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December 20, 2012

MIKE KOVAK | Counting down the top stories of 2012

JOHNSTOWN — There were no shortages of headline-grabbing sports stories in 2012.

Steelers receiver Hines Ward retired a couple weeks after catching his 10,000th career pass and Pittsburgh’s head-scratching playoff loss to Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos.

Penn State football received unprecedented sanctions as a result of the Jerry Sandusky scandal and, for at least one fall under the direction of first-year coach Bill O’Brien, persevered.

Led by MVP candidate and Gold Glove winner Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates maintained relevancy through the summer only to stumble in the season’s final weeks for a 20th consecutive season.

The Penguins were considered a front runner to win the franchise’s fourth Stanley Cup before a dreadful performance against the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals put a disappointing cap on a promising season. That disappointment has only grown for Penguins fans,who are waiting for the NHL lockout to end.

Pitt football brought in a new coach, again. And it looks like Paul Chryst, whose name surfaced as a candidate at Wisconsin, may actually be around for a second season. Pitt basketball failed to make the NCAA tournament for the first time in 11 years and was forced to settle for something called the CBI championship.

All drew headlines, including here on the pages of The Tribune-Democrat sports section.

None, however, made the cut for this year’s top 10 stories.

There was plenty going on within the borders of The Tribune-Democrat coverage area. From Richland’s recent run in the PIAA Class AA football playoffs to Pitt-Johnstown accepting membership to the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference to Bishop McCort baseball’s state championship to the Johnstown Tomahawks making a splash in its inaugural season, it’s been a busy year.

Members of the sports staff carefully compiled their top 10 sports stories and, starting Saturday, the countdown begins in reverse order until the top story is revealed on New Year’s Eve.

Here’s a few examples of stories that failed to crack our top 10:

• Ernie Fetzer abruptly resigned as Penn Cambria’s football coach and athletic director eight weeks into the season. The Panthers rallied to qualify for the District 6 Class AA playoffs.

• Johnstown’s Andres Taylor was scheduled to fight Guillermo Jones for the WBA World Cruiserweight championship on Oct. 27 in Venezuela only to have the fight postponed, then called off when Jones withdrew because of injury. Instead, Taylor took off for Germany, where he lost a unanimous decision to undefeated Rakhim Chakhkiev, an Olympic gold medalist from Russia, in early November.

• With a senior-laden lineup, Bedford reached the PIAA Class AA boys soccer semifinals.

• Windber became the first area football team to win 600 games with a 28-20 victory over Berlin to cap the regular season.

As the countdown progresses, we’d love to hear from our readers via our website (www.tribdem.com) or social media outlets. Was a story undervalued, overrated or not even mentioned?

Mike Kovak is the sports editor of The Tribune-Democrat.           

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