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Field House demolition tops 2012 stories

Dec. 30, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Just as the 2012 year produced incredible and sometimes unthinkable stories on the national level, there were plenty of eye-opening stories on the local and regional level that made it a year-to-remember in sports.

Here are some of the other significant Tri-State sports stories of 2012:

Veterans Memorial Field House demolished

Amidst lots of banter both for and against the proceedings, Veterans Memorial Field House was demolished in June to make way for a Marshall University soccer complex and a veterans' memorial park.

The 62-year-old building had been a staple in the community for everything from concerts to sporting events since opening in 1950.

In terms of sports, the facility had housed Marshall men's basketball from 1950 to 1981 and seen some of the Herd's all-time greats perform there -- names such as Hal Greer, Russell Lee and Walt Walowac.

The facility had also housed the St. Joe Invitational for all 35 years of its existence. The 2013 St. Joe Invitational will take place at Big Sandy Superstore Arena.

In addition to basketball, the facility also housed the Huntington Heroes semi-pro indoor football team for a short time.

On Feb. 10, the facility hosted a "Farewell to Veterans Memorial Field House," which returned nearly 100 former Marshall stars.

Walowac, who played in the first-ever Marshall game at the venue (Dec. 2,1950) was on-hand for the event as was Greer, who served as honorary coach, and Lee, who took the final shot in the history of the venue at the end of the night.

The venue housed many memories in its existence, but was brought down to build many more for Marshall University, who is building a state-of-the-art, $5.4 million soccer facility on site.

The venue is expected to be ready prior to next season, which starts in Aug. 2013.

Cato wins C-USA MVP, but Herd falters

The 2012 football season featured plenty of highs and lows for Marshall's football team.

From an individual perspective, it was one of the best seasons since the days of Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich as the Herd put up astronomical offensive numbers.

Quarterback Rakeem Cato was voted as the Conference USA Most Valuable Player by the league's coaches after a year in which he threw for 4,201 yards and 37 touchdowns while leading Marshall to a top-10 offense nationally.

In addition to Cato, wide receiver Tommy Shuler broke Marshall's single-season record for catches with 110, eclipsing the record of 106 set by Mike Barber in 1987. He and teammate Aaron Dobson were named to the Biletnikoff Award watch list, given to the nation's best wide receiver.

Tight end Gator Hoskins tied for the conference lead in touchdown receptions with 10 and was also honored as a watch list candidate for the John Mackey Award, given to the nation's top tight end.

However, as great as the individual accolades were, they were almost just as damning.

That's because the Herd finished the season at 5-7 and failed to reach a bowl game due to a defense that gave up points in bunches.

Marshall finished the year 119th out of 120 schools in scoring defense, allowing 43.08 points per contest.

The year came to a fitting end as East Carolina's offense outdueled the Herd in a 65-59 double-overtime contest to end Marshall's season.

Marshall gave up 51 or more points in five of its 12 games this season, including 60 twice -- to start the season against West Virginia and to end the year against East Carolina.

Defensive coordinator Chris Rippon resigned the day after the loss to the Pirates.

Herd hoops makes run to Conference USA finals

After an up-and-down regular season, Marshall's men's basketball team made its first-ever trip to the Conference USA championship game following a memorable run through the conference tournament.

The Herd ran out of gas in the finals, falling to Memphis 83-57, but the loss did not diminish the accomplishments made during the tournament.

It was the Herd's first conference championship appearance since playing for the Southern Conference title in 1997.

Marshall reached the championship game by defeating Southern Miss 73-62 on the strength of 24 points from point guard Damier Pitts.

The following evening, guard DeAndre Kane had led the Herd to its most exciting win in recent memory -- a 105-100 triple-overtime win over Tulsa. Kane scored a C-USA tournament record 40 points en route to the win which featured 21 ties and 19 lead changes.

The Herd, who entered as the No. 6 seed, opened the tourney with a 72-56 win over SMU. Shaquille Johnson had 15 points and five assists in place of Pitts, who left early with an injury. Johnson also had 25 points in the win over Tulsa.

Forward Dennis Tinnon broke the conference tournament's rebounding mark with 44 rebounds in four games. He had a pair of double-doubles in the Herd's run.

Marshall made the National Invitational Tournament for the first time since 1988, but fell to Middle Tennessee State 86-78 in the first round.

Herd unveils Vision Campaign

Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick unveiled the Vision Campaign, a $30 million campaign that will fund an indoor practice facility with a running track, a state-of-the-art soccer complex, a sports medicine research center, a Marshall Athletic Hall of Fame and a student-athlete academic center.

The campaign is the first of its magnitude for Marshall University in athletics. With such a big project on the agenda, Hamrick needed a pair of heavy-hitters in athletics to help spearhead the fundraising efforts.

Therefore, he got two of Marshall's biggest figures -- Mike D'Antoni, who recently became head coach of the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers, and Chad Pennington, former Marshall and NFL quarterback who has become one of the most visible athletes in Herd history.

