As we begin 2018, we take a look back at the highlights of central Ohio high school sports for 2017.

There was plenty to celebrate over the course of the year, as area teams won state championships in boys bowling, boys and girls golf, field hockey, football, girls lacrosse, boys soccer, softball, girls swimming and diving, boys tennis and boys water polo. In addition, area athletes won individual state titles in bowling, cross country, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field and wrestling.

Among the other top stories were athletes being selected in the NFL, MLB and WNBA drafts, a football coach returning to the sideline after a bout with cancer and a softball coach announcing his retirement after 36 seasons.

Our top story won our Twitter poll, earning 51 percent of the votes to beat out Nos. 2-4 on our list.

Here's how the year stacked up through the eyes of the ThisWeek sports staff:


The Pickerington Central football team captured its first state title, defeating Mentor 56-28 in the Division I championship game Dec. 1 at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton.

The game was tied at 21 at halftime and the Tigers led 35-28 after the third quarter before pulling away in the fourth.

Central, which won its final 12 games to finish 14-1, earned just the fourth big-school state title by a Central District program. The other area big-school champions were Upper Arlington in 2000 and Hilliard Davidson in 2006 and 2009.

"It almost feels weird," coach Jay Sharrett said. "This is the first time for myself and these young men that we've ended the season on a win. We lost a heartbreaker last year to (Cincinnati St. Xavier) in a great state semifinal game (29-27) and didn't have a chance to get to the state championship game. ... That kind of stiffened our resolve, that we were going to get back here and were going to do it."

Sophomore quarterback Demeatric Crenshaw led the Tigers, rushing 24 times for 161 yards and scoring six touchdowns to set the Division I state-final record and tie the state-final record for all divisions. He also completed four of seven passes for 106 yards.

"There's definitely something special about that kid," senior offensive lineman Brody Egan said of Crenshaw.

Xavier Henderson added 153 yards rushing and a touchdown on 14 carries for Central, which beat crosstown rival Pickerington North 31-14 in the Region 3 final and Cincinnati Colerain 41-28 in a state semifinal.


A year after becoming the first player in Ohio history to rush for more than 4,000 yards in a season, Harvest Prep running back Daniel Bangura turned in another spectacular season.

The 5-foot-9, 175-pound senior broke Ohio's record for career rushing yards, finishing with 9,650 to eclipse the previous mark of 9,426 set by Akron Hoban's Tyrell Sutton from 2001-04.

Bangura also ranks first in Ohio history in career touchdowns (133) and rushing touchdowns (124) and is 12th on the national career rushing list.

In 2017, he rushed for 3,401 yards and 45 touchdowns on 278 carries, had 14 receptions for 264 yards and five scores and even completed 14 of 23 passes for 59 yards and two touchdowns. He also had 11 two-point conversion runs.

"Setting the all-time career rushing record was a huge accomplishment for me and my teammates," said Bangura, who rushed for an Ohio-record 4,128 yards and also set state records for total touchdowns (57), rushing touchdowns (54) and points (348) in 2016.

Bangura was named Division VII state co-Offensive Player of the Year, sharing the honor with Hannibal River quarterback Lukas Isaly. Harvest Prep lost to River 39-34 in the first round of the Region 27 playoffs Nov. 3 to finish 9-2.

Bangura was one of four area players to garner state Player of the Year honors. The others were Pickerington North senior quarterback Jimmy Weirick (Division I Offensive Player of the Year), Pickerington Central senior cornerback Xavier Henderson (Division I co-Defensive Player of the Year with Cleveland Heights defensive lineman Tyreke Smith) and Grandview senior defensive end James Lachey (Division VI Defensive Player of the Year).


Kaleb Wesson of Westerville South and Luke Kiley of Dublin Coffman were named Ohio Mr. Basketball and Ohio Mr. Soccer, respectively.

Wesson, a 6-9 center who averaged 21.7 points and 11.3 rebounds during the 2016-17 season, also was named state and district Player of the Year in Division I as well as OCC-Buckeye Division Player of the Year.

