The year 2014 gave us many great things in Cleveland area high school sports. It was a year of the Cinderella, a year of memorable plays and performances, and a year where the unexpected almost became the expected. Can 2015 top this past year as far as Cleveland area high school sports? We shall have to wait and see, because 2014 was a doozy. Here are the highlights from the 2014 year in Cleveland high school sports:
Basketball…. If there was one sport that gave us the unexpected in was basketball. On the boys side, it was the story of East Tech. The Scarabs, not very highly thought of heading into the tournament, turned heads and made the city of Cleveland proud with their run through the draw. They beat Shaker Heights and Mentor when they were decided underdogs, and used a last second shot by freshman Markell Johnson to beat Uniontown Lake to reach the state final four. It was a run that won’t be forgotten in the Cleveland area for years to come. St. Edward also had a dramatic run, but this time it was in the state title game against Upper Arlington. Marsalis Hamilton hit a three pointer from 30 feet at the buzzer to send the game into overtime, where the Eagles ultimately prevailed, bringing home a state championship. VASJ also had championship dreams. Dubbed by many as the best team in the state regardless of Division, the Vikings got to the championship game, only to fall to Lima Central Catholic. With all five starters returning, the Vikings will be a force to be reckoned with this basketball season. On the girls side, the story of the year was the saga of Solon. Despite not having much crowd support despite their success over the years, the Comets advanced to the regional final, only to see their dreams stopped by eventual state runner up North Canton Hoover. The Comets have re-loaded this season, and are a team to watch, looking to break through to the state final four after being stopped one game short three years in a row.
Wrestling…. Would this be the year? Would it be the year where the reign of St. Edward would come to an end? The answer was a resounding YES. It was Massillon Perry that would take home the state title with a dominating performance with 8 state placers. It was as balanced as performance as you will see. They had state champions in the lower weights, middle weights, and upper weights. Many thought Brecksville would be the team to challenge St. Edward in Division I. The Bees did have a strong year, but faded at the state tournament. How bad was it for St. Edward? For the first time in years, they didn’t have a state champion. It was something you never see, and something everyone is sure the Eagles are correcting. St. Edward was extremely young last season, and so far this year, the Eagles look strong. Look for them to challenge all comers in trying to get back to the top at the state tournament in March. On the individual level, one has to be proud of CVCA’s Tyler MacLellean. Not thought of as a favorite heading into the state tournament, MacLellan was dominant once he got there, outscoring his opponents 21-5. It was a feel good story, and quite deserving for a kid that showed that hard work can lead to great things.
Hockey…. What a Hornet’s nest this stirred up. St. Ignatius was the team from the Cleveland area that reached the state finals. They were opposed by Sylvania Northview, a team with barely a .500 record. What ensued will be talked about for years, and be part of state championship lore forever. When it was all said and done, there would even be rule changes for this coming year. St. Ignatius and Northview would battle through seven overtimes, with the game still remaining tied. Finally the OHSAA, citing player safety, would call the game and declare both teams state champions. It was a controversial decision at best, upsetting fan bases from both teams. Heading into this season, the OHSAA has instituted rule changes with shorter overtime periods, and extra time between overtime periods. It was a predicament that the OHSAA was in that Saturday afternoon in Columbus, and they did what they had to do to protect the players involved. It was great heart, great determination, and great effort given by players of both teams.
Come the Spring of 2014, more great story lines would emerge
Baseball…. Cleveland has always produced good baseball teams, and this past season was no exception. St. Ignatius was thought to be the cream of the crop in the Cleveland area, with Walsh Jesuit right on their heels. Mentor was also thought of as a state championship contender, with St. Edward and Hudson having good teams that could be sleepers come tournament time. So what happened? None of those teams reached the final four in Columbus. Hudson beat Walsh, which was considered a big upset. One Cleveland team did make it to Columbus, a team that came out of nowhere and made a Cinderella run all the way to the state championship game. That team was North Royalton. What a tournament run the Bears had. In succession, the Bears beat baseball powerhouses Berea-Midpark, Strongsville, St. Ignatius, St. Edward, Sylvania Southview, and Gahanna Lincoln to reach the state title game. The dream would end when they were defeated in the state title game by Massillon Jackson, but the Bears, and fans around the Cleveland area, will never forget to run they put together to get to Columbus.
