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The high school sports scene in 2012 included state team championships, near state championships, and individuals who excelled to achieve their goals.
It also included the highs and lows of one school. Whitmer had teams reach state finals in football and basketball. But the Panthers were forced to forfeit the basketball achievement as well as the previous season’s football record which included a state semifinal appearance.
Here’s a look at the top 10 high school stories of the last year, as voted on by The Blade’s sports staff:
1. Central Catholic wins state football title.
It was no big secret coming into the season that Central Catholic coach Greg Dempsey had an abundantly talented squad loaded with potential.
By season’s end, that talent had met its collective potential in taking the Irish to their second 14-1 season and Division II state championship in eight years. On Nov. 30, Central defeated defending state champion Trotwood-Madison 16-12 in the title game at Massillon’s Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
“It feels just as good as it did seven years ago,” Dempsey said after the game. “It’s even better seeing these kids going through this for the the first time. I’m proud of our team and our staff.”
Entering the regular-season finale, the Irish were 9-0 and had held the No. 1 ranking in the Associated Press Division II state poll for seven straight weeks, outscoring foes by an average of 51-16.
Playing for the Three Rivers Athletic Conference title in the final week against unbeaten Whitmer, the Irish lost 42-0.
Central, which dropped to No. 4 in the state poll, bounced back with convincing playoff wins over Grafton Midview, 50-7, and Mansfield Madison, 45-7, and faced 2011 state runner-up Avon, which had beaten the Irish 49-28 in a second-round game a year earlier.
This time the Irish thumped Avon 42-14 for the regional championship, then took a hard-fought 20-13 win over Aurora in the state semifinals.
Next up was the title-game test against Trotwood-Madison, which was playing in its third straight D-II final.
Central grabbed a 14-0 lead just before halftime, turning a failed Rams fourth-down gamble into a touchdown drive just before the break, with running back Amir Edwards scoring his second TD of the game.
The Irish defense added a safety in the third quarter, which ended with Trotwood having gained just 44 yards on 28 offensive plays. The Rams came alive to start the fourth quarter, however, and Central ultimately had to hold on.
Edwards carried 38 times for 185 yards in the game to finish the season with 1,777 rushing yards and 30 TDs.
The Irish defense posted the game’s most telling stat, holding Rams star back Israel Green to 56 yards on 14 carries and no scores. In Trotwood’s 2011 D-II final win over Avon, Green had rushed 35 times for 326 yards and scored six TDs.
Junior quarterback DeShone Kizer, who guided Central’s 633-point offensive juggernaut all season, was another prominent figure this season, as were seniors Jon Perrin (defensive tackle) and Jayme Thompson (defensive back), who each earned first-team All-Ohio honors. Senior two-way lineman Jeff Dew, senior two-way end Keith Towbridge, and junior two-way back Derich Weiland also played pivotal roles.
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2. Perrysburg wins girls soccer state title.
That was the 2012 season for the Perrysburg Yellow Jackets, who went 23-0-0 to become the first girls soccer team from the immediate Toledo area to win a state championship.
That milestone was achieved on Nov. 9 at Crew Stadium in Columbus, when the Yellow Jackets, ranked No. 1 all season long, won the state final 1-0 over Mason.
When Perrysburg co-head coaches Margaret Bernard and Jorge Diaz needed offense, all they had to do was look to senior All-America selection Maddy Williams, who scored 48 goals and added 17 assists.
“I just want to go hug everyone I’m in such a good mood,” Williams said after the match. “This is like living a dream. I love this group of girls so much. They are like my family.”
Incredibly, Williams scored at least one goal in all but one game, including the only goal in the state final on a penalty kick.
When they needed to prevent goals, they could rely on senior goalkeeper Chloe Buehler, who allowed only two of them all season long in 1,840 minutes of game time.
With additional all-around support from All-Ohio midfielder Mollie Whitacre (5 goals, 7 assists), Perrysburg outscored its opposition 108-5 over the 23 games, including 29-0 in seven tournament matches. Buehler (70 saves) was responsible for most of the 19 Perrysburg shutouts. Her two back-up keepers stopped 59 of 62 shots on goal. Complementing Williams offensively, Lucy Walton and Allex Brown contributed 13 goals apiece.
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3. Northview wins state hockey title.
The fifth time proved to be the charm for Northview in the state hockey championship game, as the Wildcats of coach Mike Jones defeated perennial power Lakewood St. Edward 5-2 in the final on March 11 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus.
Sophomore Cody Estrel scored two first-period goals, with senior Zach Felser assisting on each one, and junior Drew Crandall made it 3-0 with a second-period goal for the Wildcats (31-1-3).
After senior captain Dalton Carter tallied early in the third period for a 4-0 lead, St. Ed answered with a pair of goals to make things interesting. Junior Nick LaPlante added an empty-net goal in the closing seconds to cap the scoring, and senior goalie Austin Gryca upped his record to 16-0-1 by stopping 24 of 26 shots on goal.
