By JAMIE BAKER
Yes, the year 2012 was quite a ride, especially if you were from the small village of Arlington.
There were plenty of big local sports stories around the area in 2012 and many of them focused on teams and athletes that proudly call themselves the Red Devils.
Here’s a look at the top 12 sports stories from The Courier’s coverage area over the past 12 months.
1, Arlington wins first state title.
Arlington’s girls basketball team won the school’s first state team title in any sport when the Red Devils rolled to a 52-37 win over Berlin Hiland in the Division IV state title game in Columbus in March.
“Just a lot of emotions, a lot of thoughts about these girls I’ve been with for four years,” an emotional Arlington coach Seth Newlove said after the game.
“I’m going to miss them. I don’t even want to think about that right now. I think about how hard they worked. I don’t think anyone could work much harder than we did today and all season. I’m just really proud of these girls.”
Senior Amelia Recker had 34 points and 20 rebounds in Arlington’s two state tournament games and was named the outstanding player on the 2012 Associated Press Division IV all-tournament team.
Alivia Recker (25 points in two games) and senior Joy Reamsnyder (13 points in the final) also made the all-tournament team as the Red Devils finished their championship season with a 27-1 record.
2, An act of sportsmanship at state track and field.
Another Arlington female athlete was thrust into the national spotlight in June at the OHSAA state track and field championships.
Arden McMath slowed to a crawl and fell as she tied up near the end of the Division III girls 3,200-meter run at Ohio State’s Jesse Owens Stadium.
McMath, who was in 14th place at the time, was helped up by West Liberty-Salem’s Meghan Vogel, the 1,600-meter state champion, and helped across the finish line by her rival.
Vogel even made sure McMath would finish ahead of her. Neither runner was disqualified despite violating OHSAA rules regarding assisting another runner.
Vogel’s act of sportsmanship was featured on several national news outlets and websites.
3, Arlington boys basketball advances to state.
One week after Arlington girls team’s victorious trip to Columbus, Arlington’s boys basketball team blazed its own trail to the OHSAA Division IV state tournament.
The Red Devils’ Andrew Hunter scored 13 points in a balanced team effort as Arlington dismantled Edgerton 56-33 at Bowling Green State University’s Stroh Center to earn the school’s first regional title.
But Arlington’s dream season ended the following week at the Schottenstein Center as Berlin Hiland pinned a 46-37 loss on the Red Devils in the Division IV state semifinals before 10,203 fans.
4, L-B grad Aaron Craft helps Ohio State reach Final Four.
A local player got to play on college basketball’s biggest stage in 2012.
Liberty-Benton’s Aaron Craft ran the show from the point guard spot for Ohio State as the Buckeyes posted a 31-8 record and advanced to the NCAA Final Four.
Unfortunately, Kansas was able to rally for a 64-62 win in the national semifinals against the Buckeyes at the Superdome in New Orleans.
“They’re a great team,” Craft said after the game. “They’re going to make a run, and they did. And we weren’t able to weather it like we have before.”
Craft finished the 2011-12 season with an 8.8 points-per-game average to go along with a team high 98 steals and 181 assists.
5, McComb and Liberty-Benton reach state football semifinals.
It was a banner postseason for the Blanchard Valley Conference in football as the league had two teams advance to the state semifinals in their respective divisions.
McComb reeled off 13 straight wins before falling to eventual Division VI champion Marion Local in the state semifinals on a bone-chilling night at Wapakoneta’s Harmon Field.
After trailing 21-0 in the third quarter, McComb rallied with a pair of Jerry Brown touchdowns and a Dalton Buck pass to Cody Wilson to send the game into overtime.
Jacy Goettemoeller’s 18-yard touchdown run in the third overtime clinched a 34-28 win for the Flyers.
Liberty-Benton had plenty of postseason magic on its side, scoring improbable wins over Liberty Center, Lima Central Catholic and Patrick Henry to win the Region 18 championship. The Eagles, though, ran into a buzzsaw in Week 14 and fell to Division V state champ Coldwater 38-0.
6, Record-setting season for Findlay High School football team.
It was a record-setting season for the Findlay High School football team, but one that ended with the Trojans missing a spot in the postseason playoffs.
Findlay racked up an 8-2 record during the 2012 season with its lone two losses during the regular season coming to Division I state runner-up Toledo Whitmer and Division II state champion Toledo Central Catholic.
Unfortunately for Findlay, wins during the nonconference portion of its schedule against Reynoldsburg, Cleveland East Tech and a Canadian team couldn’t generate enough points to put them in the playoffs.
