There’s a first time for everything.
And in a handful of cases, there’s another long-awaited first.
The Ohio Valley Publishing area had more than its fair share of historic occasions over the past school year, one that saw numerous firsts accomplished and a handful of droughts come to an end.
Technically, the initial first took place before a single sporting event was even held as Point Pleasant made its return to the Class AA ranks for the first time in five years. The OVP sports staff also picked up Marshall University football on a full-time basis for the first time.
The tri-county area had some more obvious firsts, such as the Gallia Academy volleyball team posting an unblemished regular season record for the only time in the program’s four-decade-long history.
However, don’t forget that the GAHS soccer team captured a share of the program’s first-ever league title of any kind in the Ohio Valley Conference, or that they advanced to district play for a second straight postseason — another first for the Blue Devils.
The aforementioned Big Blacks made the most of their Class AA gridiron return after securing the program’s fourth consecutive unbeaten regular season, making this group of seniors the only class to ever go undefeated (39-0) through their four years of high school football.
PPHS not only advanced to a school-best ninth consecutive playoff appearance, but the Red and Black also received a first from sophomore quarterback Cason Payne — who became the first football player in program history to amass 1,000 yards on the ground and through the air in the same regular season.
River Valley earned its first-ever repeat victory over Gallia Academy on the gridiron in Week 2, while Meigs won a football contest in Gallipolis for the first time since 1977.
Senior running back Johnny Sheets also gave South Gallia a first-ever on the gridiron after being named the 2016 TVC Hocking Offensive Player of the Year.
The Southern volleyball team advanced to the district finals for the first time since 1998, when Kim Hupp — the 2016 first-year SHS coach — was a senior for those same Lady Tornadoes.
The Wahama girls basketball team snapped a 68-game slide that lasted over three years following a 29-24 victory at Buffalo on December 6, 2016. The Lady Falcons also picked up their first home win in four calendar years with a 35-18 drubbing of Hannan on January 19.
Speaking of WHS, the Lady Falcons captured the program’s first-ever outright TVC Hocking softball championship after sharing crowns in 2011 and 2012.
The Hannan baseball squad came away with its first title of any sort in over a decade after winning the 2017 Tolsia Wooden Bat Tournament on April 29.
SGHS won its first-ever game on its new baseball diamond with a 13-12 triumph over Federal Hocking on April 26, which also accounted for the program’s first and only win over the last three campaigns.
River Valley also opened a pair of new baseball and softball diamonds on campus, as was the case for the Lady Rebels at SGHS. The Raiders also defeated Hannan in its first-ever game at their new baseball facility.
Not all of the firsts were perfect either.
The Point Pleasant girls cross country team lost a tiebreaker that cost them the program’s first-ever state qualifying bid as a team.
The Wahama baseball team didn’t make it to the Class A state tournament for the first time in three years, which ultimately ended any hopes of a three-peat as state champions.
The PPHS wrestling team didn’t have a Class AA champion for the first time since 2004, while the Point boys track and field team didn’t score a point at Laidley Field for the first time since 2002.
And finally, Ohio did not have a single boys basketball team advance to the Convocation Center in Athens for the first time since the 2006-07 campaign. In fact, the only basketball team to make it out of the sectional tournament was the Eastern girls.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.
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