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Top 10 high school sports stories of 2023-24

From heart-warming moments to viral controversies, these stories left an impression over the last school year.

High school sports in 2023-24 had it all — incredible moments, indelible images and unforgettable superstars.

The year will be remembered for historic wins, record-breaking performances, viral moments and unforgettable players and teams.

Paul VI (Chantilly, Va.) basketball, Etiwanda (Calif.) girls basketball, Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.) football and Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) volleyball all were crowned national champions in the fall and winter seasons. MaxPreps will name its baseball champion Tuesday while softball will come later this month.

Read on for our look at the top 10 high school sports stories of the 2023-24 school year.

Dan Rolfes and Incarnate Word Academy’s win streak

It was supposed to be a celebration of a state title and the continuation of a near-record win streak. Instead, Incarnate Word Academy (St. Louis, Mo.) saw its run to a Class 6 crown and 131st straight win overshadowed by a near-fatal heart attack suffered by head coach Dan Rolfes after a semifinal win.

Rolfes was hospitalized but the team bravely played on for their coach. IWA came away with a tearful 53-43 win over Kickapoo.

The longtime coach is still recovering from the incident and credits his wife Lisa, a nurse, for starting CPR and saving his life. He spent nearly a month in the hospital before being released.

While Rolfes’ status for 2024-25 is up in the air, Incarnate Word Academy will begin next season seven wins shy of the all-time record of 138 consecutive victories.

Mater Dei coaching drama

One season after taking over at Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.), one of the most dominant football programs in the country, Frank McManus was let go in a strangely-timed dismissal.

The replacement for legendary coach Bruce Rollinson won a CIF Open Division title but was let go in April, four months after the season’s end and just prior to spring ball.

McManus, who had been with the program for 16 years before taking over for Rollinson, led the Monarchs to a 13-1 record and No. 3 ranking in the final MaxPreps Top 25 after beating Serra (San Mateo) 35-0 in the state final. It was the fourth state crown for Mater Dei since 2017.

Two weeks after McManus was let go, the school hired former Long Beach Poly (Long Beach) coach Raul Lara as the next head coach.

Lara was the head coach at St. Anthony (Long Beach) the last three years and led the Saints to a 21-14 record. He also spent five seasons at Warren (Downey) but is best known for his 13-year run at Poly, where he led the storied program to a 142-30 record, five Southern Section titles and helped develop NFL stars like Desean Jackson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marcedes Lewis, Winston Justice and Darnell Bing.

Curtis becomes all-time football wins leader

After 54 years on the sideline at John Curtis Christian (River Ridge, La.), J.T. Curtis became the all-time coaching wins leader in October.

With win No. 621, Curtis surpassed the late John McKissick of Summerville (S.C.), who had held the record since 1992. McKissick owned the mark for 22 years as an active coach before stepping aside in 2014.

John Curtis Christian (the school is named after his father) has won 28 state titles under his guidance and was recognized as national champion in 2012 by MaxPreps. Curtis has coached 14 players who have gone on to play in the NFL.

The mark, which is recognized by MaxPreps, wasn’t without some confusion. A forfeit win by McKissick and some vacated wins by Curtis left some media outlets with different numbers.

Camden-Manasquan basketball finish draped in controversy

The sports world was abuzz after a playoff game in New Jersey between Camden and Manasquan ended in controversy that prompted calls for replay and lawsuits over the outcome.

Manasquan’s Griffin Linstra appeared to hit a game-winning buzzer beater in New Jersey’s Group 2 semifinal. But the three officials conferred for nearly a minute and overturned the basket saying it was after the buzzer despite video footage that appeared to show the basket should have counted.

The day after the game, the state association denied Manasquan’s appeal as NJSIAA rules prohibit use of video replay to review game decisions.

Two days later, the Manasquan Board of Education filed an “Order to Show Case on behalf of the Manasquan Basketball team” seeking to get a hearing that would halt the NJSIAA Group 2 championship game. That appeal was denied and Camden went on to win the title as Manasquan players watched from the stands.