Wesson, who is playing for Ohio State, led South to a 19-6 record and the OCC-Buckeye title. The Wildcats' season ended with a 41-39 loss to Davidson in a district semifinal March 11.

Wesson, who helped lead South to its first state championship in 2016, ranks third on the Wildcats' all-time scoring list with 1,234 points, trailing only 2011 graduate Traevon Jackson (1,388) and 1990 graduate Jermaine Guice (1,281). He also is the program's career leader in rebounds with 790.

Kiley, a senior forward, scored 24 goals as Coffman reached a state semifinal for the first time and finished 19-2-2. The Georgetown commit, who had 11 assists during the regular season, also was named Division I district and OCC-Central Player of the Year.


Less than 10 months after having surgery to repair a torn ACL in her right knee, Coffman's Abby Steiner turned in a stellar performance in the Division I state track and field meet June 2 and 3 at Ohio State.

The junior won her third consecutive championship in the 200 meters in a state-record 23.56 seconds, won her second consecutive 100 title in 11.61 and anchored the 800 relay to a come-from-behind victory in 1:38.34.

In addition, during the preliminaries, Steiner tied the state record in the 100 (11.59) that was set by Brookhaven's Khalilah Carpenter in 2000.

"I accomplished all my goals," Steiner said. "(It means) so much especially after this year dealing with the injury and just a lot of setbacks. (The state record in the 200 was) definitely the most meaningful record I could probably ever want. My main focus was actually the 100."

Other area state champions in Division I were Davidson's India Johnson in the 3,200 (10:23.84), Granville's Natalie Price in the 400 (52.96), Thomas Worthington's Gia Napoleon in the 800 (2:07.47) and Gahanna's 1,600 relay (3:46.74).

Johnson also won the 3,200 title in 2016.

Gahanna scored 51 points to place second behind Cincinnati Withrow (58). Coffman (39) and Pickerington Central (31) finished third and fourth, respectively.

In Division II, Beechcroft's Makiya Montgomery capped her freshman season by winning the 100 (11.98) and finishing second in the 200 and fourth in the 400.

In boys track, the top five teams in the Division I state meet all reside in central Ohio.

Thomas won its first state title since 1999, scoring 36 points to edge runner-up Gahanna (31) and third-place Canal Winchester (29). Olentangy Orange (25) and Reynoldsburg (24) finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

Thomas won the 3,200 relay (7:39.86) and the Cardinals' Arjun Jha placed second in the 1,600.

Gahanna was led by its 1,600 relay, which won in 3:14.9, and LaCarr Trent, who placed second in the 100 and ran on the Lions' second-place 400 relay.

Lonzell Feagin led Canal Winchester, winning the 100 (10.68) and 400 (47.31), finishing second in the 200 and adding another point in the long jump.

Other area state champions in Division I were New Albany's Max Frye in both the 110 hurdles (13.94) and 300 hurdles (37.37), Hilliard Darby freshman Malachi McGill in the 800 (1:53.28), Reynoldsburg's Travis Marx in the 200 (21.18) and Orange's Hunter Moore in the 3,200 (8:58.47).


The DeSales boys soccer team rolled to its third state title in four years and seventh overall, beating Bay Village Bay 4-0 in the Division II final Nov. 11 at Mapfre Stadium.

The Stallions rarely were threatened in finishing 22-0-1, outscoring their opponents 102-8, including 38-0 in seven postseason games. The lone blemish on their season was a 1-all tie against Marysville on Sept. 7.

"I just told the kids this is the best team I've ever had here," coach Domenic Romanelli said after the state final. "As a coach, you always talk about what previous teams did, and I told them that this '17 team will be mentioned a lot in the years to come."

Romanelli also coached the Stallions to state titles in 2009, 2014 and 2015 and was an assistant coach on the 1992 title team.

Nick Fuchs had two goals against Bay and Mike Cockerell and Cristian Gomez each scored one. Hector Gomez, a senior midfielder who was named Division II state Player of the Year, had three assists, and goalkeeper Chase Agin needed to make only one save to post the team's 17th shutout of the season.


Central Ohio teams won all three state championships in boys golf.

