Editor’s Note: This is the second of a three-part story that will be looking back at the 10 best stories of the 2011-12 high school sports season from the Ohio Valley Publishing area. Stories 8-10 appeared in the Thursday sports edition, stories 5-7 will be running today and the top four stories will be part of the weekend sports edition.
On Thursday, I started my annual top-10 stories from the previous sports year — which led to the unveiling of stories 8-10 from the 2011-12 season. Today, we will look at the middle of the pack stories hovering in the five through seven spots.
These stories ended up being slightly higher on my list than the ones that ran yesterday, but these accomplishments also came up just short of the final four spots on the board.
And before I indulge in stories 5-7, I want to give a brief recap on the things that have already been discussed.
10. Rebels and Roundball.
9. A Runner’s World. Thrower’s too.
8. Diamond Gems.
And now, here are the next three best stories to come away from the 2011-12 sports season in the Ohio Valley Publishing area.
7. No I in Team.
With no disrespect meant to individual champions in track, cross country and wrestling, the hardest thing for any group of 15-18 year-old athletes to do is win a league title collectively.
The pressures of playing a productive role in a team’s success is arguably the single greatest challenge for any athlete, and any coach, in a team sport.
With that said, the OVP area produced 15 different league champions from fall through spring — 13 of which ended up being of the outright kind. Two local squads also shared one championship this spring, and two other teams just missed out on joining this list.
Two football teams — Wahama and Point Pleasant — came away with their respective league crowns after going unbeaten through the regular season. The White Falcons remained unbeaten in two years of play in the Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division, while the Big Blacks won their first Cardinal Conference title since 2008.
Two cross country squads came away with league crowns, as the Eastern girls won the TVC Hocking title while the Gallia Academy girls claimed the Southeastern Ohio Athletic League championship. The other fall titles went to the Eastern volleyball team and the Gallia Academy golf squad, both of whom will appear a little later on in this overall list.
Point Pleasant wrestling claimed its fifth straight Cardinal Conference crown this season, the only program from the OVP area to win a league title in the winter. These grapplers will also appear a little later on in the overall list.
A trio of baseball teams — Point Pleasant, Southern and Gallia Academy — won league crowns this spring, with the Blue Devils earning their second consecutive SEOAL crown. Eastern softball and Wahama softball also shared the 2012 TVC Hocking crown with matching 15-1 league marks.
Three track teams came away with top honors in their league, with Point Pleasant earning a clean sweep of both awards in the Cardinal Conference. The Big Blacks won their sixth straight Cardinal crown, while the Lady Knights won their second straight league championship.
The Eastern girls track team also came away as the overall TVC champion for a second straight campaign while winning their third consecutive TVC Hocking title.
The two near-misses from this list include Point Pleasant golf and Gallia Academy wrestling. Point Pleasant lost to Chapmanville by one stroke in a playoff for the Cardinal Conference crown, while the Blue Devils had their three-year reign as SEOAL champs come to an end in the final match of this year’s event. Logan ultimately won that final match and the SEOAL crown.
6. Repeat Offenders.
Some programs just find a way to do the same thing every year.
Five area teams pretty much managed to get back to where they were a year ago, or where they usually have been over the years. And although none of these five teams made it farther than in years’ past, it doesn’t take away from their incredible runs this year.
As mentioned earlier, Wahama football ran right through the competition en route to winning its second straight TVC Hocking title. The White Falcons then advanced to their second consecutive Class A state semifinal, but ultimately came up short in getting to their second straight championship game after losing to Williamstown in the semis.
The Point Pleasant boys basketball team made school history this winter after getting to the Class AA state tournament for a second consecutive year, a first for the program. The Big Blacks — who won 16 games apiece in each of the last two seasons — also managed another one-and-done in the quarterfinals for a second straight postseason.
PPHS graduated only senior from its roster, but the program will also have a new coach next year after Richie Blain resigned in the early spring.
