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We hope this sparks some debate, and we encourage Blade readers to share their top-10 lists.
1. SOUTHVIEW STATE FOOTBALL CHAMP: Our panel was unanimous on this one, which was accomplished under veteran head coach Jim Mayzes. His Cougars went 15-0 including a thrilling, come-from-behind 29-25 victory over defending state-champion Cincinnati Anderson in the Division II state title game in Massillon. The championship was the first for a public school football team from the immediate Toledo area. Southview proved unstoppable during the regular season, winning its second straight Northern Lakes League crown while outscoring foes 460-95 before the playoffs.
In the playoffs, the Cougars advanced to the finals by beating Lewis Center Olentangy 28-14, Lexington 38-24, Medina Highland 28-21 and Akron Hoban 31-0. Then, in a classic state final that saw eight lead changes, Southview needed some late heroics after Kyle Slater's 20-yard TD run put Anderson up 25-22 with just 2:33 remaining.
Second-team, All-Ohio senior quarterback Alex Pidcock directed the winning drive, which was capped on his 16-yard TD pass to Paul Murphey with just 32 seconds left. The Cougar defense then withstood Anderson's last bid for a winning score, batting down a pass at the goal line as time expired. Along with Pidcock and Mayzes, who was named D-II state co-coach of the year, the Cougars were led on the field by two senior first-team All-Ohioans - receiver Shaun Joplin and linebacker Greg Isley. Senior offensive tackle Jim McMahon was a second-team state selection, and senior center T.J. Gibbs and junior receiver/safety Jimmy Hall were each special-mention All-Ohioans. Two other underclassmen stood out in the state final, as freshman receiver Allen Gant made a pivotal TD catch off a deflection on the last play of the first half, and junior linebacker Dylan Coleman led the defense with six solo tackles and nine assists.
2. BUFORD IS MR. BASKETBALL: Libbey senior William Buford concluded a superb four-year career by being named Ohio's 2008 Mr. Basketball by the Associated Press, the top award for a player in the state. The 6-5 guard-forward, who scored over 2,000 points in his career, became Toledo's second recipient of this honor, and the first since former Macomber, Ohio State and NBA star Jim Jackson collected Ohio's first two Mr. Basketball awards in 1988 and 1989. Buford also played in the nation's top two prep all-star games - the McDonald's All-American game in Milwaukee, and the Jordan Brand Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York - each of which were nationally televised. Buford is currently playing at Ohio State University.
3. OTTAWA HILLS STATE SOCCER CHAMP: The Green Bears may have been unranked heading into the Division III boys state soccer tournament but, by the time that tourney ended, coach Greg McElroy's team stood at No. 1 on the pitch at Crew Stadium in Columbus. The Bears outscored their tourney foes 26-1, and beat three state-ranked teams en route to the title. They knocked off No. 6 Bluffton 3-1 in the district final, blanked top-ranked Gates Mills Hawken 3-0 in the state semifinals, then toppled second-ranked Worthington Christian 1-0 in the title match. Senior Sam Kuehnle scored the winning goal early in the second half, and goalkeeper Kevin Nugent made it hold up. Individually, Bears junior forward Eliot Browarsky was named first-team All-Ohio.
4. KYNARD, FLECK HIT NEW HEIGHTS: Junior Erik Kynard of Rogers and senior Ryan Fleck of Napoleon both captured state high jump championships in Columbus in June, with Kynard clearing 7-feet to win the Division I title, and Fleck jumping a D-II state-record 7-1 1/2 to win that division crown. Earlier, during the indoor season, Kynard cleared 7-3 1/2 at a meet to earn a spot at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon in July. Fleck also won the Ohio D-II state high jump title as a sophomore in 2006 when he cleared 6-8.
5. LIBBEY LOSES STATE-FINAL HEARTBREAKER: Led by Ohio's Mr. Basketball, William Buford, the veteran Libbey Cowboys won their second straight City League boys basketball title and marched all the way to Columbus for a spot in the Division II state final against Chillicothe. After squandering a 16-point third-quarter lead, the Cowboys rallied to score with four seconds left to force overtime on a shot from Lance Jones. Veteran coach Leroy Bates' team then held a one-point lead after two clutch free throws from Julius Wells with five seconds left in OT. But Chillicothe guard Anthony Hitchens drove the length of the court and fed Ray Chambers for a game-winning layup, which hung on the rim briefly as the final horn sounded for a 70-69 victory.
6. PATRICK HENRY STATE BASEBALL CHAMP: Patrick Henry left no doubt about who Ohio's top Division IV baseball team was. The top-ranked Patriots closed a terrific 28-3 season by hammering defending state champion Fort Loramie 9-2 in the semifinals and Berlin Hiland by a five-inning, 10-0 mercy-rule count in the finals at Cooper Stadium in Columbus. Zach Botjer got the pitching win in the semis, and Kyle Reese was victorious in the final for veteran coach Greg Inselmann, who retired after the season with more than 500 career prep wins. Inselmann previously guided Defiance to a D-I state baseball title. The Pats outscored their seven tourney foes 75-15.
7. GRAHAM SLAM: Bowsher senior track and field star Meshawn Graham closed her prep career in style at the state meet in Columbus, collecting her fourth different state event title in four years by capturing the 400-meter crown in a time of 53.30. She was also second in the long jump at 18-7 1/2, seventh in the 100 and ran a leg on the Rebels' second-place 1600 relay team to help Bowsher to a third-place team finish. Graham had previously won the state 200 title as a freshman in 2005, ran a leg on Bowsher's first-place 800 relay team in 2006, and captured the 100-meter title in 2007. She is on scholarship at the University of Michigan.
8. EPPERSON DOUBLES: St. John's Jesuit senior swimmer Jake Epperson won a pair of individiual event titles at the state meet in Canton, taking first in the 200-meter individual medley in 1:48.84 and also capturing the 100-meter breaststroke crown in 56.39 seconds.
9. OAK HARBOR TRIPLE: No one could get close to state and national wrestling power St. Paris Graham in the Division II state tournament in Columbus, but the efforts of a trio of Oak Harbor seniors earned the Rockets a runner-up team finish in D-II. Leading Oak Harbor were senior Cody Magrum, who collected his third state individual title by winning at 189 pounds. He previously won state titles at 171 in both 2006 and 2007. The Rockets' other two state champs were Kirk Tank at 152 and Keith Witt at 171.
10. OTTAWA-GLANDORF TOPS IN D-III: They may have only tied for third place in the predominantly Division II Western Buckeye League, but coach Josh Leslie's Ottawa-Glandorf Titans proved to be Ohio's best basketball team in Division III. The Titans, who would finish the season at 23-5, cruised through sectional, district and regional play to reach Columbus, where they closed their title run by beating Anna 65-57 in the state semifinals and Sugarcreek Garaway 62-44 in the finals. Justin Schomaeker paced the Titans in the semis with 26 points, and Jake Meyer topped them in the championship romp with 21. It was the second state title for O-G, which also won the D-II crown in 2004.
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With just a few days remaining in 2008, The Blade's prep sports staff reviewed the leading stories of the past 12 months and came up with what we judged to be the top 10 based on achievement of the teams and individuals involved as well as the importance to the majority of our readership.