Softball…. While it wasn’t the greatest year for softball in the Cleveland area, on local team did bring home a state championship in Division III. Cuyahoga Heights rallied to tie the game, then won it in the bottom of the seventh inning 2-1 over Minster.
Track…. One-tenth of a second. A few blinks of an eye. That is what separated Solon’s Jelvon Butler from her second place finisher in the 100 meter dash at the state championship. It was that margin of victory that allowed the Solon girls to repeat as state champions, winning the title by a single point. On the boys side, what can be said about the performance of Davon Anderson of Glenville? Anderson took home first place finishes in the 110 meter hurdles, 4×100 meter relay and the 4×400 meter relay. He also threw in a second place finish in the 300 meter hurdles, giving Glenville its first state championship in seven years.
It was in May, that two important referendums were passed by the OHSAA. One was the “Mercy Rule” in football. Once a team has a 30 point lead, there would be a running clock until the opposing team got the lead under 30 points. The rule would take effect in the second half only. It was a rule that would come into play even in the state championship football games come the fall. The other rule has to do with “Competitive Balance”. Seeking to level the playing field in all sports, starting with the 2015-16 school year, teams will have their enrollment figures adjusted, based on how many “out of district” athletes they have. This new enrollment calculation may bump some schools up a division for certain sports.
On to the Fall of this year….
Golf…. Cleveland area teams were shut out when it came to team championships, but that doesn’t mean the Cleveland area didn’t represent on the Scarlet and Gray Course in Columbus. NDCL’s Charlie Toman took home medalist honors in Division III. The freshman out shot all comers making him NDCL’s first individual state golf champion. On the girls side, there were no team champions, but yet again, the individual champion was senior Nikolette Schroeder of Avon Lake.
Volleyball…. Three Cleveland area teams made it to the state final in volleyball. In Division II, NDCL was able to take home the title by defeating Columbus Bishop Hartley in four sets. In Division III, Gilmour Academy were runners up after falling to Huron in the state final. In Division IV, VASJ got to the final, only to be upended by the powerful team from Maria Stein Marion Local.
Football…. The year started with St. Edward being tabbed as the state’s best team. The Eagles did go through some peaks and valleys, but in the end, what started out as high expectations, ended with the ultimate result. St. Edward won its first state championship in football since 2010 by defeating Huber Heights Wayne in the state championship game. The Eagles will send nine players to Division I colleges next season. The Eagles weren’t the only local team to taste a state championship. The Bengals of Benedictine claimed yet another state championship in football by knocking off Kettering Alter in the Division IV title game 21-14. It was a fitting ending for the school dubbed the “Home of Champions”. In Division VI, the Kirtland Hornets were looking to repeat as state champions. Winners of 58 of their last 59 games heading into the state final against Minster, the Hornets were considered favorites to take home another state title. They would fall just short, as Minster would rally in the final two minutes to beat the Hornets 46-42. The Cleveland area had a fourth team reach a state football final in the Nordonia Knights in Division II. The Knights may have had the most difficult road to the final than any other team. They first had to get through Region 4, the hardest region in the state regardless of division. They rallied to defeat the top ranked team in Division II in Perrysburg in the second round, then were dominant in victories over Midview in the regional final, and Mayfield in the state semi-finals. Up until the state final, the Knights scored 50 points or more in every playoff game. It was just unfortunate that they had to run into Cincinnati LaSalle in the state final, a team that would have given St. Edward all they could handle in the Division I title game. LaSalle was THAT good.
I am sure that I am missing some other great moments in 2014, like the resurgence of Berea-Midpark and Lorain in football, or Perry’s Billy Miller going undefeated in winning a state wrestling title. Hudson being the state’s top ranked football team the last few weeks of the season is another one.
So many moments in 2014
Let’s hope that 2015 is just as exciting in Cleveland area high school sports