Dublin Jerome won the Division I title, shooting at 607 on Oct. 20 and 21 at Ohio State's Scarlet Course to finish nine strokes ahead of runner-up Olentangy Liberty. Blake Solomon tied for second with a 147 to lead the Celtics and Jackson Chandler was sixth with a 150.

Columbus Academy won the Division II championship, shooting a 596 on Oct. 13 and 14 at NorthStar to finish 10 strokes ahead of runner-up Chardon Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin. Ali Khan led the Vikings, tying for fourth with a 145, followed by Cole Walter, who placed sixth (146).

Worthington Christian cruised to the Division III title, shooting a 623 on Oct. 13 and 14 at Ohio State's Scarlet Course to finish 17 strokes ahead of runner-up Gates Mills Gilmour Academy. The Warriors were led by Tyler Jones, who tied for fifth with a 152.

Also in Division I, Liberty's Trey Rath tied for second with a 147 and Central Crossing's Caleb Davern placed fourth (148). In Division II, Hartley's Trent Tipton finished third with a 144.

In girls golf, Orange won its second consecutive state title, shooting a 602 on Oct. 20 and 21 at Ohio State's Gray Course to finish 10 strokes ahead of runner-up Centerville. Ashley Au led the Pioneers, carding a 145 to tie for sixth.

Also in Division I, New Albany's Madison Spiess shot a 142 to place third.


Senior catcher Cael Baker of the Gahanna baseball team was named Division I Player of the Year for the second consecutive season.

Baker, who is now playing for the University of Cincinnati, had a .517 batting average, four home runs and 23 RBI as Gahanna went 17-8 and reached a regional final.

Baker finished his prep career with a program-record 18 home runs, 124 RBI, 89 walks and a .420 average.


The Thomas Worthington field hockey team won its third consecutive state title and sixth overall, defeating Columbus Academy 1-0 on Nov. 4 at Upper Arlington.

Bella Avila scored with 15:32 left in the first half and goalkeeper Isabelle Perese made two saves for the Cardinals, who finished 21-0.

"This one is the most special of the three because we finished unbeaten, we had a target on our backs and because the opponent is Academy, which is the top program in the state and coached by the top coach (Anne Horton) in the state," coach Terri Simonetti Frost said.

Sarah Charley was the Cardinals' offensive leader, finishing with 28 goals and 24 assists.


The Upper Arlington girls swimming and diving team won its third consecutive Division I state championship, scoring 246 points in the state meet that concluded Feb. 25 at Branin Natatorium in Canton to edge runner-up Mason (230).

Dakota Elliott led the Golden Bears, winning the 200-yard individual medley (2:00.57) and teaming with Anna Linzell, Hannah Caldwell and Kendra Sheehan to set state and state-meet records by winning the 200 medley relay in 1:41.88.

The Bears also won the 200 freestyle (1:34.51) and 400 free (3:24.93) relays, and Katie Trace was runner-up in the both the 200 free and 500 free.

Also in Division I, Gahanna's Maycey Vieta won the diving title, scoring 455.45 points to edge runner-up Nikki Watters of New Albany (447.4), and Coffman freshman Hannah Bailey pulled an upset by winning the 100 breaststroke (1:01.76).

Bailey defeated runner-up and defending champion Hannah Gresser of Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit by .1 of a second. Gresser had set state and state-meet records in 2016 with a time of 1:01.52.

"I've been wanting to get first and working toward it all season, but the fact that it actually happened is just great," Bailey said. "I can't even believe it. I didn't imagine beating (Gresser) at all."

In Division II, Columbus School for Girls senior Miranda Donley won both the 50 free (22.49) and 100 free (49.41) and was on the winning 200 free relay (1:34.45) that set state and state-meet records.

Donley, who won her third consecutive title in the 50 free, was named Female Performer of the Meet.

"I've never done something like that before," she said of winning both the 50 free and 100 free. "It's the coolest feeling. I'm on top of the world right now."

Led by Donley, CSG finished second (167) behind Gates Mills Hawken (305).

In the Division I boys meet, Pickerington North junior Jason Mathews captured the area's only championship, finishing first in the 100 breast (54.91), and UA's Parker Neri was runner-up in both the 200 free and 500 free.


