Every year when I recap a sports season’s best stories, I often state the following in regards to comparing state championships — which usually ends up being the top story of each year.
“In this business, there is nothing better than writing about a state championship. And since the competition cannot beat a state champion, neither can another story about another state champion. Rather it be an individual title or a team crown, the thrill of being a state champion only comes to a handful of blessed people in high school. And regardless of the sport, they are all equally worthy of top billing.”
I still to this day believe that statement to be true 99.9-percent of the time. And this is that one-tenth of one percent of the time that this statement simply does not apply.
Why? Because football truly is king.
When it comes to high school sports, nothing gets a community more passionate than seeing their local boys take to the gridiron. Few sports in high school generate more revenue, more interest and more enthusiasm than Friday nights under the lights.
You won’t find a harder sport to come away with a state championship in than football. It’s a game that requires a minimum of 11 really good players — and in all reality, at least a handful of quality reserves as well. It’s a game of numbers and inches and strength and speed — and most importantly, execution.
No gridiron team in the Ohio Valley Publishing area has collectively played the game better than Wahama over the last three seasons, and the 2012 campaign allowed the White Falcons to stake their claim as one of the best programs in all of West Virginia.
Wahama, since joining the Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division in the fall of 2010, has simply owned its regular season competition.
The White Falcons have won 31 consecutive regular season contests, compiled a perfect 24-0 mark against TVC Hocking foes while winning three straight outright league titles and have won at least two playoff games en route to making it the Final Four of the Class A playoffs each of the last three postseasons.
That’s quite a bit in itself, and that span also includes becoming the first OVP area school to ever play for a state championship — when WHS lost a 28-14 decision to Wheeling Central Catholic in the 2010 final. Wahama also made it to the state semifinals in 2011 before falling to eventual state runner-up Williamstown by a 24-7 count.
Wahama didn’t blow teams out this year like they did the previous two, as the White Falcons averaged 44.6 points per game offensively while posting a weekly winning margin of 31.4 points. Those same numbers were 44.8 and 38.7 in 2010 and 51.6 and 44.1 last year, respectively.
The difference this year, however, came down to a handful of intangibles. Experience, leadership, determination, luck and most importantly — guts.
The White Falcons improved to 7-0 alltime at Ohio Valley Bank Track and Field in Point Pleasant during playoff games, which landed Wahama in its third straight Final Four appearance. It also secured a date with host Magnolia in the Class A state semifinals, which Wahama eventually held on to win by a hard-fought 10-7 margin.
The White Falcons ran into a buzzsaw in the state championship contest against Madonna, where the two squads battled through two ties and five lead changes in regulation to force an overtime session deadlocked at 35.
The fourth-rated Blue Dons (12-2) received five touchdowns and 276 yards of total offense from quarterback Ross Comis, whose two-yard score in the extra session gave Madonna a 42-35 advantage.
The third-rated White Falcons (14-0) responded with a one-yard scoring run by Zach Wamsley, then made a gutsy all-or-nothing call to go for two on the point-after try. Quarterback Trenton Gibbs made the most of a broken play and bullied his way into the endzone, giving the White Falcons a thrilling 43-42 triumph.
It was the first state championship in Wahama’s illustrious football history, as well as the first time that WHS had ever won 14 games or gone unbeaten in a gridiron season. It was also the first state football championship in Mason County history, as well as the tri-county area.
More impressively, it was the first time that a team based in a southeastern Ohio league had won a state football crown since Wheelersburg accomplished the feat way back in 1989. Nelsonville-York (1981) is the only other program to win a state football title as a member of the Tri-Valley Conference.
It was a fitting end for seniors Brandon Rickard, Benny Youkers, Louis Menendez, Zack Wamsley, Austin Jordan, Justin Tillis, Crandale Neal, Trenton Gibbs and Austin Cole, who finished the final three years of their football careers with an astounding 39-2 record.
There was also a side note to this story of significant importance, as Wahama alum and HOF inductee Gary Clark completed his 40th season on the sidelines covering White Falcon football for the Point Pleasant Register. After four decades and a bout with cancer, I can truly say that I am glad he was able to both witness and cover this top story from the 2012-13 sports year.