There's no doubt that football powers the high school sports passion in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and the entire state. But Metroplex teams in all sports can be found up and down many national polls, and some of the nation's top recruits call North Texas home.
In the 2011 calendar year, area Class 4A and 5A schools brought home nine state titles in football, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer and volleyball.
The area also witnessed some of the country's best future football talent in Aledo's Johnathan Gray and Denton Ryan's Mario Edwards Jr. as well as top basketball talent in Flower Mound Marcus' Marcus Smart and Dallas Lincoln's LeBryan Nash.
The climb to these mountain tops in the past year has produced some amazing stories, and here is one take on the 10 best of 2011:
10. Arlington Martin finally stops Euless Trinity: Trinity had ousted Martin in the playoffs four times in the previous five years, but 2011 was a different story. The Warriors bested a howling wind and their black-and-red clad rivals 19-7 at Trinity's home stadium, Pennington Field, in a Class 5A Division I regional semifinal. Martin's defense held Trinity's powerful offense to only three first downs. Meanwhile, Warriors running back Kyle Hicks tore through the large Trojans defense for 125 yards and scored the game-clinching touchdown on a 19-yard run. Martin's season would end the following week in the region finals to eventual state champion Southlake Carroll, but ending Trinity's season was a great consolation for coach Bob Wager and his team.
9. Frisco Wakeland's three-sport push: Frisco, home of Pizza Hut Park and FC Dallas, is North Texas' capital of soccer. So it was only fitting that Wakeland brought back gold medals from the girls soccer state tournament by defeating Cedar Park Vista Ridge 2-1. Wakeland barely made it to state, having defeated Rockwall in the region finals on seven rounds of dribble-up shootouts. Earlier, Wakeland's girls basketball team had dreams of state hardware. The Wolverines ended the regular season No. 1 in the ESPNDallas.com 4A poll but lost to West Mesquite in the regional semifinals when Dominique Taylor swished a shot from beyond the half-court line. Wakeland's baseball team maintained the trend of deep playoff runs and dramatic finishes. Wakeland advanced to the regional semifinals on a two-run, walk-off homer by Joey Swanner in Game 3 against Highland Park. The Wolverines would lose the next week to Mesquite Poteet, but it was quite a run for Wakeland sports.
7. Irving MacArthur gets its girls basketball crown: In 2010, MacArthur seemed destined to win a state title behind one of the nation's top players, Odyssey Sims. But the Cardinals fell short in the regional finals when Sims, now at Baylor, went down with a torn ACL. Little did they know, 2011 would be their year. Led by another top national recruit, junior Alexis Jones, MacArthur took down Georgetown 74-51 in the 5A state final. The championship gave the McArthur players a trophy, medals and victory in a bet with their coach, Suzanne Oelschlegel, who had to get the team's motto, "We in dat thing," tattooed on her biceps.
6. Brandon Carter swerves to TCU: Carter, a four-star recruit from Euless Trinity, played his entire senior season with a verbal commitment to Oklahoma while showing no signs of pursuing any other schools. Then, at a Trinity girls basketball game in January, Carter strolled into the gym sporting all-purple TCU garb to cheer on his basketball-playing friends. As it turned out, he had just notified Oklahoma that he was retracting his non-binding commitment to the Sooners and would notify TCU coach Gary Patterson of his change of heart days later. Influencing the decision was the ability to play 25 miles from his home and TCU's willingness to use him as a slot receiver. As a freshman at TCU, Carter finished the regular season fourth on the team in receiving yards with 352 and scored three touchdowns.
5. Dallas Kimball nets boys basketball title: Kimball's frontcourt received the headline coverage throughout the team's run to the Class 4A state finals, but it was the backcourt that brought home the gold medals in the Knights' 78-64 championship win over La Marque. Shannon Lilly, MVP of the final, tallied 23 points and five rebounds and missed just one of his six attempts from 3-point range. Kimball advanced to the state tournament by knocking out Dallas Lincoln in the regional finals with a lock-down defensive performance by guard Austin Franklin on LeBryan Nash, the a top-10 national recruit.
4. Southlake Carroll returns to glory: After years of coaching in the shadow of Todd Dodge, who brought state titles and a national player of the year to Southlake, Hal Wasson made his own mark by leading Carroll to its eighth state football title. The Dragons came from behind, as they had done throughout the playoffs, to beat Fort Bend Hightower 36-29 in the 5A Division I final. The eighth football title ties Celina for the most in state history. Junior quarterback Kenny Hill established himself as one of the Carroll quarterbacking elite -- joining the likes of Chase Daniel, Greg McElroy and Riley Dodge -- by carrying his team to an undefeated season. Hill threw for 229 yards, rushed for 116 more and accounted for four touchdowns in his offensive MVP performance in the final. The football title capped a calendar year at Carroll that also included state championships in boys soccer and swimming and a boys and girls cross country sweep.
3. Flower Mound Marcus becomes national boys basketball power: It would typically be enough of a great story to say Marcus topped Garland Lakeview Centennial 40-38 to win the 5A state championship, but that was just one step in the process of the Marauders becoming a top national program. Marcus finished No. 6 on the ESPNHS Fab 50 after bringing home the 2011 championship and began this season at No. 5. Over the offseason, three of their key cogs made their college choices. Marcus Smart, the No. 11 recruit in the nation, and guard Phil Forte signed with Oklahoma State and teammate Nick Banyard signed with New Mexico. The culmination of it all attracted the attention of the nation when Marcus was given the chance to play No. 4 Montrose Christian (Md.) in primetime on ESPN in December, winning the matchup 42-40.
2. The tale of a fox and an onside kick: No story took over a week of football, or any sport for that matter, more than the outcry of Dallas Skyline fans who felt they were robbed of a state final appearance by a Southlake Carroll onside kick they believed did not travel the required 10 yards. Carroll cashed in on the recovery two plays later, scoring the winning touchdown with just over a minute left on a 35-yard run by Kenny Hill. Skyline supporters inundated the voicemails of the UIL offices to protest the officiating. Even Dallas City Council member Dwaine Caraway issued a statement calling for a UIL investigation. If that wasn't crazy enough, a fox ran onto the field during Hill's touchdown run, weaving his way through the players before escaping up a hill on the opposite side of SMU's Ford Stadium. The fox became a unifying figure in the Carroll community, resulting in stuffed foxes showing up in the stands at the 5A Division I state final. A fox mascot joining the traditional Carroll Dragon on the field and @SMUsilverfox, writing in the voice of the fox, popped up on Twitter.
1. Aledo, Gray go the distance: No athlete dominated the high school sports scene in 2011 like Aledo running back Johnathan Gray. After a record-setting junior season, Gray piled up 65 touchdowns as a senior for a career total of 205, breaking the national record held by Michael Hart of Nedrow Onondaga (N.Y.). Gray came into the 4A Division II state final needing just one touchdown for the record and got it in the fourth quarter, calling the score the hardest he'd earned this season. The touchdown was key in Aledo's 49-28 victory over Manvel that gave the Bearcats their third straight state title. Gray won the Gatorade National Player of the Year award his senior year and is the two-time recipient of the Tom Landry Award for North Texas' best player. Gray finished his high school career No. 3 on the national rushing list with 10,908 yards. Gray, the No. 5 recruit in the nation, is headed to the University of Texas to continue his career.
Travis L. Brown covers high schools for ESPNDallas.com.