Pat Behan retires from coaching while battling ALS

After leading St. John’s (Washington, D.C.) to the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title and the school’s first MaxPreps Top 25 finish in 2022-23, head coach Pat Behan stepped aside from the program in August at age 35 due to his ongoing battle with ALS.

In the months after the 2022-23 season ended, ALS further deteriorated Behan’s muscles and threatened his life. He lost his voice and all strength in his upper body and could only walk short distances.

Behan continues to battle ALS and has started “Behan Strong” to help with medical and care costs.

Kobe Bryant’s nephew making his own name

It can be difficult to live in the shadow of a legend but Jett Washington, a two-sport athlete at Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.), is doing his best to make his own name.

The nephew of Kobe Bryant not only stood tall on the gridiron for the national champion Gaels but he shined in a January game at Arena, the floor where Kobe brought five NBA titles home for the Lakers.

Washington put up 33 points in an 82-81 loss to Archbishop Riordan (San Francisco, Calif.) in the Coastal Catholic Classic. Of course, 81 points is the number Kobe once scored in a 2006 game against Toronto and 33 is the jersey number worn by Washington’s uncle when he was a star at Lower Merion (Ardmore, Pa.).

As a defensive back for the Bishop Gorman football team, Washington recorded 37 tackles and two interceptions.

Tiger Woods’ son helps Benjamin School win golf state title

Freshman Charlie Woods, son of Tiger Woods, shot a 154 (78-76) to help Benjamin (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) win the Florida Division I golf state championship back in November. The 14-year-old Woods finished tied for 26th, helping the Buccaneers compile a team score of 602, one shot clear of First Academy.

Tiger Woods played high school golf at Western (Anaheim, Calif.) and though the CIF didn’t have a state tournament at the time, he won the Southern Section individual title three times in 1991, 1993 and 1994. As high school sophomore, he made his first PGA appearance playing in the 1992 Los Angeles Open at Riviera.

Jason Witten lead Liberty Christian to state football title

Three years after taking over a 3-8 program, Dallas Cowboys legend Jason Witten led Liberty Christian (Argyle, Texas) to a state championship. A number of former NFL players have had success at the prep level but Witten accomplished the special feat with a crew that includes his sons, junior C.J. Witten and freshman Cooper Witten. Jason Witten joins brother Shawn as a state-title winning coach. Shawn has two state crowns at the brother’s alma mater, Elizabethton (Tenn.).

NIL and chaos at the college level impacting high school athletes

In 2021, the NCAA adopted a policy that allowed athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness. The landmark rule traces back to an early 2000s lawsuit from former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon, who claimed athletes should be compensated for their name and likeness in video games of the era.

And what started as an opportunity for collegiate athletes has slowly trickled into high school athletics. Florida became the 31st state to allow its athletes to benefit from NIL opportunities when the FHSAA unanimously approved changes to its bylaws.

Only a handful of prep athletes have really cashed in on NIL possibilities but it seems like a matter of time before money trickles down into high school athletics. Basketball standouts Bronny James, D.J. Wagner and Juju Watkins were among the first to take advantage when they inked NIL deals with Nike in 2022.

Rules against student-athletes from using their school name, logo or uniform without prior consent from the school district are uniform across states. Also, schools and boosters can’t offer NIL deals and athletes who transfer in season won’t be allowed to obtain NIL agreements in that season.

Edwards honored as two-time Female Athlete of the Year

In 2023, Camden (S.C.) phenom Joyce Edwards was an all-state performer in basketball, volleyball and soccer en route to becoming the MaxPreps Female National Athlete of the Year. This year, she was a two-time all-state performer and joined Olympian Missy Franklin and WNBA star Alissa Pili as the only females to win the honor twice.

