Looking back at high school sports in 2017

JORDAN HOLLAND The Marietta Times Waterford High baseball players celebrate Clay Hayes’ walkoff RBI single against Southern last spring to finish undefeated in Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division play.

There’s no dispute that 2017 provided some epic moments in local high school sports.

District and regional championships were won, All-Ohio athletes were recognized and history was made by multiple area programs.

Though daunting, The Marietta Times narrowed down the calendar year in sports to five of the most memorable moments or accomplishments. Obviously there were many, many deserving candidates for this list, but if all were included it would take a week’s worth of newspapers to fit them all in print.

So, here goes:

Washington County

baseball thrives

The classes of 2017 featured some of the best high school baseball talent ever to go through the area.

Five of the six Washington County varsity baseball teams won sectional titles, with the sixth, Belpre, losing in its sectional final by only a run.

Fort Frye (20 wins) and Frontier (15 wins) were ousted in district semifinals, Warren (17 wins) fell in a district final and Marietta (24 wins) dropped out in the regional semifinal. Waterford (24 wins) made the deepest run, making the regional finals before being ousted by Toronto.

At least 10 players from the county committed to playing college baseball, and two (Marietta’s Turner Hill and Fort Frye’s Tyler Bradford) were named first team All-Ohio.

You won’t see many seasons like that on the diamond.

Warren softball rallies for district championship

ATHENS — Despite only winning nine regular season games, the Warren softball team made a memorable postseason run that led to a district championship and a berth in the “Sweet 16.”

Down 4-0 early against Sheridan in the district title game, the Lady Warriors rallied for a 5-4 lead before Avery Grayson’s three-run triple put an exclamation mark on the comeback.

“We struggled early in the year and I kept telling the girls to keep hanging in there and we will be ready for tournament time,” said Warren softball coach Jenny Lynch after the Sheridan win. “We came out in the tournaments and were a totally different team and I am proud of every single one of them.”

Warren eventually fell to top-ranked, defending state champion Lakewood in the regional semi, but it didn’t take away from an impressive tournament showing.

First ECOL victory for Marietta football

Since joining the East Central Ohio League in 2011, the Marietta High football team had been unable to defeat a Scarlet Division opponent entering the 2017 season.

Even with the program’s improvement upon head coach Jason Schob’s arrival before the 2014 season, the Tigers had been unable to get over the hump against ECOL foes New Philadelphia, Dover, Zanesville and Cambridge.

With the Blue Devils visiting Don Drumm Stadium for the final game of the 2017 season, the Tigers found themselves in a dogfight.

Dominic Vanfossen’s 5-yard touchdown run with 1:21 left to play gave MHS a 17-14 lead. Zanesville drove right down the field, but the Devils’ attempt at a game-tying field goal in the final seconds was blocked by Cory Warrener to seal the Tigers’ first ECOL win.

“Let me tell you,” Schob said after the win, “I feel so much better knowing we finally have a win in the ECOL.”

Buzzer-beater sends Lady Wildcats to 3rd straight state title game

COLUMBUS — With Waterford’s bid to defend its state championship in jeopardy, Hayley Duff “came to the rescue,” as Times reporter Ron Johnston so eloquently put it.

Tied at 35-all with 18 seconds left in a Division IV state semifinal game against Jackson Center, Waterford head coach Jerry Close called timeout. The Wildcats drew up a play, but it was defended well and the ball ended up Duff’s hands. The then-junior guard was up to the task, driving the lane and putting up a layup at the buzzer to send Waterford to its third straight state title game.

“Quite honestly, I had no clue how much time was left on the clock,” Duff said. “But I knew it wasn’t much, and couldn’t play any longer. So, I decided that we shouldn’t go into overtime and put it in.”

Though Waterford lost to Hiland in the state championship game later that week, Duff’s basket was the most exciting play of 2017.

Waterford boys

make history

WATERFORD — No high school sports team ever in the history of the Tri-Valley Conference had gone undefeated in league play through football, basketball and baseball — until 2017.

Waterford High won all eight TVC Hocking Division games it played during football season, went a perfect 16-0 in league action during basketball season and started 15-0 in the TVC during baseball season.

One win away from making history, Waterford played host to Southern late in the regular season. The Tornadoes had intentions of spoiling Waterford’s bid for the record books, taking a 2-0 lead into the seventh inning. However, the Wildcats battled back to tie it at 2-2. With two outs and Isaac Huffman on third, Clay Hayes hit a slow-roller to shortstop and beat the throw to first to plate the game-winning run.

It was the perfect play to highlight a remarkable run by Waterford sports the past couple years.

“We will be forever remembered in Waterford sports,” said Riley Burns, a key contributor in football, basketball and baseball in his time as a Wildcat. “This is the first team that ever went undefeated in the TVC (in all three sports.) It’s a great honor to be forever remembered.”

Jordan Holland is an associate sports editor for The Marietta Times. He can be reached at (304) 485-1891 ext. 256 or at jholland@mariettatimes.com.