“It's the greatest feeling in the world,” Estrel said. “We'll always be in the history books.”
Northview, winner of the Northwest Hockey Conference’s regular-season and playoff titles in the Red Division, had defeated St. John’s 2-1 to win the district championship, and blanked Powell Olentangy Orange 6-0 in the state semifinals.
Felser had two goals in the semifinals, and senior goalie Phil Bowles (15-1-2) recorded his eighth shutout in that victory.
For the Wildcats, who outscored opponents 158-46 in 35 games, their title was the first state championship in any sport for Northview, which had lost in previous state hockey finals in 1982, 1990, 2006, and 2010.
Theirs was also the first Ohio hockey title by a public school team since 2001. St. Edward had won 11 state hockey championships coming in.
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4. Whitmer finishes as state football runner-up.
Coming into the 2012 football season, Whitmer had graduated six players who went on to Division I college programs, and had a new coach in Jerry Bell, plus new offensive and defensive coordinators.
Based on that data, the Panthers were picked in the preseason to place third in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference.
By season’s end, however, Whitmer had done a little better than that.
Led offensively by senior quarterback Nick Holley, who passed (1,939 yards, 25 TDs) and ran (2,084 yards, 21 TDs) the Panthers’ 42-points-per-game offense, Whitmer secured its second straight 10-0 regular season.
That run was capped with a convincing 42-0 victory in week-10 over eventual Division II state champion Central Catholic.
The third-ranked Panthers beat Avon Lake, 28-0; Hudson, 39-28; Massillon Washington, 49-16; and Mentor, 62-34, to reach the first state football final in school history.
In the state championship game, Whitmer grabbed an early 6-0 lead, but fell 20-12 to Cincinnati Moeller at Canton’s Fawcett Stadium. The Panthers were only the second Toledo team to reach a Division I state football final, following St. Francis de Sales, which won the title in 1984.
Holley and senior linebacker Jack Linch each earned first-team All-Ohio honors, and Bell was named the D-I co-coach of the year in his first season.
Other Panther standouts included senior defensive linemen Marquise Moore and Joenathan Mays, senior linebackers Nate Holley and Devin Thomas, junior defensive back Marcus Elliott, senior running backs Tre Sterritt and Me’Gail Frisch, junior receiver Chris Boykin, and senior offensive lineman Eric Hart.
5. Whitmer forfeits 2011-12 football, basketball seasons.
A 17-month investigation of the Whitmer athletic program by the Ohio High School Athletic Association culminated on Dec. 21.
Washington Local Schools superintendent Patrick Hickey and OHSAA commissioner Dan Ross announced that Whitmer would have to forfeit all of its football victories from what was a 13-1 football season in 2011, and all but one of its boys basketball victories from what was a 24-3 season in 2011-12.
OHSAA upheld its prior ruling that then senior LeRoy Alexander, a key figure on both the football and basketball teams, was ineligible to participate because his residence in the WLS district did not meet OHSAA bylaws.
Alexander was originally declared ineligible in April, 2011, during the track and field season because of that same residence issue after his transfer from Springfield High School. WLS followed that original ruling.
In August, 2011, an attorney representing Alexander’s family filed suit against both WLS and the OHSAA, challenging the residency issue. Alexander was ultimately granted a preliminary injunction by Lucas County Judge Frederick H. McDonald, allowing him to participate. Subsequently, OHSAA began an investigation of the validity of other student-athletes who had transferred to Whitmer.
Alexander played the entire football and basketball seasons, helping the Panthers to TRAC titles in both sports, a state semifinal advancement in football, and a state runner-up finish in basketball.
Both TRAC titles and regional titles were stripped by the OHSAA as part of a settlement with WLS, and the school district also agreed to pay $50,000 to offset roughly half of the cost of OHSAA’s investigation.
6. Whitmer finishes as state basketball runner-up.
Led by the play of 6-foot-7 junior forward Nigel Hayes, Whitmer won the first TRAC basketball title, then won Division I district and regional titles en route to reaching the state championship game. On March 24, at Value City Arena in Columbus, the Panthers (24-3) lost 45-40 to Pickerington Central in the title game.
Other starters for veteran coach Bruce Smith’s Panthers included 6-8 senior forward Chris Wormley, senior point guard LeRoy Alexander, and junior guards Ricardo Smith and Luke Hickey.
Nearly nine months later, however, the Ohio High School Athletic Association confirmed its initial ruling from April, 2011, that Alexander was ineligible, and Whitmer was forced to forfeit 23 of its 24 wins.
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7. Southview finishes as state boys soccer runner-up.
When Southview ended its regular season with an embarrassing 9-3 Northern Lakes League loss to league champion Anthony Wayne, the humbled Cougars used that low point as motivation during Division I state tournament play.
The loss proved to be very inspirational, because Southview defeated Maumee and St. John’s to open the tourney, then edged St. Francis de Sales 2-1 in overtime to earn a rematch with Anthony Wayne. This time coach Chad Cody’s Cougars took a 2-1 win in the regional semifinals.
