WHEELING - The scuttlebutt around the local water coolers has been so crazy that one begins to wonder if in fact it's not a much stronger liquid being consumed. It seems more than a few people think on the whole, this has been a disappointing prep football season.
If we're talking purely the number of teams - five - from the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference that remain in the hunt for titles in their respective states, then I can see being surprised. But certainly not disappointed.
Here's a list of 50 reasons why the 2012 season should be remembered fondly.
1. Well, for starters, we still do have five - St. Clairsville in Ohio; Madonna, Magnolia, Clay-Battelle and Morgantown in West Virginia, alive to bring home the ultimate prize.
2. We got to see the Wheeling Central staff pull off its best coaching job, one year after doing the same thing. A state title isn't a must when talking about outstanding accomplishments.
3. Shadyside ran off 10 straight victories to author its second unbeaten regular season in school history, and first since 1977.
4. Bellaire QB Spencer Badia threw for more than 3,000 yards to help the Big Reds get back into the playoffs. Coach Jose Davis has done a tremendous job turning that program around.
5. The ledger shows two victories, but it was evident to everyone around that Rick Goodrich has John Marshall back on the right track.
6. Indian Creek ran off nine regular-season victories and made another playoff appearance. Coach Andrew Connor deserves serious consideration for postseason honors.
7. Jay Circosta pulled off a heckuva job himself, considering what he lost to graduation from the previous year. The Seminoles missed the playoffs but finished with a fine 7-3 record.
8. Nobody could say for sure how Bishop Donahue was going to be at the quarterback position, but sophomore Jesse Padlow emerged as someone who has the potential to be special.
9. Who saw four victories coming out of St. John Central? The total would be five if not for the Irish having to forfeit their opening game. Great job by first-year boss Jason Merryman.
10. Wheeling Park got back in the playoffs and we were treated to the birth into stardom of defensive ends Markieth O'Neal and Chalmer Moffitt.
11. After a tough start, it looks like Sean Blumette is beginning to turn Brooke into his type of program. Wait until he has a full offseason to go through with his kids.
12. Had the pleasure of watching one of the best backs I saw all year in Week 1. That would be hard-running Dillon Sunnafrank of Cambridge.
13. Harrison Central's Maurtice Hython bulled his way to nearly 2,000 rushing yards as he helped his team get back to the postseason for the second time in school history. Linebacker Nick Pelegreen is the school's all-time leading tackler and was East District Defensive Player of the Year.
14. If you haven't watched Steubenville Catholic's Brenton Colabella in person or on highlights, please do. He's the real deal.
15. Beallsville's Teryn Jarrett concluded his stellar four-year career with more than 6,000 passing yards. Jarrett is just the sixth Ohio Valley quarterback to do so.
16. Raise your hand if you had Conotton Valley finishing the season with a .500 record. Maybe we should have had an inclination after we watched Coach Eric Schumacher lead Ohio past West Virginia in late July.
17. How often do you see a 300-pound running back in high school football? Not only does Valley's Spencer Mason fit that bill, but he rushed for nearly 1,000 yards.
18. Hundred may not have had victory this season, but I can't count on one hand the number of coaches that told me the Hornets played as hard as any other group of kids they faced.
19. Was there a team that overcame more than Steubenville this season? Off-field distractions from Day 1, yet Big Red manages to get to the playoffs and win a first-round game. Tough as nails up there in Jefferson County.
20. Who can forget the bright spot at Weir that is quarterback William Larch. In truth he's more of an athlete than a quarterback, and he's one of the best in the valley.
21. How about the season put forth by Bridgeport's Dallas Fields? He averaged 101.8 yards a game on his way to a 1,000-yard season.
22. Another of the best running backs I saw hails from Linsly. Chinelo Oparanozie could hurt you with his speed or his toughness, as shown by his more than 1,500 yards.
23. I think people wondered how Paden City would replace all-stater Taylor Still in its backfield. Enter Brandon Cross, who just missed a 1,000-yard season and scored 10 times.
24. Oak Glen didn't have the type of team success most envisioned, but there's little doubt we were right about its best player. Defensive lineman Preston Murray was again tough to move on the interior.
25. Parkersburg South was one of the most talented teams in the conference when healthy. Unfortunately for the Patriots, that wasn't often.
26. Martins Ferry throwing the ball? Yep, and Cody Schau may have been the best receiver not named Dan Monteroso the area had to offer. He hauled in 55 passes for nearly 1,000 yards.
27. What can you say about the finish by Tyler Consolidated in its first season in Class A? The Silver Knights sent Coach Rob Caldwell out in style by winning four of their final six games.
28. Coach John Kelley got University back in the playoffs with the help of Jack Armstrong, who turned into one of the conference's top do-it-all threats.
29. It was also the last season for Edison coach Mike McKenzie, who led his team to arguably the biggest upset the valley saw this season. In Week 8, the Wildcats knocked off Martins Ferry by a 35-22 score.
30. People want immediate results, and I get that. But Jeremy McElroy seems to be in the process of turning it around at Beaver Local, which won twice this season.
31. Buckeye Local was decimated by graduation last season, but another guy in his first season, Phil Pest, got the the Panthers to four victories.
32. After starting 0-7, East Liverpool set the table for a big 2013 by running off three straight victories to end the season, winning by an average of a little more than 28 a game.
33. Jesse Wells continued to build for the future at Meadowbrook. Once he gets his team where he wants it, Wells has a great new turf field to display the product.
34. Union Local's Tater Blake burst onto the scene as one of the area's better linebackers. The sophomore made 76 solos stops, 29 assists, 11 for loss, as well as two INTs, 5 sacks and a fumble recovery.
35. Fort Frye returned to the playoffs behind the throwing of Chandler Lang and the running of Spencer Lang, both of whom were named All-Eastern District.
36. Not many knew Buckeye Trail quarterback Morgan Daugherty before this season. They do now after the junior was named second team All-District.
37. Barnesville may have had a tough go of things late in the season thanks to a tremendously tough schedule, but the Shamrocks put together a four-game winning streak early.
38. Winless seasons are never fun, but there's no question Shenandoah will be better next season with all the experience it gained.
39. Sitting at 3-3, few expected River to play in Week 11. Coach Mike Flannery's squad reeled off four in a row and qualified despite what doubters said.
40. Chazzy Thomas became the feature back Coach John Bowers has been looking for at Morgantown. Too bad he dislocated and broke his ankle during the final week of the regular season.
41. Not very often a team around here has three D-I athletes. But with Dan Monteroso and Michael Ferns already committed, Jaylon Brown is next on the list. Embarrassment of riches.
42. Everyone talks about Stephen Rogalski, and rightfully so. But Drew Keller has turned himself into a feature back at Magnolia.
43. People question the schedule, but Coach Ryan Wilson and Clay-Battelle are playing this weekend in the second round of the playoffs.
44. Wellsville turned some heads early in the season and are expected to only grow for 2013.
45. At first glance you see Caldwell won two games. Don't be fooled, because the Redskins are about to turn it around.
46. Behind the running of Chaz Glenn things seem to be coming around at Toronto.
47. Coach Jim Rogers and Cameron used to be regular playoff participants. They're getting closer to returning.
48. The best two-way threat in the Ohio Valley? Madonna QB Ross Comis, who is a star.
49. Perhaps no team made bigger strides than Frontier, which won four times and was competitive nearly every game.
50. And this will be a special season because we again are lucky enough to welcome the Super Six.
Shawn Rine can be reached via e-mail at Rine@theintelligencer.net