Hyno, hoops, softball topped 2012
It was a year of incredible runs.
A fullback, a couple basketball teams, softball Cinderellas, a track star and coaching changes make up the top sports stories in 2012.
Henry Hynoski, a fullback with the New York Giants, opened holes in the running game on the way to a Super Bowl title.
There was not one, but two, girls basketball teams - Mount Carmel and Line Mountain - which posted perfect 22-0 regular seasons.
Then there was Southern Columbia's softball team, which went to the first state championship game in program history and finished with silver.
North Schuylkill's Brendan Shearn had on his running shoes and claimed a gold in the 3,200 meters in track in May and then silver in his bid for back-to-back state championships in cross country.
Meanwhile, the year ended with two football coaches no longer being with programs they helped build into winners in previous seasons at Shamokin and North Schuylkill.
A look back in chronological order:
Hynoski meets Lombardi
Hynoski, a Southern Columbia graduate, was in the backfield for the Giants' 21-17 win over the New England Patriots in Indianapolis in February.
In the game, which was attended by Hynoski's parents, Henry Sr. and Kathy, the rookie caught two passes for 19 yards and recovered a fumble deep in the Giants' own territory.
Hynoski followed that up with a second season in which he was injury-free and showed the versatility he could bring to the Giants' backfield.
Despite the team finishing 9-7 and missing out on a return trip to the playoffs, Hynoski had 11 catches for 50 yards and one touchdown, and five rushes for 20 yards.
While the Giants were hot, jumping out to a 6-2 record, Hynoski was getting significant All-Pro and Pro Bowl consideration and earned the praise of broadcasters and football insiders like Ron Jaworski.
Hynoski earned two game balls for his blocking in wins over San Francisco and Cleveland.
The area didn't have just one undefeated girls basketball team in the regular season, it had two.
And each of those had two players eclipse the 1,000-point mark for their careers.
Both Mount Carmel and Line Mountain's girls basketball teams could do no wrong in the regular season on the way to 22-0 marks.
Mount Carmel was on a mission after winning the District 4 Class AA title in 2011 but losing in the first round of the state tournament.
In 2012, the Red Tornadoes torched all comers, averaging more than 67 points per game in running their unbeaten streak to 27 straight through the playoffs until a fateful night in March against York Catholic.
With a trip to the state semifinals on the line, Mount Carmel lost to York Catholic, the eventual state runner-up.
During the Red Tornadoes' remarkable run teammates Kim Andruscavage and Ranotta Ahrensfield both went over 1,000 points for their career.
That feat was done in the same night for Line Mountain stars Kasey Long and Mikhail Whitcomb.
In a 55-28 win over Greenwood in February, Long and Whitcomb went down in Eagles' lore.
While the Eagles were not able to match their 2011 run through the playoffs to the state quarterfinals, they did put up a 24-0 record and a Tri-Valley League championship before losing to Lourdes in the District 4 championship and then Marian in the first round of the PIAA playoffs.
In addition, Lourdes Regional and Shamokin Area also won District 4 titles, in Class A and AAA, respectively.
No one expected Southern Columbia softball to reach the heights it did in 2012.
But when all was said and done, it was the Tigers that were standing on the line at Penn State's Beard Field in June.
Fannett-Metal beat Southern, 1-0, in a tightly contested game, but it didn't diminish the Tigers' achievements.
They finished the regular season 18-2 and came within a run of winning their first District 4 title, but it was in the state playoffs that things really came together.
Southern knocked off 2011 champ Minersville 2-1 in the first round, then blistered Bristol 6-1 in the quarterfinals and jumped on Greenwood early and won 5-2 in the semifinals.
Along the way, the Tigers put up gawdy statistics.
Junior Mallory Tomaschik hit .363 with 27 runs batted in and 32 runs scored, seven home runs, and also had nine doubles and a triple. She also struck out 189 strikeouts in 170 innings.
Shearn runs wild
North Schuylkill's Brendan Shearn, coming on the heels of a PIAA Class AA state championship in cross country in late 2011, earned himself another state title with his win in the 3200-meter run at the PIAA track and field championships in May. Shearn won the race in 9 minutes, 22.09 seconds, beating Holy Cross' Rico Galassi by almost two seconds.
After getting hung up in the pack on the first lap, Shearn took off with a 66-second quarter-mile on the second to take control.
In the fall, Shearn ran 11 seconds faster at the PIAA state cross country championships than he did the year before, but finished second to Big Springs' Vinny Todaro. Shearn finished his cross country career with three Schuylkill League and three District 11 Class AA titles.
The 2012 football season ended quite differently than the 2011 season. In 2011, the area produced three district championship teams - Southern Columbia, Mount Carmel and Shamokin - plus a North Schuylkill team which completed its third straight unbeaten season.
At the end of 2012, two of those teams, North Schuylkill and Shamokin, were looking for new coaches. The Spartans' Rick Geist, despite a career record of 146-66-1 in two tenures at North Schuylkill and a stint at Cardinal Brennan, was released following a halftime incident in the ninth game of the season in which he allegedly made derogatory comments to a player. Assistant coaches took over the team for the final game against ELCO and two Eastern Conference playoff games against Wilkes-Barre GAR and Carbondale. The Spartans won all three to finish the season 9-3.
Dan Foor resigned after a disappointing 2-9 season at Shamokin, which expected to do much better following its late-season success the year before. But the Indians were plagued by injuries and fumbles all season, and though competitive in most games, couldn't find the formula for winning.
As of year's end, the school boards of both districts had not made decisions on who the new head coaches would be.
Other big stories
Other noteworthy stories during the year:
* Southern Columbia's football team completed its eighth undefeated regular season since 1990 and won its 21st District 4 Class A title in 22 years;
* Longtime Shamokin Area basketball coach Joe Klebon retired after 32 seasons, 24 of which were at Shamokin. Klebon led the Indians to 10 Schuylkill League Division I titles, seven overall Schuylkill League titles, eight District 4 Class AAA championships, one Heartland Conference title, and 13 Knights of Columbus Tournament crowns. He won 581 career games including eight seasons at Warrior Run.
* South Columbia's Little League team won the District 13 championship and a berth in the state tournament, and Shamokin-Mount Carmel's 11-year-old team finished second in the District 13 tournament.