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2012 provides plenty of ups, downs

12:00 AM, Nov. 18, 2012 EST

Depending on the viewpoint, it was either a great year for high school football or it was bittersweet.

Maysville, Rosecrans, Tri-Valley and Zanesville all made the playoffs -- with three hosting first-round games.

And the Bishops and Scotties reached the regional semifinals for the second consecutive season.

Yet it left many wanting more.

When Tri-Valley and Zanesville finished as the top-ranked teams in the Division II, Region 7 computer ratings, chances appeared favorable that one, maybe both, would reach a final four.

Both carried plenty of momentum into the postseason, with just one loss between them.

But playoff football proved to be a cantankerous animal.

Zanesville lost its first-round home game with a turnover-plagued performance that left it fighting from behind for much of the second half.

Suddenly another nine-win Zanesville team was at home after Round 1, leaving a sour taste in the mouths of many associated with the Blue Devils.

There was an air of invincibility surrounding the Scotties following their first-round win against New Carlisle Tecumseh, when their offense mounted another 500-plus-yard effort.

After getting a quick 7-0 lead against New Albany in Round 2 at Zanesville, it only enhanced it.

But Ohio State-bound Darron Lee and the Eagles' big-play offense, which had five touchdowns of at least 60 yards, was the key component in a 42-35 loss.

Just minutes earlier, Rosecrans saw a fourth-quarter rally fall short in a 28-14 loss to Danville in the Division VI, Region 23 semifinals.

With star senior running back Luke Lloyd standing on the sideline with crutches, Bishops fans couldn't help but wonder what could have been. With Lloyd in the lineup, the Bishops beat the Blue Devils two consecutive games by at least 14 points.

And just like that, it was over -- almost as quickly as it started.

There is something about the finality of the playoffs that lingers. Some former players still are haunted by postseason losses well into adulthood. But it's the journey that makes it all memorable.

This season was just that.

Maysville had a nine-win season that in most years would have earned a home playoff game in Division III, Region 11.

This year, it only was good enough for a two-hour road trip to Steubenville's Harding Stadium -- a place every team should experience.

For seniors like Brandon Bush, Austin Knowlden and Justin Wilson, who never had experienced the playoffs, they'll never forget their trip to Death Valley.

Meanwhile, Zanesville's junior-dominated team gave a glimpse of things to come.

Record-breaking passer Thomas Wibbeler and top targets J.T. McFarland and Dar Stanford are juniors. So are top tacklers Tristan Rock and Jamal Gladden -- and sack master David Johnson.

Could next year be even better?

It also marked the end of the unforgettable careers of Lloyd and Tri-Valley's Nathan Strock and Austin Jones, all of whom will leave as arguably their best players in their programs' history.

We'll never forget Strock and Jones, whose legacies left fans and media alike with plenty of great memories. Their legacies will be forever entrenched.

And despite those losses, that's what matters the most.

sblackburn@zanesvilletimesrecorder.com; 740-450-6723

Twitter: @SamBlackburnTR




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