The accolades piled up for the South Carolina basketball recruit as Edwards was a MaxPreps All-American, the McDonald’s All American Game co-MVP, Morgan Wootten Player of the Year as well as a member of the the USA Basketball U19 squad.

She led the 26-5 Camden volleyball team in kills with 215, scored 45 goals for the 18-5 soccer team and led the basketball team to its second straight state title. She averaged 31.3 points and 13.3 rebounds per game as the Bulldogs went 28-2.

10 more stories to remember

Hoops mark set in Kentucky — Travis Perry finished as Kentucky’s all-time leading scorer with 5,481 points and carried Lyon County (Eddyville) to Kentucky’s single-class basketball title, the smallest school to pull it off in several generations. His point total was good enough for No. 7 on the all-time list.

Weslaco wins Texas title in walk-off fashion — Andrea Ortiz lived every ballplayer’s dream when she bashed a seventh-inning grand slam to lift Weslaco to the Class 6A state softball title in Texas. Weslaco entered the bottom of the seventh trailing Midway (Waco) 9-3 but cut the deficit to 9-7 before Ortiz took a 2-2 pitch over the left-field fence for the school’s first state title. The title also was significant in that Weslaco became the first school from the Rio Grande Valley, at the southern tip of the state, to win a state championship.

Gorman football dominates — Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.) was crowned the MaxPreps National Champion for the second time in eight seasons after going 12-0 and winning the Class 5A Division I title. The Gaels went 2-0 against teams that finished in the MaxPreps Top 25 and 3-0 against teams that appeared in the national rankings at some point during the year. Against in-state competition, Gorman was 7-0 while outscoring opponents 376-65.

Griffin’s season for the ages — Few players have ever had as good a season as Jackson Prep (Jackson, Miss.) standout Konnor Griffin compiled in 2024. In addition to leading the nation in stolen bases with 85 and runs scored with 76, Griffin also knocked in 39 runs and had 13 doubles, four triples and nine home runs. On the mound, Griffin was 10-0 with 107 strikeouts and a 0.72 ERA in 67.2 innings pitched. He led Jackson Prep to a MSAIS Class 6A championship.

Baker’s record-setting season — Paradise Honors (Surprise, Ariz.) quarterback Gage Baker tied a national record in late November by bringing his season total for touchdown passes to 91. He now shares the mark with Corey Robinson of Lone Oak (Paducah, Ky.), who reached that number in 2007, and Jake Browning of Folsom (Calif.), who got there in 2014.

De La Salle goes abroad — One of the most-storied high school football programs will add another chapter to its legacy when the De La Salle (Concord, Calif.) heads to London for an October game against a NFL Academy team, an elite program for high school students in England. The game is slated for Oct. 8 — a Tuesday — at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Dodge returns to Texas football — After a two-year retirement, one of the most successful Texas football coaches is returning to the sideline as the head coach and athletic director at Lovejoy (Lucas). Dodge is the 2020 MaxPreps National Coach of the Year and a seven-time state champion who retired following the 2021 season after leading Westlake (Austin) to a 16-0 record and Class 6A Division 1 state championship.

Phoebus football makes headlines — Phoebus (Hampton, Va.) won its third straight Class 4 state title 21-14 on a dramatic 86-yard touchdown pass. But the program’s first-round victory might have received more attention after beating Jamestown 104-0. The Phantoms led 83-0 at half and news of the blowout went viral.

Turo becomes baseball’s active wins leader — In his 47th year at Monroe Campus (Bronx, N.Y.), Mike Turo became the active wins leaders with 1,460 after the 2023 retirement of Billy Jack Bowen of Silo (Okla.). Bowen holds the all-time mark with 2,252 wins that are combined from fall and spring seasons.

Flag football emergence — States across the country are joining one of the fastest-growing trends by adding girls flag football. According to the NFHS, nine states have sanctioned the sport for girls (Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Nevada and New York). Two others are expected to sanction flag this year (Colorado, Montana) and 17 other states are in various stages of pilot programs.

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