, seven of the top 10 6A women’s teams and eight of the top 6A men’s teams come from just three of the region’s districts. In MaxPreps’ state rankings, seven of the top 10 6A women’s teams come from three districts, while three of the top five men’s programs all come from the 6-6A district.

These powerful pools lead to some of the liveliest district races in UIL athletics, as the best teams in the region must compete just to make the playoffs and compete in the early rounds of the tournament.

“We joked about it a few years ago,” Hollingworth said. “Our 10th place team probably could have won a district around us.”

Related:Boys Football Rankings (1/31): District 6-6A, 9-5A battles cause zone upheavalThe growing club systemFILE – Flower Mound head coach Misail Tsapos at the stadium McKinney ISD at McKinney on April 9, 2021. (Steve Hamm)

The northward migration of talent is not unique to high school soccer. But the growth of the club system is.

As Frisco and Plano have grown, many of the area’s best club programs have also taken root there. From FC Dallas to Solar and Sting, these highly competitive clubs have not only attracted players from within the state, but those from outside Texas as well.

Club football costs money. The more affluent families in the northern suburbs are the ones willing to pay for it.

“The higher socio-economic status where parents can afford to have their kids play club football is in the north, that’s why it’s developed much faster,” Tsapos said.

But especially in the boys’ game — where top club players are unlikely to compete for local high schools — the club system’s ties to high school football success may not be so obvious. Hollingworth, whose school is a hub for the FC Dallas Academy, said his program primarily benefited siblings and other parents who moved to Frisco alongside those joining the club.

Left with an abundance of talent, schools in Collin County are built for success. But their neighbors too.

“If you’re not mature enough and dictate the tempo and style of play for them to play like you, then you might not win this match,” Tsapos said. “In some other neighborhoods, you just have to show up sometimes, and that’s all it takes.”

Micah Kelley (20) of Frisco Wakeland celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against Humble Kingwood Park during their UIL 5A Boys State Championship football game at Birkelbach Field on April 17, 2021 in Georgetown, Texas. (Thao Nguyen / Contributor)A marathon, not a sprint

Prosper Rock Hill was warmly welcomed into class 6A. Going into district play with just one loss, the Rock Hill girls have established themselves as a leader in the region. But with state title contenders Prosper and Allen as two of his first district games, he was quickly humbled.

“You make a mistake and these teams make you pay,” Rock Hill coach Manuel Cordova said.

The Rock Hill District, 5-6A, neighbors 4-6A with Area #1 Southlake Carroll and Keller as well as 6-6A, which includes Flower Mound, Flower Mound Marcus, and Hebron. Rock Hill knows it will be a battle to earn third or fourth place in his district, let alone get out of the region if he makes the playoffs.

Class 5A in boys’ and girls’ games also has its fair share of heated district races. For girls, District 7-5A includes defending state finalist Grapevine, newcomer 5A Argyle and undefeated Birdville. And in District 9-5A, home to many of Frisco’s top ISD programs for boys and girls, the race to the finish is among the toughest in the state.

For the boys, Frisco, Frisco Wakeland, Frisco Reedy and Lone Star are the top contenders for the 9-5A title. Faced with such demanding talent week after week, the district slate becomes a marathon, not a sprint.

“A lot of our work isn’t necessarily training,” Hollingworth said. “It’s conservation.”

Even though many of the region’s most competitive districts have a few teams clearly ahead of the rest, Prosper Boys’ coach Bryan Thompson said that’s what makes it so hard to be a frontrunner.

“All the coaches in the district know each other,” he said. “Even if you say, ‘Okay, well, this team is down this year,’ you can’t assume they haven’t done their homework and wouldn’t be competitive.”

Related:Women’s Soccer Rankings (1/31): Cancellations Keep Ground StableLong TermFILE – Grapevine head coach Steve McBride during a Class 5A women’s soccer semi-final in Georgetown on Thursday 14 April 2022. (Stephen Spillman / Special Contributor)

Playing in such a stacked neighborhood has its pros and cons. At this stage of the season, the coaches are not sure if it will be positive or negative.

“Not having a game in your district that lets you breathe can also be detrimental because you just get beat up,” Lewisville boys coach Brandon McCallum said.

“But if you’re in a situation where you’re leading 3-0 in the first half and you don’t want to increase the score, I think that’s detrimental because maybe they’re not fit for the playoffs. playoffs where they need to play 80 minutes.

All the coaches agreed that emerging victorious in these competitive districts or the regional tournament comes down to a lot of luck – especially knowing who they’ll be up against in the first round.

“We start the season and communicate with the girls that every game in the district matters because that one seed versus two seeds is a huge difference,” Allen girls coach Kelly Thompson said.

But given the preparation they’re getting over the next two months, hopefully they’ll be ready if that opportunity arises.

“Trying to figure us out at the end of March, beginning of April, it’s a scary thing,” Grapevine girls’ coach Steve McBride said. “So the fact that we have to get through this now, take our bumps and grow – I think that’s only going to lend itself positively for us as we move forward.”

On Twitter: @Lassimak

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