Southview clipped Westlake 3-1 in the regional final, and escaped with a 1-0 state-semifinal victory over Aurora on a goal from senior forward Jared Yoshino on a perfect assist pass from Jared Lyle late in the second overtime period at Sandusky. Goalkeeper Eric Breeden recorded the shutout.
Playing in their first state championship match on Nov. 10, the Cougars (17-4-2) lost 2-0 to Powell Olentangy Liberty at Crew Stadium in Columbus.
Southview was led in scoring by Daniel Blackmar (27 goals), Yoshino (10 goals), and Chris Ellis (8 goals).
8. Class of 2013 basketball recruits.
With a boys basketball talent pool in the immediate Toledo area not seen since the mid-1970s, seven local players signed letters of intent in November to Division I college programs.
St. John’s Jesuit’s 6-foot-8 senior forward-guard Marc Loving signed with Ohio State, Whitmer’s 6-7 forward Nigel Hayes and Bowling Green’s 6-8 forward Vitto Brown both signed with Wisconsin, Anthony Wayne’s 6-9 forward Mark Donnal signed with Michigan, Napoleon’s 6-5 forward Jordan Lauf signed with Toledo, and Rogers guards Clemmye Owens and Tony Kynard each signed with Bethune-Cookman.
Jackson Lamb, a highly-talented 6-6 forward from Bedford who was a first-team all-state selection in Michigan in 2011-12, opted to accept a baseball scholarship offer from Michigan.
9. St. John’s baseball makes ESPN.
When the St. John’s Jesuit baseball team defeated Fremont Ross 8-4 to win the first TRAC baseball playoff championship game on May 28, that was the team’s second biggest accomplishment of the day.
In the third inning, with a runner on first and one out, Ross shortstop Tyler Wolf hit a short pop in front of the plate along the first-base line. Titans junior catcher Corey Tipton sprung from his crouch, had his path blocked by Wolf in the batter's box, and dived to keep the ball in the air with his mitt.
Senior pitcher Joe Robie dived to make a bare-handed grab just before the ball hit the turf at Central Catholic’s Mercy Field on the unusual 2-1 popout. Video of the play was sent to ESPN by a St. John’s student, and the Tipton-Robie catch became the national sports network’s play of the day.
“As a little kid I always dreamed of being on SportsCenter's Top 10 and, what do you know, it came true,” Robie said that night. “It's one thing to be on there, but it's another thing to be No. 1. I never thought in my wildest dreams that would come true. I saw it on there, and I still don't believe it."
"It's one of those things that, if somebody tried to tell you [it happened], it would seem like a joke,” Tipton said. “You'd say, ‘Yeah, you're just messing with me.’ To see that get on there, my whole family was happy.”
10. Bedford finishes as state volleyball runner-up.
Led by Nicole Rightnowar, Kayla Gwozdz, Ellen Hays, MacKenzie Andrews, Taylor Foster, and Sophie Marciniak, the Bedford volleyball team of coach Jodi Manore closed a 65-13-3 season with a 25-22, 25-21, 26-24 loss to Macomb Dakota in the Michigan Class A state champion match in Battle Creek on Nov. 17.
It was Bedford’s eighth trip to a state final under Manore, who guided the 1998, 2001, and 2005 Kicking Mules to state titles.
The Mules had defeated both Dearborn and Gibraltar Carlson 3-0 in regional tourney play, then topped Farmington Hills Mercy and Grand Haven by 3-1 scores in the state quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively.
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The Liberty Center girls cross country team, led by sophomore standout Brittany Atkinson, repeated its Division III state team championship on Nov. 3. Atkinson, the 2011 individual winner at 18:27.51, cut her time to 18:06.67 but placed second. Senior teammate Kelly Haubert placed ninth, and Tigers junior Paige Chamberlain was 15th.
St. Ursula made its third straight trip to the Ohio Division I state volleyball final four, falling 3-1 in the Nov. 8 semifinals to eventual champion Cincinnati Ursuline. The Arrows, who were state champions in 2010 and runners-up in 2011, finished 2012 with a 27-2 record. Arrows seniors Maddie Burnham and Katie McKernan were named to the D-I All-Ohio first and second teams, respectively.
The Notre Dame basketball team reached the Ohio Division I girls state semifinal for the first time in school history, before falling 54-45 to Kettering Fairmont in the semifinals in Columbus.
Led by senior 285-pound state runner-up Garrett Gray, the Clay wrestling team placed fifth in the Division I state tournament in Columbus with 63 points. The Eagles, just 2.5 points from tying Cincinnati Moeller for third place, were the first Toledo-area team to finish in the top five of a D-I state tourney in more than 20 years. Eagles seniors Mike Screptock (126 pounds), Jacob Conine (132), and Angelo Amenta (138) all placed fifth individually.
Contact Steve Junga at: email@example.com, 419-724-6461, or on Twitter@JungaBlade.