The Eastern girls basketball team didn’t repeat as TVC Hocking champions this winter after being swept by Waterford in the regular season, but the Lady Eagles more than avenged that letdown in the postseason — again.
The Lady Eagles — who beat Waterford in the regional semifinals last year — qualified for regionals this winter by knocking the Lady ‘Cats out of the postseason in the district final. EHS, however, had no luck with Mansfield St. Peter in the regional semis — leaving them one game short of where they were the year before.
Southern baseball once again rolled through the competition en route to getting to the Division IV regional tournament for a sixth consecutive year. And for the sixth straight postseason, Newark Catholic put an end to the Tornadoes’ season.
Southern, which became the first Meigs County team to go unbeaten in the regular season since the 1950s, had its epic season come to an end in the regional semis after suffering a 7-2 loss. That setback left the ‘Does with a 27-1 overall mark, but it also marked the first time in three years that SHS wasn’t playing in a regional final.
After a one year hiatus, the Point Pleasant baseball team earned its fifth Class AA state appearance in six years after completing the regular season as Cardinal Conference champs and the top-ranked team in West Virginia.
The Big Blacks competed in their sixth straight regional championship game and improved to 5-1 in those contests, but PPHS ultimately came up short in the state semifinals against Herbert Hoover — a team it had beaten twice in the regular season.
Point — which moves to Class AAA this coming season — never won a state title in those five state appearances, but twice played in the Class AA championship game (2007 and 2009) during that six-year span.
5. Grappling Glory.
When it comes to wrestling around the tri-county area, nobody does it better than Point Pleasant. But, with that said, we’re not entirely ready to discuss the Big Blacks just yet.
What we are talking about, instead, is all the other successes enjoyed on the mat by the other schools in the OVP area.
Gallia Academy may have come up short in its quest for a fourth straight SEOAL title this winter, but the Blue Devils more than made up for it in the postseason in an historic fashion.
The senior duo of Brandon Taylor and Zack Tackett finished their prep careers in style, as the pair became the first GAHS grapplers to both finish on the state podium in the same year.
Taylor, which finished third overall in the 170-pound weight class in Division II, earned the highest finish ever for a Blue Devil at the state level — eclipsing a mark set by Jeptha Robinson (sixth place) back in 1988. Taylor, the program’s all-time wins leader, also became the only GAHS wrestler to ever win 40 matches in each of his four seasons with the varsity.
Unlike Taylor, who also competed at state in 2011, Tackett made the most of his only appearance at the state meet after finishing sixth overall in the 182-pound weight class — which tied the previous mark set by Robinson.
The duo combined for a 7-4 overall record at state and also set new school records for wins, team points (27) and highest finish at state (17th). Tackett and Taylor also won a pair of SEOAL championships apiece during their careers and extended Gallia Academy’s scoring streak at state to three straight postseasons.
Speaking of state runs, Wahama sophomore Kane Roush made his second straight appearance on the podium in the Class AA-A ranks this winter.
Roush — who finished sixth as a freshman — made school history this season by becoming the program’s first-ever state finalist after rolling through the first two days of the 152-pound weight class with a 3-0 record.
Roush ultimately lost to Sam Whiting of Roane County — who finished the year with a perfect 44-0 record — in the AA-A final, but Roush will have two more years to improve on his own record. And classmate Randle Robie — who did not place in the top-six of the 120-pound weight class this winter — will also be back to help Wahama aim for more school records next year.
Neither Meigs nor River Valley had a state qualifier, but both programs also enjoyed some memorable moments this year.
RVHS had a sectional champion in sophomore Trae Cornell, and the Marauders advanced five grapplers — Nick Hudson, Jeffrey Roush, Zach Sheets, Chris Lester and Blake Crow — to district competition. It was also the seventh straight postseason that Meigs had at least one grappler get out of sectionals.
And all of this happened on the mat, without a single mention of Point Pleasant — which will be coming later on this weekend.