2022 was a new beginning for Plano East Senior High School. With several new coaches, standout athletes and even state champions, the athletics department wanted to set the tone for a new culture of Panthers. That was a success, with participation increasing and teams succeeding on the field.
Here is the 2022 Plano East Senior High School athletics year in review.
Hockey: Plano East wins first-team state title
This time, Plano East has its state champion with a miracle on ice performance last January.
The Plano East hockey team won the Texas Amateur Hockey Association 2A State High School Championships in what is celebrated as a culmination of work for the senior class.
“A handful of these seniors got together after the game and couldn’t believe they would win a state title after their freshman year,” Joyce said. “We knew it would be a growing year last year and we took our lumps, and this was the time to perform. With nine seniors and six juniors, they showed the younger players what it means to perform.”
East may have won the state title game over Birdville on Sunday, but the journey from the beginning of the week until then featured plenty of trials. Starting the state tournament without starting goalie Micah Laird, head coach Thomas Joyce figured it would be tough to overcome.
“The beginning of the week, we had concerns,” Joyce said. “Our starting goalie [Micah Laird] was out with an illness and missed our Thursday league game. We got word on Friday that he was good to go, but without practicing all week, we held him out.”
With the goalie change, East started slow Friday against Mansfield. They were down 2-0 when they changed to put Laird back in the net. He galvanized the team. Skylar Bawcom scored two goals and Marcus Levita scored once to seal the comeback victory and advance the Panthers to the next round.
The Panthers finished the tournament with a 6-3 win over Birdville and later in the year finished second overall in the city championship finals later that season, losing to Denton Couty 6-2 in the finals.
Track and Field: Kelley dominates state championships
It was a nearly flawless performance from the Plano East track team at state.
Competing in four events, the Panthers earned four medals, including two gold for senior Tiriah Kelley.
Reaching the state championship for the second straight season, Kelley finished first overall in the girls 100 (11.4) and 200-meter races (23.06), setting a personal record in the 200m while running into a headwind.
“The toughest thing to learn as a coach is when to step in and step out of the way,” Reed said. “Heading into state, I knew the months and weeks and years of practice would go a long way and I wanted her to just focus on her race and doing what she was capable of.”
Kelley reached the state championships in both events last season, finishing seventh and fourth respectively in each event. On Saturday, she entered the stadium as one of the favorites to win both races after setting some of the fastest times in all 6A. Still, there were some hurdles to overcome to reach the double gold medals.
“People say she’s slow off the blocks in the 100,” Reed said. “While she was a little slower, she got great power off the start and didn’t panic. Once she started chasing everyone down, I knew she would have a great chance and she did just that.”
The 200m presented other challenges to deal with. On her third race of the day, Kelley was competing against runners who were fresh heading into their first race. Kelley, along with Kaylee Moody, Janiya Richardson and Kaley Qualls, also finished second in the 4×100-meter relay (45.38), just .05 seconds away from beating Fort Bend Bush for the gold as Kelley tried to chase down the leader on the anchor leg.
On the boys team, Aiden Hayes finished second overall in the boys high jump, earning a silver medal at the state championship. Hayes finished with a silver medal in his second consecutive state championship appearance after coming in sixth last season. The senior improved his jump by four inches from last season.
Football: Benedetto’s appointment offers optimism for Panthers
A promising start to the season was derailed for Plano East, but optimism remains under the leadership of new head coach Tony Benedetto.
In his first season, the Panthers finished 3-7 overall after winning their first three games of the year. Injuries caught up to the team, including an injury to senior running back Daniel Fayombo who was one of the top runners in the area until his setback.
The final game was also emotional for Plano East because this was the final night for the seniors. It may have been a tough season, but these young men had some memorable moments. The Panthers didn’t win a home game in the 2021 season and just two overall.
“The first three games of the season that we had won were memorable,” Benedetto said. “The seniors got emotional after getting their first [home] win at Kimbrough Stadium, and I was happy for those guys.”
The offseason is now in the works at Plano East. The team looks to replace several seniors, including senior wideout Rushil Patel who broke several schools records this season with 1,148 yards and 14 touchdowns.
“It’s a big time for us this offseason because now we’re having discussions and will be planning necessary changes during the offseason,” Benedetto said.
The seniors including Patel, Daniel Fayombo, Elijah Prince, and Bryce Dixon embraced each other and the East families at Marauders Stadium after the game.
Next season, quarterback Drew Devillier, a Division I prospect, and several others will return as seniors. Devillier will have new weapons as he looks to have another successful year.
Volleyball: Lady Panthers miss out on playoffs despite improved record
Despite a win in one of their final games over the week, the Plano East Lady Panthers were eliminated from postseason contention.
