From state champions, to record breakers to SportsCenter's Top Play of the Year, the local sports scene had a little bit of everything in 2012.
1. Back-to-back Champions
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Champion softball players Lindsay Swipas, left, Haley McAllister, center, and Alison Sorber hold the Division III State Championship trophy after defeating Bloom-Carroll.
It's hard enough to win a state title, it's that much harder to repeat the task. But on June 2, the Champion Golden Flashes softball team went back to Akron as defending Division III state champions and left with the same title.
Champion defeated Bloom-Carroll, 2-0, avenging a loss the Bulldogs handed the Golden Flashes back in 2006.
Golden Flashes' pitcher Lindsay Swipas finished her senior season in memorable fashion, allowing only one hit and striking out 10 in the victory.
"I couldn't think of a word to describe it," Champion coach Cheryl Weaver said. "I am so happy for the senior class, because if any group of girls deserves it, it is this group."
The Golden Flashes finished with a 24-3 record on the season. Combined with the 2011 record, the Flashes went 51-3 in two years.
2. Super Mario Leads Giants to
Super Bowl Win
Many remember Marion Manningham when he made spectacular catches for the Warren G. Harding Raiders. Fans of Michigan and of the former Raider recollect catches he made in college. But after Super Bowl XLVI, the entire country knew what Warren had known since 2002 - Manningham could catch the football.
Down 17-15 against the New England Patriots, Manningham ran a go pattern up the left sideline on a first-and-10 from the Giants' 12. Manningham made the catch between safeties Patrick Chung and Sterling Moore and right in front of Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Manningham made a magnificent over-the-shoulder catch and managed to stay inbounds on the opening play of a game-winning, 88-yard touchdown drive that carried New York to another come-from-behind win over the Patriots.
"We just tried to be patient," said Manningham, who finished with five catches for 73 yards. "Got to be patient with this game. We knew big plays was going to come, we just had to take advantage of them."
Manningham's catch has been ranked as one of the best catches ever in the NFL. This year alone, the catch was ranked The Top Play of the Year by ESPN.
3. The rise and fall of YSU football
The Youngstown State Penguins said from the start of the season that this one was going to be different. Coach Eric Wolford even said that if the Penguins did not make the playoffs in 2012, the season was a failure.
The year started off perfect with a huge win over Pitt, a lopsided victory over Valparaiso and two tight wins against Albany and UNI. With the victories, the Penguins skyrocketed up the FCS Polls, putting the Penguins at No. 3 going into a huge game against No. 1 ranked North Dakota State.
The trip to Fargo on Oct. 3 began the spiral down for the Penguins. YSU was blown out in Fargo, then went on to finish the month of October without a win. The team was 4-4 heading into the month of November.
YSU finished with a 7-4 mark, the best record since 2007, but the year with promise ended in a year of disappointment as the Penguins failed to make the FCS playoffs.
4. New FOOTBALL coaches have success
All eyes on the high school football scene this year were focused on Warren G. Harding and coach Steve Arnold. After a one-and-done year for former Harding coach Rick Rios, Warren hired Arnold to turn the football team around - in hopes he would bring his success from the basketball court to the football field.
"The only thing people will remember right now is what transpired last year," Arnold said in the summer. "The question mark is can Steve coach football like he did basketball."
The answer:?Yes he can.
In his first season as the Raiders coach, Arnold turned the team around, going 8-2 in the regular season and making a trip to the Division I, Region I playoffs.
Arnold wasn't the only first-year coach to turn a program around. In Niles, former East coach Brian Shaner led the Dragons to an 8-2 regular season record and Niles' first trip to the playoffs since 2006.
One of the biggest turnaround in the county came from Liberty and first-year coach Brian Jones. Over the 2010 and 2011 seasons, the Leopards went 1-19. But in 2012, the Leopards finished 8-2, won their first-round playoff game against Streetsboro and captured the All-American Conference, National Division title.
All three coaches were named Northeast Ohio Inland District Coach of the Year in their respective divisions.
5. Kokrak makes the PGA tour
John F. Kennedy graduate Jason Kokrak was a full time member of the PGA in 2012 and had his ups and downs along the way.
His best finish of the season came at the Frys.com Open, when he finished second. The finish was needed, as Kokrak had to finish in the top 125 on the PGA money list to maintain his playing card for another season. With the help of the second place finish, Kokrak finished 119th.
