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Homer-Center's magical ride picked as top local sports story of the year

by The Indiana Gazette on December 31, 2013 10:45 AM

What else did you expect?

Homer-Center’s thrilling football season captured the attention of sports fans across the county, so it’s no surprise the Wildcats’ dash to the District 6 title was a runaway winner for story of the year.

In voting conducted online and through mail-in ballots, Homer-Center’s historic season was picked as the top local sports story by an astounding 242 people, out of 362 votes (67 percent), making it the consensus winner.

The tragic death of Indiana High School swimming coach Mark Hess, just a few months after his boys’ team captured its third straight WPIAL championship, was second with 25 votes.

All 14 stories on the ballot received votes, but like the football teams that tried to catch up to the Wildcats this fall, none had as much momentum as Homer-Center did.

The Wildcats put together a sparkling 9-0 record in the Heritage Conference and won its first league championship.

They then scored three wins in the District 6 playoffs, including a 22-12 victory over Bishop Guilfoyle in the title game, and clinched a berth in the state playoffs.

Homer-Center’s season came to an end in the state quarterfinals, but that couldn’t erase an achievement a lot of people might not have predicted, considering just two years ago the Wildcats went 0-9.

“We had big dreams since we were little,” said Homer-Center senior Mike Newhouse. “Since we were 8, we were talking about it. We would talk about the D6 championship, the conference championship. I’ve got to admit that states weren’t ever in our wildest dreams. We’re proud that we made it here.”

After winning the District 6 Class A title, Homer-Center coach Greg Page soaked in the atmosphere and summed up what kind of year it was for the Wildcats.

“Just looking around at all of this, this is what Homer-Center’s all about right here,” he said. “They crave a winner. They deserve a winner. Our kids never gave up, and we turned the momentum when we had to and made the plays. I couldn’t be more proud to be part of a community like this.”

Among the other stories that fell far behind the Wildcats’ big year:

• The Apollo-Ridge boys’ basketball team upset Sto-Rox and Jeannette in the WPIAL playoffs (third place, 21 votes);

• Blairsville’s Drew Doak, Noah Tarr and Scott Thompson each captured titles at the District 6 wrestling championships (fourth place, 18 votes);

• And the Blairsville girls’ basketball team went unbeaten and won the Heritage Conference and District 6 titles for the first time in school history and advanced to the state playoffs (fifth place, 17 votes).

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