Marcus was able to win both games during the final week to bring their District 6-6A record to 8-6 at fourth in the standings, while the Lady Panthers ended the year at 7-7, improving greatly over the last two seasons.
Plano East (19-17) lost on the road to No. 4 Plano West 3-0 (16-25, 20-25, 19-25). The Lady Panthers was close in both the second and third sets, but the Lady Wolves’ Blaire Bayless came up big down the stretch with key offensive plays.
Following the game, Plano East was able to bounce back with a 3-0 (25-11, 25-18, 25-9) win. The Lady Panthers dominated the game and showed remarkable improvement over the year under first-year head coach Sarah Perez. Their six current district wins are already triple the amount the team had in the last two years combined. With their third coach in three years, the hope is that the team has turned the corner and can build on its positive momentum.
Plano East graduates eight seniors from their varsity roster, including Madison Le, Kinsey Killion, Kennedi Wright, Brooke Dion, Mamie Krubally, Julia Fallgren and Riley Hemphill.
Boys Basketball: Panthers build momentum toward new season
Despite a strong start to the regular season, Plano East missed out on the playoffs after a tough losing streak.
Still, the Panthers have optimism with several players returning, but several seniors missed out on a big chance as the team finished sixth in District 6-6A with a 6-8 record overall.
Brandon Hardison led the way for the Panthers at the point guard spot, earning first team all-district honors and leading the team in scoring. He was flanked by seniors Aiden Hayes and Morris Williams down low, along with all-district guard Jordan Mizell who provided a spark off the bench.
“Jordan made all-district last year off the bench and missed his freshman season with a broken leg,” Wester said. “I think we were still deferring a bit his sophomore year and he’s taken a bigger role on the team with more belief in himself.”
Plano East had six seniors on the varsity roster last season.
Girls Basketball: District champions set landmark season
Donavia Hall hit a 3-pointer on the third possession of the game to give Plano East a 3-2 lead in the regional quarterfinals.
On the next possession, the Denton Braswell Lady Bengals (12-0, 34-2) scored and led for the remainder of the game to defeat the Lady Panthers (13-1, 25-5) 57-54. Braswell raced out to an early 10-3 lead after Hall’s field goal, but East settled in and slowly chipped away at the lead.
The Lady Panthers managed to trim the deficit to three points or less on six different occasions but couldn’t find a way to tie or take the lead. The Lady Bengals’ defense forced several turnovers in a fast-paced game and Alisa Williams had a basket whenever her team needed her. Ahead by just two points late, she connected on a mid-range jumper and drew the foul to give Braswell a five-point lead.
Still, East fought and cut the deficit back to two points with less than 40 seconds remaining. Hall got another look from distance, but the shot rattled out and Braswell hit their free throws on the other end.
Plano East’s season ends with seven seniors graduating from the regional quarterfinalist team. The senior class was one of the most successful in Lady Panther’s history, reaching the regional finals last season as well.
Boys Soccer: Tough stretch to finish season forces Panthers out of playoffs
The Plano East Panthers were eliminated from postseason contention with their loss to Coppell.
Plano East sat five points behind a top-four spot in the District 6-6A standings with one game remaining in the regular season, meaning they could not make up any further ground. Hosting the Cowboys (5-4-4, 7-8-5), the Panthers (3-5-5, 9-5-5) lost 1-0 on March 8. Despite a solid start to the season, the Panthers could only get three points out of their last five games.
Against Coppell, it was more of the same for Plano East, creating more chances and controlling possession but failing to capitalize in the final third. The Panthers started the second half scoreless and had three good chances but couldn’t find the back of the net. Grayson Pinto had two shots sail just wide and it spelled the end of the line for the Panthers.
Coach Rick Woodard said that the season became a challenging one for Plano East but stressed that the way high school soccer seasons are set up requires a team to be consistently great for an entire season.
“There are three different seasons in a soccer year, the pre-district, district and the show,” Woodard said. “You must work hard and learn through each experience to advance and win to make the show. We did our best and it was close.”
Girls Soccer: Lady Panther’s struggle in rebuilding season
Plano East finished the regular season 1-13 in district play as they went through a rebuilding year with a young roster.
Despite the difficult stretch to end the season, there was optimism for Plano East heading into the new year, with just seven seniors on the varsity team and several starters returning to the fold next season.
Leading the way for the Lady Panthers was freshman Peyton Cooper, who was the top goal scorer on the team in 2022. Her energy on the field allowed the team to pick up its lone district win of the season, a 5-1 win over Lewisville.
