Recounting the best of 2012
Each year, myriad stories catch our eye. Some are heartwarming, others not so much.
This year was no different. Choosing the best was difficult. But here it is, The Daily News' Top 10 sports stories of 2012:
10. Serra Catholic baseball dynasty comes to an end
From 2009-11, the Eagles won the first two WPIAL Class A titles in school history and played in three state championship games. Entering the 2012 season as defending PIAA Class A champion with a returning cast that included senior pitcher Alain Girman, Serra Catholic appeared to be poised to make a run at its third WPIAL title in four years and possibly its fourth consecutive state final.
It appeared everything was headed the Eagles' way after a 10-1 start. Then they lost three consecutive Section 2 games and went 2-4 to close out the regular season before getting dumped by Our Lady of the Sacred Heart — a team it thumped 10-0 in the first of their three meetings — in the WPIAL quarterfinals.
9. McKeesport coach Jim Ward and Steel Valley's Rod Steele resign within days of each other
Steele has yet to officially comment on why he stepped down as head coach of the Ironmen Dec. 4, but the team struggled with injuries throughout his three seasons, finished 16-14 and went winless in three WPIAL Class AA playoff appearances.
There were rumblings all season about whether Ward would return, especially after the Tigers opened the season as upset victims to Hempfield. Even so, it appeared he had enough support, as McKeesport finished 19-11 in Ward's three years despite an 0-3 mark in the WPIAL playoffs.
Ward instead stepped down Dec. 6 for personal reasons.
8. Clairton senior Trenton Coles comes back from knee injury to win 100-meter dash at WPIAL Class AA finals
It seemed like such a simple play. All Coles had to do was kick the ball through the uprights for the extra point and Clairton would have a 21-10 lead on Dec. 16, 2011 in the PIAA Class A championship against Southern Columbia. The kick was fine, but the hit he took with his right leg extended tore the medial collateral ligament in his knee and appeared to end his chances of winning the WPIAL Class AA 100-meter track championship for a third consecutive year.
Instead, he came back sooner than expected and ran a 10.94 that edged his teammate and cousin Vincent Moody by one one-hundredth of a second for the title.
7. South Allegheny girls soccer team finishes an undefeated regular season for the first time
There have been a few bright spots in Gladiators girls soccer — having one of the best pure goal scorers to play in the WPIAL in Jonna Handra among them — but never had the program hit the heights it did in 2012.
Not only did South Allegheny win the first outright section title in school history, the team also finished the regular season undefeated (16-0-0) for the first time and made it to the WPIAL Class A quarterfinals.
6. Clairton baseball team ends 48-game losing streak
While the Bears football team had set a WPIAL record with its 47th consecutive victory, the baseball team set an infamous standard as it lost its 48th consecutive game on April 4 at Monessen. This was a streak Clairton couldn't wait to come to an end, and it finally did on April 13.
In that game, junior Tyler Boyd hit an inside-the-park home run in his first at-bat of the season, and the team held on for an 11-9 victory over Avella. The Bears finished the season 4-10.
5. South Allegheny football makes the WPIAL playoffs for the first time in 26 years
For many years, Glassport Stadium was a great place to visit. Opposing teams loved coming into the venerable stadium and taking a win from their gracious hosts.
That changed this year.
South Allegheny, which had won only three games the previous three seasons, came alive after a 35-0 home loss to Seton-La Salle in the opener. The Gladiators won their next seven games and, as a result, ended one of the longest postseason droughts in the WPIAL.
4. Thomas Jefferson baseball makes state quarterfinals, then gets rid of coach
Led by Pitt recruit Greg Schneider, the Jaguars finished the regular season 14-4, made it to the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals, then won a consolation game to get into the state tournament for the first time. They also won their first PIAA Class AAA playoff game before being eliminated by Blackhawk in the quarterfinals on June 7.
On Oct. 2, the Thomas Jefferson school board announced on its website that it was looking for a new baseball coach to replace Rich Krivanek. Krivanek, who was suspended for two games during the season for unspecified reasons, said he had not been notified of the district's decision and found out when he was sent a screenshot of the want ad on the site.
3. Clairton senior Tyler Boyd breaks Rushel Shell's all-time WPIAL record for career touchdowns
When Shell finished his high school career at Hopewell in 2011, it seemed like his WPIAL record of 110 touchdowns would be safe for a while, but Boyd had other ideas.
Not only did the 2012 Daily News and Pennsylvania Sportswriters Class A player of the year eclipse the record, he also veritably shattered it as he finished his senior season with 117 career touchdowns and finished fifth on the WPIAL's all-time rushing list with 5,755 yards. To break the record, Boyd had to have two of the biggest seasons in WPIAL history.
Boyd only had 19 touchdowns after his sophomore year but broke out as a junior with 47 and finished his senior year with 51 to give him 98 his final two seasons.
2. Ejection, subsequent incident for Woodland Hills' Shakim Alonzo
With 3:38 remaining in a WPIAL Class AAAA playoff game against Peters Township at California University of Pennsylvania, Alonzo was ejected for throwing an elbow at a Peters Township player under the hoop. After initially heading for the Wolverines' locker room, he ran back onto the court, where he was momentarily stopped by head coach Mike Decker.
Alonzo appeared to calm down, then ran toward the Peters Township bench and threw a punch that tore cartilage in the ear of Indians junior center Gabe Pritz.
Alonzo, who six days later apologized during a news conference when he read from a prepared statement, said his outburst was caused by racial slurs that were being directed at Woodland Hills players by members of the Peters Township squad. Alonzo was later charged by the Washington County District Attorney's Office, but because Alonzo, a Cincinnati football recruit, was 17 at the time, the records were sealed.
1. The Clairton Streak
Everyone loves a winner, and there's no doubt about the attachment the Clairton community feels for its Bears.
Clairton entered the season with a WPIAL-record and national-best 47 consecutive victories and needed 13 to break the state record set by Central Bucks West from 1997-2000.
Clairton had to go undefeated throughout the regular season and win its fifth straight WPIAL Class A title at Heinz Field to set the record. Not only did the Bears set the record, they also extended it to 63 with their fourth consecutive PIAA Class A title in a 20-0 victory over Dunmore on Dec. 14 at Hersheypark Stadium.
Their string got the attention of a nation looking for a feel-good story as USA Today, The New York Times and CBS News, among others, came to Clairton to find out what made this streak so special.
Keith Barnes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-664-9161 Ext. 1977.