Mike Golden returned to coach the Delaware football team after undergoing cancer treatment.

After watching his team start 3-1 in 2016, Golden learned he had a cancerous mass on his lungs that had spread to his throat. He took a leave of absence to undergo four rounds of chemotherapy and 40 consecutive days of radiation treatments.

Golden, 62, was medically cleared to continue coaching in June.

"The doctors said I had a 25 percent chance to survive it," he said. "At first, that really weighed me down. After the shock of it all, I told myself I would beat it. I'm an eternal optimist."

The Pacers went 3-7 this season after finishing 4-6 in 2016.

In April, Golden, who also had coaching stints at Watterson, New Albany and Upper Arlington, was one of five inductees in the inaugural class of the Central District Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.


Five central Ohio football players were selected in the NFL draft held April 27-29 in Philadelphia.

Taco Charlton, a defensive end and Pickerington Central graduate who played for Michigan, was the highest selection, grabbed by the Dallas Cowboys in the first round with the 28th pick.

The other area players to be selected were Big Walnut graduate and Ashland tight end Adam Shaheen (second round by the Chicago Bears, 45th overall), Groveport graduate and Illinois defensive end Dawuane Smoot (third round by the Jacksonville Jaguars, 68th overall), Pickerington North graduate and Ohio State center Pat Elflein (third round by the Minnesota Vikings, 70th overall) and Pickerington North graduate and Michigan tight end Jake Butt (fifth round by the Denver Broncos, 145th overall).


Three central Ohio baseball players were selected in the MLB draft held June 12-14.

Evan White, a first baseman and Gahanna graduate who played for Kentucky, was picked in the first round by the Seattle Mariners with the 17th selection. Greg Jacknewitz, a left-handed pitcher and Watterson graduate who played for Xavier, was selected in the 22nd round by the San Francisco Giants with the 666th overall pick, and Tyler Brown, a right-handed pitcher and 2017 Orange graduate, was selected in the 26th round by the Cincinnati Reds with the 767th overall pick.

Brown opted to play for Vanderbilt instead of signing to play in the Reds' organization.


Former Northland girls basketball standout Alexis Peterson was selected in the second round of the WNBA draft April 13.

Picked 15th overall by the Seattle Storm, Peterson became the seventh player from central Ohio to be selected during the 21-year history of the WNBA draft, and she was the second highest overall.

A 5-7 point guard, Peterson left Syracuse as the program's all-time leader in assists (590) and ranks second in career points (1,978), career field goals (677) and career free throws (440).

She was named Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year and second-team All-America during the 2016-17 season after averaging 23.4 points and seven assists. The Orange went 22-11 and reached the second round of the NCAA tournament.

The only player from central Ohio to be picked higher in the WNBA draft is Independence graduate Jessica Davenport, who was the second overall selection in 2007 by the San Antonio Silver Stars.

Peterson was the first area player to be selected since 2014 when Whetstone graduate Asia Taylor, who played for Louisville, was picked in the third round by the Minnesota Lynx.


Jack Roslovic, the first Columbus-born player to be selected in the first round of the NHL draft, fittingly made his NHL debut for the Winnipeg Jets on April 6 against the Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena.

Roslovic, a 20-year-old center who was taken by Winnipeg with the 25th pick of the 2015 draft, played 8:24 in the Jets' 5-4 win over the Jackets, recording one shot and finishing as a minus-1. As of Dec. 22, he had yet to appear in another NHL game.


In the first year as an OHSAA-sanctioned sport, the Upper Arlington girls lacrosse team cruised to its third consecutive Division I state title.

The Bears overwhelmed previously unbeaten Massillon Jackson in the state final June 3 at Ohio Wesleyan, winning 15-6.

Anna Schildmeyer, Olivia Schildmeyer and Brenna Smith each scored three goals for UA, which outscored its five postseason opponents 97-21 en route to its eighth state title overall.

Megan Kozar and Brooke Smith both added two goals for the Bears, who finished 19-2 and have won 56 consecutive games against in-state opponents.


