The No. 1 local sports story in 2019 was something that had never happened before and might not happen again.
Lima Senior and Lima Central Catholic played football against each other for the first time and the much-hyped game lived up to the expectations attached to it to claim the top spot.
The game between the two schools the first week of the season was announced in January. Lima Senior is Division II in football and LCC is Division VI.
Eight months later the two teams produced a wildly exciting game in which the lead changed hands four times before the Spartans won 49-45.
The No. 2 story of the year was something that had happened just a year before when Lima Central Catholic’s girls golf team won its second consecutive Division II state championship.
The Thunderbirds were tied with Alliance Marlington after the first day of the state tournament but won the championship by 11 strokes over runner-up Marlington at Ohio State’s Gray Course.
Mary Kelly Mulcahy led LCC with a 73-72—145, which was sixth overall. Erin Mulcahy (77-75—152) was eleventh and Bridget Mulcahy (84-86—170) was twentieth.
A coach’s retirement was the year’s No. 3 story. After 532 wins, eight state tournament teams, 14 district champions and 12 Putnam County League champions, Ottoville girls basketball coach Dave Kleman decided the time was right to retire.
Ottoville finished Division IV state runner-up to Minster in 2019 and 2018, one of three times it was state runner-up. Fourteen of the 27 Ottoville teams Kleman coached won 20 or more games.
Michelle Leach, a former Ottoville player, replaced Kleman.
At No. 4, Crestview produced several year’s worth of news in a little over six weeks.
First, the Knights won the Division IV boys basketball state championship. A month later their head coach, Jeremy Best, announced he was stepping away from coaching after 17 highly successful seasons at Crestview, including two state championships and a state runner-up.
Then Doug Etzler, a Crestview legend in his own right and the son of legendary coach Ray Etzler, was hired to replace Best. Three days after that 4-star recruit Kalen Etzler verbally committed to Ohio State’s 2021 recruiting class.
Bluffton’s Deandre Nassar having a perfect season, or as close to perfect as you can get, was the No. 5 story.
Nassar, a four-time Northwest Conference champion, became a state champion when he defeated Tanner May of Carey 5-2 in the Division III 182-pound weight class. Nassar finished the season with a 48-0 record.
Two Lima Senior athletes signing to play for NCAA Division I schools was the No. 6 story of the year.
Guard Josiah Fulcher, who shared Three Rivers Athletic Conference Player of the Year honors as a junior, signed to play basketball at Bowling Green. And defensive lineman Brandon Taylor, a second-team All-Ohio selection, signed to play football for Penn State.
Two abrupt coaching changes combined to be the No. 7 story in 2019. Lima Senior football coach Andre Griffin was notified in late November that his coaching contract would not be renewed after a 15-25 record in four seasons.
In September, Elida football coach Bill Speller resigned after the third game of the season after players and parents reportedly criticized his coaching methods. Elida was 0-3 at the time of the resignation and was 16-18 during his time as head coach there.
The No. 8 position belonged to Bluffton’s boys soccer team, which finished state runner-up in Division III.
The Pirates were defeated 4-0 by The Wellington School of Columbus, a powerhouse team that did not allow a goal in its tournament games. But Bluffton did become the first area school to reach a state championship game. It finished the season with an 18-3-2 record.
The No. 9 story was two teams rolling their way to state championships when St. Marys’ boys and girls bowling teams won Division II state championships.
The No. 10 story is a familiar one. It was the Midwest Athletic Conference winning more state championships.
The MAC won six state championships during 2019 – Minster in girls basketball and cross country, New Bremen in volleyball, Coldwater in baseball and Marion Local and Anna in football.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.