Cross Country: Boys finish fifth in district, girls sixth
Plano East’s season ended at the District 6-6A championship, with the boys placing fifth overall and the girls placing sixth and failing to qualify for the regional championships.
While the program had a runner qualify for regionals each of the last three years, Donovan Bush’s 15th-place finish at the district meet was the closest the team got to having a regional qualifier. The senior runner was one of the top Panthers all season, even placing sixth at the Plano ISD Invitational and first overall at the Wylie Pirate 2-mile kickoff to open the season.
Andrea Valls was the top runner for the Lady Panthers at the district, placing 28th out of 52 runners in the meet. All five of Plano East’s varsity runners placed between 28th and 35th at the district championships, with Valls and Callie Willis the only seniors on the roster.
Wrestling: Madawi places at state meet
Plano East sent three wrestlers to the state tournament, and one came back as a state placeholder.
Peyton Madawi finished fifth overall at the meet on Feb. 18-19, solidifying a 56-8 record for the season. He’s the first placeholder for Plano East in wrestling since 2017.
Madawi opened his championship round with a pin of San Antonio Reagan’s Sawyer Peevy. He then lost his second match by a close 6-3 decision, knowing it would force him through the consolation bracket. Madawi proceeded to pin Wylie’s Dane Farley and defeat in a majority decision El Paso Montwood’s Jose Angel Rosales. The victories guaranteed his medal place.
His first match came against Southlake Carroll’s Peter Etheredge and Madawi lost by an ultimate tiebreaker point to move into the fifth-place match. He won that match by an 8-4 decision, securing his place.
Coach Bryan Kenney was proud of Madawi’s developments since the last offseason and knew he had a great opportunity to succeed heading into the year.
“He’s been great this year,” Kenney said. “We worked on his movement on the mat this offseason and it’s showing. He’s not the biggest or most built competitor in the weight class, but he’s as strong as an ox and he moves around the mat and frustrates his opponent.”
Along with Madawi, Aariz Habib and Aidan Miller also competed for the Panthers program, but neither athlete was able to place. Habib lost both of his matches in the 120-pound weight class, losing by a 10-2 decision, and then getting pinned. He finished his junior season with a 47-13 record.
Miller, also a junior, lost his first match before defeating San Antonio Roosevelt’s Caleb Molina 2-0 to advance one additional round. He lost via a majority decision but finished his first season with the Panthers with a 45-14 record.
Baseball: Bergman leads Panther baseball program
The Plano East Panthers may have missed out on a postseason berth but are still earned a few nods to the all-district team.
Leading the way for Plano East (3-11, 7-18-2) this season was Caleb Bergman. The senior Baylor baseball signee ended his final season on a positive note after missing the start of the year with an injury, making the first-team all-district. First-year head coach Michael Martinez said that he was an asset to have on the field with his leadership.
“He is somebody who is like having another coach on the field,” Martinez said. “He can play center, and shortstop and has experienced success. He knows the game inside and out and I don’t think I’ve coached many guys who know why we do things on the field. He’s as good of a teacher as he is as a player.”
Bergman was named to the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association All-Star game, representing the North team at the 5A-6A level.
Along with Bergman, fellow outfielder Dasan Harris was named first-team all-district as well. The junior center fielder took control of the leadoff spot in the lineup for the Panthers, and was named the team’s MVP and the golden glove winner for his efforts. Harris figures to be a key piece to the Panthers next season and is beginning to garner college interest.
Plano East finished the regular season eighth in District 6-6A, missing out on a postseason berth.
Softball: Kennedy, Dawson lead Plano East softball
Competing in one of the toughest districts in the state, Plano East saw improvement and two players received all-district nods.
While finishing eighth in District 6-6A, the Lady Panthers (3-11, 8-16) improved by three wins in the district. That led to two players being named to the all-district team, led by starting second baseman Marli Kennedy, who was named to the first team. She was also named the team’s Most Valuable Player this season, leading the team in hitting from the leadoff position.
The sophomore figures to be a key part of the team for the next two seasons, hitting over .400 during the regular season.
Along with Kennedy, freshman Jadyn Dawson was an honorable mention player for the District 6-6A all-district awards. She was the top pitcher for Plano East this season, earning six wins and 59 strikeouts in non-district play this season. She also led the team in home runs this season, showing her promise as a young talent. Dawson was one of five seniors on the Plano East varsity roster.
Ashlyn Bullington, Amber Dart, Riley Hopper, Victoria Jackson-Sears, Marli Kennedy, Cassandra Lupo, Sophia Martino, Estella Pittman, Madeline Pittman and Reese Ramos were also named to the Academic All-District team for Plano East. Payton Leonard, Kaylee Sanchez and Bullington were the only three seniors on the roster this season.
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