Top stories of 2019 | News, Sports, Jobs - Youngstown Vindicator

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Top stories of 2019 | News, Sports, Jobs - Youngstown Vindicator

Top stories of 2019 | News, Sports, Jobs - Youngstown Vindicator

Vindicator file photo The Springfield Tigers finished as the Division VI football state runnerup in the 2019 season, closing out the season with a 14-1 record.

A trip to the state championship game is always a big story, no matter what the high school sport. When it happens in football in the Mahoning Valley, it’s even a bigger deal, no matter how large the school.

Springfield High School’s run to the Division VI football state title game — combined with a run to the Division IV semifinals by its larger neighbor Poland — had the attention of Mahoning County football fans throughout November and into December.

That Final Four run by the two schools was selected as the top local sports story of 2019 by the sports staff of The Vindicator.

1. Final four football

After an impressive undefeated regular season which earned them the top seed in the Division VI, Region 21 final rankings, Springfield’s Tigers beat league foe Western Reserve, Glouster Trimble and Mogadore to win the regional title, then pasted Howard East Knox in the state semifinal round before losing to Anna in the state championship.

Poland started the season 1-2 before reeling off seven wins in a row to gain the second seed in the Division IV, Region 13 ratings. The Bulldogs also started off the playoffs with a win over a league opponent, Struthers, then beat Wintersville Indian Creek and top-seeded Perry. Poland’s postseason run ended in the state semifinals in a one-point loss to Newark Licking Valley.

2. He will be missed

Longtime area football coach Phil Annarella passed away in June as he was preparing for another season as Austintown Fitch head coach where he had a record of 83-46 in 12 seasons.

Annarella also coached at Warren Western Reserve and Warren Harding, where his team won a state title in 1990, the first year of the merger of the two Warren schools.

Including stints at Niles and at Hickory High School in Pennsylvania, Annarella had a career record of 246-146-3 in 47 years of coaching.

3. Three’s a charm

Canfield’s wrestling program continued to build a reputation around the state as a trio of Cardinals — Anthony D’Alesio, Nick Crawford and Tyler Stein — captured individual state championships.

It was the third straight season in which Canfield won at least one individual state title.

4. Super in soccer

South Range advanced to the Division III state tournament, losing in the semifinal round to Bluffton. It was the Raiders’ third trip to the state final four in the last six years, including a state runner-up finish in 2015.

5. More conference movement

The All-American Conference was hit again by defections as the schools in the Blue Tier — Champion, Crestview, Liberty, Campbell, LaBrae, Newton Falls and Brookfield — announced they would be leaving in the 2020-21 school year for the Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference where, for at least two years, they would comprise their own division.

In separate announcements, Valley Christian and Garrettsville Garfield both left the Portage Trail Conference County Division. The Eagles are headed to the Columbiana County-based Eastern Ohio Athletic Conference, while the G-Men will be joining the former AAC-Blue schools in the MVAC.

The AAC, once multi-tiered and 20 schools strong, will be left with just a Red Division of Austintown Fitch, Boardman, Warren G. Harding, Howland and Canfield. With the new Steel Valley Conference consisting of just four schools — Chaney, East, Ursuline and Cardinal Mooney — perhaps more conference adjustment will be coming in 2020.

6. SEAMLESS TRANSITION

Urban Meyer retired from coaching Ohio State after the Rose Bowl last January and Ryan Day, who was interim coach for three games in 2018, was named to replace him for good.

With a rookie quarterback, Day made things look easy as the Buckeyes went undefeated, won the Big Ten title and rolled into the CFP playoffs.

7. GREAT EXPECTATIONS

The Cleveland Browns, coming off a 7-8-1 season, acquired receiver Odell Beckham in the offseason, and also made offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens the head coach, his first time ever in that position at any level.

With quarterback Baker Mayfield entering his second season, expectations were high, but the season turned into a huge disappointment.

8. PITTSBURGH SHOWS ITS STEEL

The Steelers started the 2019 season 0-3, then lost quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to injury. But coach Mike Tomlin, using two different backup quarterbacks, and the franchise’s usual strong defense, willed the Steelers into the playoffs chase.

9. PENGUIN POWER

In the senior season for Melinda Trimmer from West Branch and Sarah Cash from Lordstown, Youngstown State’s women’s basketball team put together a 22-10 season, reaching the Horizon League semifinal round and qualifying for the WNIT.

10. PIRATES CLEAN HOUSE

After a dismal season that really fell apart after the All-Star break, the Pittsburgh Pirates fired manager Clint Hurdle and general manager Neal Huntington, bringing in Derek Shelton as manager and Ben Cherington as GM.

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2019-12-29 07:46:55Z
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