A pair of central Ohio wrestlers, Coffman's Dom Demas and Liberty's Brakan Mead, finished atop the podium at the Division I state tournament held March 9-11 at Ohio State.

Mead edged Lakewood St. Edward's Bryce Hepner 2-0 to win the title at 113 pounds and finish the season 53-4.

Mead's performance helped the Patriots score 122 points to set a Central District record in Division I and finish third behind Lakewood St. Edward (151) and Elyria (128.5).

"It feels awesome," said Mead, who placed second at state at 106 in 2015 and third at 106 in 2016. "Every year I learned a little more. I felt comfortable on this stage."

Demas pinned Liberty's Trey Grenier in 2:30 to win the title at 145 and finish the season 51-3. He also won a title at 138 in 2015 and was runner-up at 145 in 2016.

"It feels amazing to be back on top with a state title," Demas said.


About 800 meters into the Division I girls state cross country meet Nov. 4 at National Trail Raceway, Liberty junior Gracie Sprankle's right heel was clipped by another runner, forcing her shoe to come off.

Not wanting to lose valuable time, Sprankle opted not to stop and put her shoe back on. She kept running and went on to place fourth in 17:35.5.

"Someone flat-tired me," she said. "The rocks hurt, but I thought of it as kind of a distraction from the rest of the pain. I just thought, 'Keep running.' When I lost (my shoe), it was a little bit of adversity and I thought it would be awesome if I could overcome it. I'm pretty satisfied."

Sprankle's valiant effort propelled Liberty to a third-place finish (172) behind Centerville (122) and Cincinnati Ursuline Academy (137).

Four of the top eight finishers in the boys Division I race were from central Ohio. Pickerington Central's Matt Scrape placed third (15:20.9), followed by Thomas' Arjun Jha (fifth, 15:32.7), Coffman's Lucas Bons (sixth, 15:34) and Thomas' Andy Payne (eighth, 15:36.2).


Beginning with the fall sports, competitive balance went into effect three years after it was approved by member schools of the OHSAA in a referendum vote.

Competitive balance adds a modifier to the enrollment numbers that annually have determined divisional classifications. Of the 10 OHSAA-sanctioned fall sports, football, boys soccer, girls soccer and girls volleyball were affected.

Other sports subject to competitive balance are boys and girls basketball, baseball and softball.

The changes have the biggest affect in central Ohio at non-public schools such as Hartley from the CCL.

Hartley's football team moved up to Division III after winning back-to-back Division IV state championships in 2015 and '16. Its girls volleyball team, which was the Division II state runner-up in 2016, competed in Division I.

The Hawks' football team lost to Dresden Tri-Valley 13-9 in the Region 11 final, while their volleyball team lost to Pickerington North 16-25, 25-14, 20-25, 25-22, 15-13 in a district semifinal.


NHL player David Clarkson served as a volunteer assistant with the Upper Arlington hockey team during the 2016-17 season and was named the Bears' head coach on March 29.

Clarkson, a 33-year-old right winger who scored 30 goals with the New Jersey Devils during the 2011-12 season, is in his 12th NHL season but hasn't played since March 11, 2016, because of a chronic back injury.

He was traded to Columbus from his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs during the 2014-15 season but played only 26 games with the Blue Jackets. After missing the entire 2016-17 season, he was traded to the expansion Vegas Golden Knights in June and currently is on injured reserve with the team.

"I've said before that coaching the kids is therapy for me," Clarkson said. "They've taken my mind off of what I've been going through."


Columbus Academy field hockey coach Anne Horton earned her 500th career win with a 9-0 victory over Lancaster on Oct. 11.

Horton was recognized after the game, including receiving a letter of acknowledgement from Gov. John Kasich.

"You can't do it alone," Horton said. "You have to have great support. ... I can't say enough about (assistant coach) Danielle Sparks. JoAnne Adams is the face of our lower-level program and she gets them ready for us. It's collaborative teamwork."

Horton is 432-34-27 in 26 seasons with the Vikings. She previously coached at Asheville (North Carolina) School and North Ridgeville Lake Ridge Academy and has a career record of 506-60-37.

