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10 Thoughts to close out the 2023-24 high school sports season

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HCP Sports Editor Stephen Forsha.
Stephen Forsha, The Highland County Press

In my previous column celebrating everything that was of excellence for Highland County athletics from the 2023-24 season. This week, I wanted to take one final look at this past school year’s sports calendar before starting to get notes and information compiled for the upcoming fall sports seasons, as it does take some time to get organized for football previews and have information available for other fall sports team previews.

To use a column format used by the now-retired Peter King — aka my all-time favorite football columnist — I wanted to share 10 thoughts about this past high school sports year that stood out to me, as the 2023-24 school year has come to a close.

Thank you once again to all the student-athletes, coaches, athletic directors, athletic trainers and everyone else involved in making the sports season a success.

Here are some final thoughts on the 2023-24 season:

1. Though I wasn’t able to attend in person as that Friday was a very busy sports day, getting to watch the video of Whiteoak junior Landen Eyre run his final lap at the 2024 OHSAA State Track and Field Championships in the Division III 3200-meter run — after already running in the 1600m run to a third-place finish less than an hour before — was maybe the very best lap of high school track and field I’ve watched as a sports editor. How he broke away from the pack on that final lap in a two-mile race, after all he ran an hour before, was just a great athletic feat. I can’t wait to see what his senior season holds for him. Congratulations to Landen Eyre on that accomplishment.

2. During the high school basketball season, there were four players in girls basketball who achieved the 1,000-point scoring milestone with Whiteoak’s Jaylie Parr, and three — YES, THREE — players from Lynchburg-Clay, those being Jade Massey, Macy Etienne and Addison West. All four of the players mentioned were seniors this past season, so they all will be missed in watching their athletic excellence on the basketball court.

What stands out the most is for the Lady Mustangs having three players achieve that feat as seniors all in the same season, meaning they all played pivotal roles for all four of their varsity seasons. Having three players gain their 1,000th point in the same season is rare, so being lucky enough to write about those three makes the job fun. Also, seeing Parr achieve her milestone, as she was an important part of the improvement for Whiteoak basketball, was good to see too.

3. This past football season for fall 2023 was fun to watch both the McClain Tigers and Hillsboro Indians qualify for the state playoffs in Division III and Division IV. That was the first time both teams each made the playoffs in the same season (not counting where every team qualified in 2020). It will be interesting to see if that will happen again in 2024 as the 16-team playoff format will return for a second season.

Also, these two teams played a fun Rotary Bowl game where MHS broke a seven-year losing streak to the Indians, and it was also good to see the Tigers gain two wins in Frontier Athletic Conference play, snapping a five-year losing streak in conference games.

4. The Fairfield Lions basketball team brought a 23-game regular-season winning streak into the 2023-24 season, and they got that streak up to 39 games until the streak ended in a loss to North Adams. One of the games right before that streak ended was maybe the best game of that winning streak. This was the game where the Lions went on a 10-1 run in the final 47.1 seconds of regulation to force overtime, eventually winning on the road against the Eastern Warriors, by a 56-50 score. It was an absolutely amazing game to watch, as three free throws late in regulation by Gabe Fouch forced the overtime, then FHS outscored EHS, 8-2 in overtime for the win. Again, it was just an outstanding performance that many won’t soon forget.

5. Staying on the topic of the Fairfield Lions boys basketball team, they were outstanding in the postseason, winning their first district championship in a decade. Fairfield said they never stopped believing, and that was a correct statement. Their game against the Federal Hocking Lancers wasn’t easy, with Fairfield winning by a 56-52 score, as it was 10 years to the date they had won their first district championship. All around, it was such a fun season to watch by the Lions and they showed what teamwork and hard work — plus being good at basketball —  at a high level can bring to a basketball program.

6. Speaking of success for Fairfield, the baseball team had a run to their first district championship in 22 years and played in their first regional final game in 26 years. Again, some of the baseball players were on the basketball team, and they brought that winning attitude to the diamond, and the results showed there as well. During the season, it was fun to see the no-hitter by Cade Miller, and his improvement from his junior year to senior year was outstanding, especially on the mound.

The Lions had a great postseason by winning the elusive district championship, and they did so in convincing fashion by defeating Racine Southern, 11-1 in five innings, as the run-rule win showed just how good the Lions baseball team was, getting over the hump and winning a district championship in their third straight year playing in the district finals.

7. There is always the Lynchburg-Clay girls soccer program to talk about and how they have consistent success under head coach Dennis West. This team seems to always reload and have a next-player-up attitude each season. LCHS has had some great soccer players play for their girls program, and when one of those talented players graduates, another player is there to step up and take over the leading role. LCHS currently has a Southern Hills Athletic Conference non-loss streak of 92 consecutive games, a streak that began back in 2010, plus this past season they reached the regional finals for a second consecutive season.

LCHS finished with an overall record of 15-1-4 overall, and even losing some talented players, the best part about Lynchburg-Clay girls soccer is seeing who will be the players that take over the lead roles on the roster, because this is always one of the most exciting teams to watch each season.

8. Baseball and softball no-hitters/perfect games are my favorite stat in those respective sports. As written in a previous column, baseball and softball no-hitters were thrown by: Lynchburg-Clay’s Braedon West, Christian Flowers and Trevor Niehaus combined for one; LC’s Braedon West also had one as individual; Fairfield’s Cade Miller; Whiteoak’s Izayah Clift; Lynchburg-Clay’s Cole Wells; and Fairfield’s Zane Matthews. In softball, perfect games were thrown by Hillsboro’s Cam Spruell; and Fairfield’s Katelyn Chambliss and Caitlyn Quickle combined for a perfect game.

Having watched a good number of no-hitters in 17 years of being a sports editor in Highland County, it is tough to recall all of them, but to have this many in a season was remarkable. Though I didn’t get to see all of them in person, the one thing I do know is that it is very tough to pitch either a no-hitter or perfect game, so congratulations to all of those who pitched one this spring season. I’m always in awe of how that type of pitching, catching and defensive performance all can come together to achieve that feat.

9. Another aspect of this past sports season that can’t be overlooked was the band and cheerleaders and all they bring to the games of football and basketball. The atmosphere wouldn’t be as exciting without those students doing what they do, and they need to be recognized for all the work they’ve put in this past year as well.

10. One final thought for the 2023-24 sports season is that it was just so exciting to see all the success, and even in times of defeat, the sports season was special. There are teams that none of us will soon forget, and teams that when we look back from future success, we will see were the foundation of any given program.

Records were broken, new benchmarks were set, championships were won, and as we put a bow on the season that was, once again, a big thank-you to everyone involved needs to be said once last time. Now we all wait to see what the upcoming fall season will bring starting in August 2024.

Stephen Forsha is the sports editor of The Highland County Press. He can be reached at

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