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Can 2019 Be As Exciting As Last Year? | News, Sports, Jobs

WHEELING — As the calendar flips to 2019, it is time to hit that reset button. I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, I feel like I am always too busy to keep up with them.

It wouldn’t hurt me to lose a few pounds. I would like to be a better reporter, better referee, better person.

If any of those changes comes to fruition, only time will tell.

One thing I am confident coming into the new year is that prep sports in the Ohio Valley will be exciting as always.

Just looking back to last year, here a few of the moments that highlighted 2018:

∫ Wheeling Central winning state titles in boys and girls basketball, softball, golf and football;

∫ the shocking retirements — on the same day — of legendary coaches Dave Bruney of Martins Ferry and Jay Circosta of Monroe Central;

∫ Wheeling Park’s girls’ soccer team making a memorable run to the state championship;

∫ Wheeling Park and Wheeling Central both making it to the state championship game in baseball;

∫ an exciting first season for Wheeling Central tennis player Laina Anderson, who won her first 21 matches before falling to the eventual state champion in the state semifinals

∫ the incredible story of Wheeling Park cross country runner Ronnie Saunders as he battled back from illness and won a state championship.

∫ speaking of cross country, how about Shadyside’s Chase Stewart? He finished seventh in Ohio, capping off an incredible career.

∫ Wheeling Central’s Derrick Harrison was the Class A medalist in helping the Maroon Knights to a state title.

∫ the first all girls golf tournament, where Wheeling Park’s Dorothy Romanek finished runnerup.

∫ John Marshall softball wins a school-record 25 straight games

∫ the firing of Wheeling Jesuit men’s basketball coach Danny Sancomb and all the craziness surrounding that situation;

Again, those are just a few things I came up with at the top of my head. I am sure there are more that I missed (please don’t email me complaining if I left something out. It isn’t meant to disrespect anyone).

It makes me more excited to see what this calendar year will bring. Today, the second half of the winter sports season begins with basketball, swimming and wrestling all getting back on the court, pool and mat.

Can both Wheeling Park basketball teams make a run at a state title? Can the Wheeling Central boys repeat? Can the Wheeling Central girls find someone to step up and replace injured Hannah White to get the Maroon Knights back to Charleston? Is this the year the Magnolia girls make a run to the title game? Are the Oak Glen boys for real?

In wrestling, can anyone stop Parkersburg South at the OVACs or at the state tournament?

There are so many stories to be told in the coming months. I, for one, am glad we will be there to share them with you.

So, I Was Wrong

Last week I stood in this space and predicted my beloved Notre Dame Fighting Irish would silence the critics and upset Clemson. Well, that didn’t exactly happen like I hoped.

Bottom line, there is an issue when it comes to picking teams for the playoffs — and no, it has nothing to do with Notre Dame not being in a conference.

Alabama and Clemson are the two best programs in college football. And the gap between those teams and the next crop is substantial. It doesn’t matter who is put in front of them.

Ohio State fans, sorry, congrats on your Rose Bowl win. But, after watching Notre Dame and Oklahoma get dismantled, if you think the Buckeyes would have hung with Clemson or Alabama, you must have had a really good New Year’s Eve.

Now there is nothing that can be done to change this situation, as long as Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney are still coaching. Top-notch players want to play for them. Those programs aren’t going anywhere. The depth there is outstanding. Until someone can find the right formula to challenge those teams, it will be more of the same.

Winning a conference doesn’t matter. Expanding the playoff doesn’t matter. Notre Dame, Ohio State, Washington, Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas, Michigan, Central Florida, the list goes on and on, just aren’t on that level right now.

Also, I am going Alabama over Clemson, 42-28.

Holgorsen to Houston?

I have never been a fan of Dana Holgorsen. I never cared for how his tenure began and he never won me over.

A lot of West Virginia fans seem excited about Holgorsen making the move to the University of Houston.

My question is: who is going to be better? And if they do get someone better, how long does he stay?

I feel the days of a coach like Don Nehlen staying at WVU are over. That ended in my eyes the day homegrown product Rich Rodriguez bolted for Michigan.

Athletics director Shane Lyons needs to find someone like Bill Stewart who loves this state more than anything — and he was even forced out.

Dana Holgorsen had no ties to this state. He was never going to be here forever. Whoever the next coach is will likely also use WVU as a stepping stone to a higher-profile job.

It is a sad reality in college football and obviously hits home to many of us in this state. Hopefully I am wrong on this one and the next hire is a successful one that puts the Mountaineers in Big 12 title contention on a yearly basis and joins the College Football Playoff conversation on occasion. I just don’t see it happening.

Josh Strope can be reached at jstrope@theintelligencer.net

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