Others who reached milestones included Watterson baseball coach Scott Manahan, who earned his 600th win on May 13; Ready girls basketball coach Joe Lang, who picked up his 500th win on Feb. 21; Upper Arlington boys basketball coach Tim Casey, who posted his 400th win on Dec. 5; Reynoldsburg girls basketball coach Jack Purtell, who earned his 400th victory on Jan. 27; Africentric girls basketball coach Will McKinney, who posted his 300th win on Dec. 5; and Hilliard Bradley boys basketball coach Brett Norris, who got his 300th victory on Jan. 7.


Longtime Westerville South softball coach Jerry Kelbley announced his retirement May 31 at age 73.

Kelbley finished with a career record of 636-281 in 36 seasons. He guided South to 12 OCC titles, 11 district championships, five regional titles and a Division I state runner-up finish in 1994. The Wildcats, who finished 4-20 in 2017, also reached the state tournament in 1986, 1987, 1988 and 1991.

Kelbley, who was named OCC Coach of the Year 13 times, was inducted into the Ohio High School Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1995 and the OCC Hall of Fame in 2014.


Jack Dolan, a forward for the Upper Arlington hockey team, was named state co-Player of the Year for the 2016-17 season, sharing the honor with Cleveland St. Ignatius defenseman Matt Wiegandt.

Dolan, a 2017 graduate, had 49 goals and 29 assists for the Bears, who finished 21-8-3-1. He finished his prep career with 117 goals.

Also in hockey, Liberty won the district title to advance to state, where it lost to Toledo St. Francis 8-2 in a semifinal March 11 to finish 32-7.

The loss dropped central Ohio teams to 0-11 all-time in state semifinals. The Patriots are 0-3, having also lost in a state semifinal in 2011 and 2013.


For the second time in three years, the Briggs girls bowling team produced the Division I individual state champion.

Dakota Fink won the state championship by rolling a 677 three-game series in the state tournament March 10 at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl. The sophomore held off runner-up Madison Stiffler (659) of Whitehall.

Stiffler had won the state title in 2016 with a 719.

"I had pretty high goals, but I didn't think I'd make it this far," Fink said. "My ball decided to do what I wanted today and I had my team behind me."

Briggs' Tori Pappas won the state title in 2015.

In boys bowling, Westerville Central won the Division I state title March 11 at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.

The Warhawks captured their first state championship by rallying to win the last two games in a quarterfinal against Vandalia Butler and overcoming a poor start in the third game of the final against Wapakoneta.

Third-seeded Central defeated sixth-seeded Butler three games to two and beat second-seeded Centerville three games to one in a semifinal before sweeping fourth-seeded Wapakoneta three games to none in the final.

"I am so proud of the guys and the way they kept battling and never gave up, from being down 2-1 in the quarterfinal and rallying (to beat Butler) to beginning the third game (of the final) with open frames," coach Julie Wells said. "They just never give up."


The Thomas Worthington boys water polo team won its first state title since 2004 and third overall.

The Cardinals defeated St. Charles 15-13 in overtime in the state championship game Oct. 28 at Mason, rallying twice from a five-goal deficit.

Thomas took its first lead of the game at 11-10 with just over two minutes left in the fourth period. St. Charles tied it with 42 seconds remaining to force overtime, which consists of two three-minute periods and is not sudden death.

St. Charles led 12-11 after the first extra period, but Taylor Weinsz broke a 13-all tie in the second and Thomas added an insurance goal with 5 seconds left.

"It was the most incredible sporting event I've witnessed in my lifetime," said coach Rick Yurich, whose team finished 32-9, with just four losses coming against teams from Ohio. "It's a testament to the boys and their will and perseverance. They just kept battling back."


The Bexley boys tennis team won its first state championship in the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association team tournament since 1975.

The Lions defeated Ottawa Hills 3-1 in a Division II state semifinal May 28 at Reynoldsburg before beating Gates Mills Hawken 3-2 in the championship match later that day.

Also in tennis, Josh Cole and Jack Zelezny of Upper Arlington won the Division I boys state title in doubles in the spring and Maddie Atway and Danielle Schoenly of Liberty won the Division I girls state title in doubles in the fall.