Sports Year in Review

PORTSMOUTH — The end of the calendar year is a time of reflection for the coverage our Daily Times staff has completed in the preceding days.

On a personal level, this year was a difficult one.

On a professional level, this year was also an immensely rewarding one because of what Paul and myself have seen the kids we cover achieve in their respective sports.

In somewhat of a particular order (although I’m not much for rankings), here are the top sports stories for Scioto County in the 2022 calendar year.

Wheelersburg softball wins second state championship

The Lady Pirates softball program climbed the mountain top for the second time in program history this spring — defeating Massillon Tuslaw 5-2 in the Division III state softball championship game at Akron’s Firestone Stadium.

They suffered just one defeat in 28 games this year and didn’t drop a game after April 2.

And with all but two starters returning, ‘Burg will be poised for yet another championship run come this spring.

“This whole season they’ve played with pressure, a target, a lot of social media stuff. They’re played through it,” Wheelersburg coach Teresa Ruby said, after the D-III title game. “We’ve got three seniors and a lot of juniors, sophomores, and freshmen. It’s a maturity that we’ve developed through the season and I couldn’t be prouder.”

SOC votes to move to three divisions

This news was the latest breaking in 2022, but affects all but one Scioto County HS.

After much deliberation, the soon-to-be 18 member Southern Ohio Conference voted to move to three six-team divisions beginning with the 2023-24 basketball season.

“There was concern when South Gallia came in, we would have two nine-team divisions in those sports (volleyball, basketball, baseball and softball), meaning playing double round-robin, and that’s 16 league games out of 22 possible for volleyball and basketball. Doesn’t give you much freedom for non-league games. There was also discussion on competitive balance, too. I think a lot of schools just thought, competition-wise, move a couple of the bigger SOC I schools to a middle division, and drop a couple of the smaller SOC II schools to a middle division,” said SOC Secretary/Treasurer Dave Stamm. “It made for three six-team divisions, which we hope it will be better competition-wise and add some flexibility to the schedule. When you have 18 schools, it’s impossible to satisfy everybody, but I think this helps a few schools.”

Burrow, Bengals win AFC Championship

Southeast Ohio native Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals won the franchise’s third AFC Championship in January — defeating the Kansas City Chiefs 27-24 at Arrowhead Stadium.

Although they came up short in delivering their first Super Bowl victory, it was a roller-coaster ride that Bengals fans won’t soon be forgetting.

And the one question that remains — is 2023 the year that Cincinnati can make history?

Reds commence large-scale fire sale

The Cincinnati Reds front office commenced a large-scale fire sale that saw the team trade former All-Stars Jesse Winker, Luis Castillo, Eugenio Suarez, Sonny Gray, and refrain from resigning All-Star Nick Castellanos.

They proceeded to start the ‘22 season off with a 3-22 record and drew a Great American Ball Park-low 1.387 million fan attendance over the course of the campaign — while losing 100 games for the second time in franchise history.

Phillips, Gill qualify for state golf

Valley’s Cameron Phillips and Wheelersburg’s Brady Gill represented the Southern Ohio Conference at the Division III and II state golf tournament at the end of their sophomore and junior seasons, respectively.

Phillips is a two-time qualifier who earned all-Ohio honors his freshman year, while Gill was a first-time state qualifier in ‘22.

Both will have the opportunity to repeat as state qualifiers in 2023.

Six compete at State Track, Charlie Putnam a state XC qualifier

Six Scioto County individuals competed at the 2022 State Track and Field championships, while Portsmouth’s Charlie Putnam qualified for the State Cross Country meet for the third time in three years while earning all-Ohio honors for the second time.

Valley’s Justin Moore repeated as an All-Ohioan in shot put this spring, while Northwest’s Ava Jenkins and Portsmouth’s Dariyonne Bryant placed in the high jump event.

Valley’s Bryce Stuart, Portsmouth’s Putnam, and Wheelersburg’s Karley Kouns competed at the state meet as well.

Portsmouth West football wins SOC II

What a year to remember for the West Senators football program.

In their second year under head coach Todd Gilliland, the Senators won the program’s first Southern Ohio Conference Division II championship since 2008 — defeating Wheelersburg 14-7 in the de facto league title game at home in week 10.

“It’s a win for our community,” said Gilliland, after their win over the Pirates. “Tonight is just a culmination of all the hard work everybody has put in and the community has backed. I’m so excited for these boys, because this feeling of winning a league championship game is something that they are never going to forget and will have always with them. No matter what else happens in their lives, they have this.”

Portsmouth West, Notre Dame softball reach regional final

The softball programs at West and Notre Dame High Schools were simply elite this spring.

Each program won district championships and reached the ‘Elite 8’ of Ohio softball, falling to the eventual state champions in the regional finals.

The best may be yet to come for both of these programs — as they return the vast majority of starters from one of their best seasons in school history.

Holden shines in NCAA tournament, transfers to Ohio State

2019 Wheelersburg grad Tanner Holden put himself and his team squarely under the national spotlight.

As a member of the Wright State University Raiders men’s basketball team, Holden scored 37 points during their NCAA Tournament First Four win over Bryant.

After his successes in Dayton, Holden announced he would be transferring to join the Ohio State Buckeyes men’s basketball program where he is currently a part of Coach Chris Holtmann’s rotation.

OSU is 9-3 entering the new year, and looks to compete for a BIG Ten championship and NCAA Tournament run in March.

Area HS signings

This year, the Daily Times staff covered 33 collegiate signings of individuals who signed to continue their education and compete at the NCAA, NAIA, or JUCO ranks,.

The most notable of these were softballers Macee Eaton (Wheelersburg) and Sydney McDermott (Portsmouth West), who signed to compete at the NCAA Division I level at the University of Virginia and Valparaiso University, respectively.

Honorable Mentions

-Minford girls soccer wins SOC

-Wheelersburg, Valley, Western boys, Wheelersburg girls basketball reach regional tournament

-Minford, Wheelersburg boys soccer square off in Regional Semis

-Minford, Valley baseball win district championships

South Webster softball wins district championship

-Notre Dame softball regional runner-up

-Waverly boys basketball wins regional title

Ironton football state runner-up

Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 370-0713 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved