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It was a great year for local sports in 2012, many memorable moments and achievements. As we move into 2013 here's a look at the top stories from 2012, as voted on by The Northern Virginia Daily sports staff.
1. Millbrook girls basketball: Millbrook's girls basketball team made sure they were in the record books this season. The Pioneers won their third straight Group AA state title. They finished the 2011-12 season with a Virginia High School League girls basketball record 80 consecutive wins.
The Pioneers beat Courtland, 63-38, in the Division 4 final on March 10 at VCU. Courtni Green and Alisha Mobley led the way with 21 points and 13 rebounds each in the final. The win capped off another 30-0 season, in which the Pioneers dominated most of the teams they faced.
Millbrook extended the winning streak to 84 games, just one shy of the boys record of 85 set by Robert E. Lee, before losing to Group AAA Battlefield, 44-42, on Dec. 8. The Pioneers are 9-1 this season.
2. Central and Strasburg football meet in the playoffs: Central and Strasburg played in a classic overtime thriller in 2001, and they trumped that this past season with two thrillers. Central beat Strasburg, 25-20, in the regular season finale on Nov. 2. The Rams entered the game undefeated. The two teams went back and forth until a Central touchdown with 1:30 left in the game made the difference.
Two weeks later on Nov. 16 the two teams met again in the playoffs, the first-ever football meeting between the Shenandoah County rivals. Strasburg controlled things in the first half and built a 22-6 halftime lead. However, Central battled back in the second half. The Falcons tied the game at 22-22 with 10:03 left in regulation, and for the second straight year the two teams headed to overtime. After a Strasburg fumble on its first possession, Central's Jordan Umstead kicked the game-winning field goal to give the Falcons a 25-22 overtime win.
3. VHSL will move to six classes in 2013: On Oct. 16 the Virginia High School League officially approved moving from a three-class system to a six-class system. The change will have a major impact on high school sports for years to come.
With the changes there will be six state champions in most sports, where there is currently mostly three. The new classification system will start with the 2013-14 season. With the new system Sherando will be a 4A school, while Central, Skyline and Warren County will each be 3A, and Stonewall Jackson and Strasburg will each be a 2A school.
4. Stonewall Jackson wins first state title in boys track: Stonewall Jackson made history on June 2. The Generals put together an amazing day and won its first-ever Group A state boys track and field title.
Stonewall Jackson was led by seniors Dylan Shirley and John-Michael Pirtle, who each won individual state championships. Shirley won two individual titles and placed third and fifth in two other events, and also led the 1,600-meter relay team to a third-place finish. Pirtle won an individual title, placed second in the 300 hurdles and was part of a third-place 400 relay team. The Generals finished with 72 points, 31 points ahead of second-place Altavista.
5. A quartet of wrestling state titles: Stonewall Jackson's Lucas Ryan and Ricky Tisinger and Millbrook's Joe Jessen each defended state titles, and Strasburg freshman Nic Campbell won a first state title in Salem on Feb. 19.
In the Group A tournament, Ryan capped off a perfect 44-0 season with a pin of Eastside's Trevor Belcher in the 285-pound final. His teammate, Tisinger, won in three overtimes for a 3-2 victory over William Monroe's Doug Sizemore in the 195-pound final. Campbell beat Manassas Park's Fabian Rodriguez, 7-3, in the 113-pound championship.
In the Group AA tournament, Jessen defeated Rockbridge County's Addison Siler in the 189-pound final. He finished the season 48-3, and 154-22 in his career.
6. A banner day for track and field athletes: On June 2 the area had one of its finest days in history as eight different athletes combined to win 10 individual state titles at the Group A and AA state meets.
In the Group A meet, Stonewall Jackson's Dylan Shirley won the long jump and 400 state titles, while teammate John-Michael Pirtle won the 110 hurdles. Strasburg's Katlyn Ayers won the state title in both the 1,600 and 800, and her teammate Taylor Cockerile won the discus state title. Central's Justin Bauserman captured the title in the 300 hurdles, while teammate Logan Patrick won the state title in the 800.
In the Group AA meet, Sherando's Chris Smith went to double jump-off to win the high jump state title. Skyline's Thomas Madden held off Warren County's Seumas O'Reilly to win the 3,200 state title.
7. Central football advances to final eight: Central's football team came into the 2012 season with high expectations. After winning the program's first-ever playoff game in 2011, the Falcons wanted to go further this season and they did just that.
The Falcons advanced to the third round of the Group A, Division 2 playoffs, which made them one of the last eight teams in the playoffs. Central suffered early-season losses to Group AA Warren County and Bull Run District rival Manassas Park. The Falcons recovered to win six consecutive games, including playoff victories over Amelia and Strasburg.
Central lost, 48-28, to eventual state runner-up Essex, but still finished with 10 wins for the first time in the program's history. With a strong nucleus of juniors expected to return for a senior season, the best may be yet to come for the Falcons.
8. Shenandoah releases Paul Barnes as football coach: Shenandoah struggled in its first season in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference, and just two days after the season was over head coach Paul Barnes was released from his position.
Barnes was head coach for 11 seasons and had a 41-70 career record. The Hornets went 1-9 in 2012, including 0-7 in the ODAC.
Barnes took over in 2002, after Walter Barr stepped down as coach. Shenandoah is expected to name its new football coach at a press conference on Thursday at the school.
9. Handley boys basketball advances to state quarters: Handley's boys basketball team reached the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2009 as the Judges put together a strong 19-6 campaign.
The Judges were strong all season, with their depth, size and speed. Handley, guided by coach Tommy Dixon, won the Northwestern District regular season and tournament titles. The Judges won nine consecutive games, until falling to Fluvanna in the Region II, Division 3 final. The season came to an end on March 4 with a 63-38 loss to eventual state champion Brunswick.
The Judges lost six seniors from the squad, but have already started off strong again this season with a 9-2 record and a return trip to the state tournament could be in the works for the squad.
10. Skyline football firsts: It was a season of firsts for Skyline football. The Hawks went 10-2, their first-ever 10-win season and won their first-ever outright Northwestern District title.
Skyline capped the season off with a the program's first-ever playoff win, 43-6, over Loudoun Valley. Skyline's only losses came to Kettle Run, once in the regular season and once in the playoffs.
Skyline also capped off the regular season with a 14-12 victory over cross-town rival Warren County.
Honorable mention: Shenandoah plays in ODAC for the first time; Central girls basketball wins first regional game since 1997; Doug Zipp named new Shenandoah AD; Strasburg Express makes VBL playoffs in only second season; Sherando grad Ross Metheny transfers from U.Va. to South Alabama; Handley grad Ben Grove and Warren County grad Emily Harrison participate in Olympic Trials; Shenandoah's Rico Wallace makes it to Panthers' training camp.