Sports Highlights of 2009: Return of the King

Mooney Vs. DeSales

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Ursuline Vs. Coldwater

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Youngstown Phantoms 1st Game

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The new United States Hockey League team the Youngstown Phantoms take on defending champions, Indiana Ice, at the Covelli Center, Saturday, October, 3, 2009. The Phantoms lost, 6-2.

Eric Wolford

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YSU's new head football coach Eric Wolford addresses the press and public Tuesday afternoon.

Vindicator staff report

Kelly Pavlik’s “comeback” year was more of a comedown.

Things started out well enough, as the middleweight champion rebounded from a 2008 defeat to Bernard Hopkins with a triumphant night at the then-Chevrolet Centre.

Pavlik defeated Marco Antonio Rubio by 10th-round TKO in front of a record-7,228 fans on Feb. 22 in the city’s first title fight.

Little did he know that a small cut he suffered on his left hand just weeks earlier would turn into a huge problem.

Two weeks after beating Rubio, while playing a game of pickup basketball, he felt a pinch in the index finger of his left hand. He looked down, noticed there was pus coming from the cut and realized he had a problem.

It was the first sign of the staph infection that was would sideline him for nearly 10 months. In between two hand surgeries and a near-deadly reaction to antibiotics, Pavlik also had to cancel two fights (first against Sergio Mora, then Paul Williams) and deal with Internet allegations about his personal life.

Finally, in December, his life returned to normal.

Pavlik accepted a fight with Miguel Espino on short notice, crammed eight weeks of training into five and, on Dec. 19, battered Espino en route to a fifth-round TKO at YSU’s Beeghly Center.

It was his second successful title defense in 2009 and could serve as a springboard to a much better 2010. Now healthy, Pavlik is eyeing fights with Williams and WBA middleweight champion Felix Sturm.

“I’m definitely back,” Pavlik said. “We’re not going to have another layoff like that.

“We got the job done, and now it’s a kick-start to 2010. We’re going to take care of all the big names again and make that statement again and get back on top.”


On Dec. 4, Mooney and Ursuline gave the Valley two state football champions in the same year for the first time.

Mooney’s title was its third since 2004 as the Cardinals overwhelmed Columbus DeSales 35-7 in the Division III final. Hours later, Ursuline polished off its second straight Division V crown with a 55-25 win over Coldwater, becoming the first Valley team to win back-to-back titles.


After leading Youngstown State to just one playoff appearance in nine years, head coach Jon Heacock stepped aside.

Heacock, who took over for Jim Tressel beginning with the 2001 season, went 60-44 but suffered in comparison to his predecessor, who won four national titles in the 1990s.

The Penguins hired Ursuline High graduate Eric Wolford, who left his job as offensive coordinator at South Carolina under Steve Spurrier.


Arena football failed in Youngstown.

After their second straight losing season, the Mahoning Valley Thunder of the af2 announced they would cease operations and become the second sports team to leave the Covelli Centre.

The Thunder went 12-36 in three years — including marks of 3-13 in 2008 and 2-14 in 2009 — and joined the Youngstown SteelHounds hockey team in vacating the arena.


The Youngstown Phantoms hockey team took a step up.

After advancing to the North American Hockey League’s Robertson Cup for the fourth straight year, the Phantoms moved up to the United States Hockey League, the country’s top amateur league. They play home games at the Covelli Centre.


Warren Harding made it to the state Final Four in Division I basketball.

Despite losing senior leader Sheldon Brogdon to injury at midseason, the Raiders won their first regional title since 1966. Harding lost to Columbus Northland in the state semifinals.


Behind second-year manager Travis Fryman, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers advanced to New York-Penn League championship series.

The Scrappers, who lost to Staten Island in three games, won the Pinckney Division and finished with the league’s best regular season record.


Amy Scullion (Salem) and Darryce Moore (Boardman) became the first Ohio State women’s basketball recruits from the Valley.

Scullion — who is also a standout volleyball player — led the Quakers to the Division II district final, while Moore — whose brother J.T. is an Ohio State football recruit — led the Spartans to the Div. I district final in their junior seasons.


Valley athletes excelled at state track meet.

Led by Lakeview senior Ben Moody,at left, who won state titles in the 100-meter dash and the 100 hurdles, Valley athletes won 12 state crowns and finished second nine other times.


Springfield baseball advanced to the state final in baseball.

In a year when seven seniors earned Division I scholarships, only one was still playing on the season’s final weekend. Tiger pitcher Todd Kibby led Springfield to a 29-5 record and its first state championship berth before falling to Hamler Patrick Henry in the final.

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