"I made eight of my last 10 cuts and played solid in the latter part of the season," Kokrak said. "It's nice to stand out there under the gun and come through under that pressure. Making an eagle at 17 (at the Frys.com) was a big rush for me. My brother said he put a hole through the wall he was so excited."
On the season, the 2003 JFK grad made 13 cuts and finished in the top 10 twice.
The year ended on another high note for Kokrak as it was announced Friday that Covelli Enterprises will sponsor him on the tour in 2013.
6. New Trumbull County Rushing King
De'Veon Smith has been a staple on the high school football scene since his freshman year at Howland High School. After his senior season, he will now go down in history as one of the best running backs of all time.
Against Canfield in Week 9, Smith became Trumbull County's all-time leading rusher, breaking the record previously held by Champion graduate Jimmy Rasey.
Smith finished his career with a county record 6,750 yards rushing over four years as a Tiger. He scored 82 touchdowns in that time span.
The awards came pouring in for Smith this season. The Michigan bound player was named first-team all-county, all-conference, all-district and all-state. He was the Division II Offensive Player of the Year and was a finalist for the prestigious Mr. Football.
7. Football streaks
Every year since 2001, Trumbull County has had at least one undefeated team through the regular season. The 2012 Brookfield Warriors kept that streak alive.
The Warriors, led by quarterback Jeremy Quinlan and running back Ryan Mosora, dominated the competition through 10 weeks, outscoring opponents by a margin of 464-118. The closest game the Warriors had in the regular season was a 26-13 win over Struthers in Week 4.
With their dominating season, the Warriors earned the top seed in Division IV, Region 13. Brookfield defeated Ashtabula Edgewood and Manchester in the first two rounds of the playoffs, but lost in the regional final to the defending Division IV state champion, Creston Norwayne.
When the Warriors lost to Norwayne, it ended another long-standing Trumbull County streak. Brookfield, and Ursuline in Division V, were the last two teams standing from the Mahoning Valley, and both lost in the regional final. It marked the first time since 2003 that no area team advanced to the state semifinals.
8. Ryan Blaney makes name on the circuit
Area racing fans have known the Blaney name for years - starting with the patriarch of the family Lou and his son, NASCAR driver Dale. Now, fans know the third generation - Ryan Blaney.
The 18-year old NASCAR rookie shocked about everyone but himself when he drove the Brad Keselowski Racing Ram truck to the first victory of his career at the American Ethanol 200. It made him the youngest winner ever in the truck series.
In addition to being Ryan's first NASCAR win, it was also the first win for the Keselowski racing team.
On the season, Blaney finished 26th in the truck series standing.
"It was definitely a good feeling," Blaney said. "Getting my first truck win with Brad was special after they had been trying a couple of years now. They've been close but hadn't been able to seal the deal.
"It was special to do that and being the youngest truck winner is very cool. Hopefully, we can get some more here with that team. They have a good program where we think we can win some more."
9. Covelli gives big check to Ohio State
It's no secret that Sam Covelli, owner/operator of Covelli Enterprises, has a love for Ohio State. On Nov. 24, the day of the Ohio State-Michigan game, Covelli showed his love in the form of a $10 million check.
Surrounded by his wife, Caryn, their three children, Candace, Danielle and Albert, and Ohio State President Gordon Gee, the Covelli family presented their donation of $10 million to The Ohio State University Athletic Department to go toward building a new multi-sports arena, which will be named Covelli Arena.
"It was cold, it was fun, it was great," Sam Covelli said after the family presented the check at halftime of The Game. "My kids, my family, they really enjoyed it."
The donation is the single largest cash gift from an individual donor to the Department of Athletics. Covelli owns about 250 Panera restaurants, the country's largest owner.
The new 4,000-seat arena, which will house seven Olympic sports, is set to break ground in 2014-15.
10. All-Star game comes to Eastwood Field
For the first time in franchise history, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers and Eastwood Field played host to the New-York Penn League All-Star game in August.
"We're very proud to get this. It's something I've pursued since taking over," said Jordan Taylor, General Manager of the Scrappers. "We put together a 30-page bid proposal at the baseball winter meetings, and we were confident the Valley would support the event if given the chance."
The festivities included a gala the night before and a home run derby the day of the game.
The game brought in 5,897 fans to Eastwood Field, who stayed through an hour long rain delay before the game kicked off.
The National League defeated the American League, 8-1.