This year’s team was the first in Findlay’s long football history to average more than 50 points per game.
Senior Vance Settlemire, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound senior, set 11 school rushing records for the Trojans. Settlemire rushed for an FHS game record 347 yards in a win over Toledo St. Francis, then set a new mark with 376 yards against Oregon Clay. He twice tied the school record for touchdowns in a game (6). Settlemire also established records for yards (1,934) and TDs (33) in a season and in a career (3,260 yards, 53 TDs).
7, Hardin Northern football meeting.
On a cold January night, more than 300 people packed the Hardin Northern gymnasium to discuss the future of the Hardin Northern football program.
At stake was whether Hardin Northern will field a varsity football team for the 2012 season or play a junior varsity schedule.
During the meeting, the HN community spoke loud, clear and passionately — they wanted the Polar Bears to field a varsity football team in 2012.
Hardin Northern did end up fielding a team and struggled to an 0-10 record with just 16 players.
8, Toledo Whitmer forced to forfeit 2011 basketball, football seasons.
After a 17-month investigation, the OHSAA and Toledo Whitmer came to an agreement that all games played by transfer student LeRoy Alexander during the 2011 football and 2011-12 basketball seasons would be forfeited.
The Whitmer forfeits made Findlay High School the 2011 Three Rivers Athletic Conference football champions, and Findlay’s basketball team earned a share of the 2011-12 TRAC boys basketball crown with Toledo Central Catholic and Toledo St. John’s.
Toledo Whitmer also agreed to pay the OHSAA $50,000 to defray approximately half of the cost of the OHSAA’s investigation.
9, OHSAA competitive balance issue fails again.
In May, for the second time in two years, a tweaked OHSAA competitive balance proposal failed by a narrow margin in a vote of the organization’s more than 800 member schools.
The plan, which was voted down 339-301, would have been implemented a method to place schools into tournament divisions based on data other than strictly enrollment numbers.
The plan would have classified schools based on their open enrollment status, the school’s socioeconomic makeup and the history and success of specific sports at the school.
An even-bigger vote will likely take place this May as OHSAA member schools will vote on whether to separate postseason tournaments for public and private schools.
10, University of Findlay wrestlers, track teams finish third nationally.
Last March, the University of Findlay wrestling and men’s indoor track teams posted their best NCAA national finishes ever as both teams ended up third in the NCAA tournament.
A couple of former area prep products led both teams.
Bluffton native Shane Shockey led the track team by winning an NCAA championship in the pole vault. In wrestling, Arcadia graduate Mason True was second along with teammate Adam Walters.
Wrestling coach Shawn Nelson was also honored as the NCAA Division II national coach of the year.
11, Liberty-Benton basketball coach Steve Williman wins 500th game.
In January, veteran Liberty-Benton boys basketball coach earned his 500th career coaching win when the Eagles knocked off McComb 49-36.
Williman’s career got off to a tough start as he lost his first 11 games coaching at his alma mater, Old Fort, during his first season in 1980.
Williman spent three years at Old Fort, was a graduate assistant for one season at Bowling Green State University and coached at Galion for two years.
He then took over at L-B before the 1986-87 season. His 500th victory came in his 700th game, making his career mark 500-200.
12, Vanlue non-renews boys basketball coach Jeff Kloepfer.
After a successful five-year run Vanlue decided not to renew the contract of boys basketball coach Jeff Kloepfer last spring.
Kloepfer led the Wildcats to a 17-3 regular season in 2011-12. The Wildcats dropped a 54-47 decision to Ada (17-6) in the Division IV sectional finals at Kenton. Vanlue was seeded second in that sectional field behind state semifinalist Arlington (23-4), whom Vanlue defeated 51-50 during the regular season.
The five-year stretch for the boys basketball team under Kloepfer had been one of the best in Vanlue history.
Although they won 77 games in five years, the Wildcats have not been able to capture a Blanchard Valley Conference title, finishing in a tie for third (7-2) last season and a tie for second (7-2) in 2010-11. Vanlue tied for fourth in the BVC in 2009-10 and 2007-08.
Vanlue has won only five league championships in all sports in the 47-year history of the BVC. The Wildcats won back-to-back boys basketball titles in 1990-91 to go along with the 1973 BVC crown. The girls basketball team won BVC championships in 1978 and 1980.
Apparently, a personality conflict between Kloepfer and Vanlue superintendent Rod Russell led to his non-renewal.
By JAMIE BAKER