As stated previously, the soccer facility will be built on the old Veterans Memorial Field House site while the indoor practice facility and academic center will be constructed at the old site of Sam Hood Field.

The soccer complex is expected to be completed in time for the 2013 soccer season (August) while the indoor practice facility is targeted for a 2014 completion.

Wiggins, Huntington Prep No. 1 in country

There is a big basketball target nationally on the city of Huntington, thanks to Huntington Prep Academy boys basketball and phenom Andrew Wiggins.

Wiggins reclassified from 2014 to 2013 and was named as the country's No. 1 prospect for the Class of 2013, setting off a wild trek of recruitment that includes Florida State, Kentucky, North Carolina and Kansas -- in no particular order.

Huntington Prep was also named as the No. 1 team in the country and has started the season 14-0. The team features four top 50 prospects for 2013 -- Wiggins, Xavier Rathan-Mayes (Florida State signee), Dominic Woodson (Baylor signee) and Moses Kingsley (Arkansas signee).

In addition, the team also has Tennessee signee Travon Landry and 2015 top-20 prospect Montaque Gill-Caesar.

Conference realignment shakes C-USA landscape

It was the year of realignment across college football, and no conference had more turnover than Conference USA, who will lose six members over the next two years while adding eight more.

In 2013, the league will lose Houston, UCF, Memphis and SMU while adding six member schools -- four of which will play immediately in football.

Louisiana Tech, Texas-San Antonio, North Texas and Florida International will all join for all sports in 2013. Old Dominion will join in football in 2014 while Charlotte will join the conference in football in 2015 and be bowl eligible in 2016, according to the school's release.

In 2014, Conference USA loses Tulane and East Carolina, but adds Middle Tennessee State and Florida Atlantic in all sports.

Burcham closes illustrious career, commits to Oklahoma

Cabell Midland High School track standout Jacob Burcham continued his career with the Knights by winning state titles in every event he entered in track and cross country.

As a junior in track, he won the 800, 1600 and 3200-meter individual races before taking top honors in cross country in the fall while leading the Knights to the Class AAA cross country title.

Just before Christmas, Burcham announced he would run for the University of Oklahoma in college.

He will finish out his prep career with track season in the spring.

Dusty Kincaid recovers from scary injury

One of the year's scariest stories turned into one its most rewarding.

On March 19, Winfield High School baseball pitcher Dusty Kincaid was struck in the head by a line drive during a game against Huntington High.

The next day, Kincaid underwent emergency brain surgery to relieve swelling that had him in critical condition at Charleston Area Medical Center.

Less than three months after the horrific accident that jeopardized his life, Kincaid watched his team advance to the Class AAA, Region IV championship game and later graduated from Winfield.

Over the summer, he was cleared to resume full baseball duties and has joined his brother Tyler as a player at West Virginia State University for coach Cal Bailey.

Wayne football wins consecutive Class AA titles

Wayne ended the 2012 football season in the same fashion it ended the 2011 season -- by celebrating a Class AA championship on the field at Wheeling Island Stadium.

The Pioneers' run to the title is one of the most dominant stories in recent memory for West Virginia football. Wayne never trailed throughout the entire 2012 campaign and the first-team defense gave up just two touchdowns on the season.

That dominance was solidified in the postseason when the Pioneers earned three consecutive shutout wins in the state quarterfinals, semifinals and championship to cap a perfect 14-0 season.

In a 35-0 win over Keyser in the Class AA championship, Wayne limited the Golden Tornado to just 92 total yards -- a Class AA championship game record.

St. Joe girls win fourth straight

It wasn't the easiest, but the Huntington St. Joe girls basketball team won its fourth straight Class A state title in March, defeating Wheeling Central 57-49.

The Irish led by just three late in the contest, but Mychal Johnson led the team with 22 points to keep Huntington St. Joe at the pinnacle of Class A hoops.

Griffin Dempsey added 14 points in the win, which gave the Irish a full four years since their last loss against West Virginia competition.

Wheeling Central was the last team to beat the Irish, doing so in the 2008 Class A state championship game.

Banner year in high school football

The 2012 football season was not just about the Wayne Pioneers in the Tri-State. It was a season that saw unparalleled success for local teams.

In Class AAA, Cabell Midland advanced to the state championship game for the first time in school history while finishing 13-1 behind the duo of David Gaydosz and Lowell Farley, who rushed for more than 4,100 yards and 50 touchdowns combined on the year.

Spring Valley and Huntington High both advanced to the Class AAA quarterfinals -- the Timberwolves losing to Cabell Midland and the Highlanders falling to Morgantown, whom the Knights had to beat to advance to Wheeling.

For Spring Valley, linebacker Elijah Wellman won the Huff Award, given to the state's top linebacker.

In Class A, Wahama won its first state title with a thrilling 43-42 overtime win over Madonna. The back-and-forth affair was decided on a two-point conversion run by Trenton Gibbs in the extra session.

Over in Kentucky, Nate McPeek's Fairview Eagles finished a terrific run in Class 1A after advancing to the state championship before falling to Mayfield.

Longtime Herd golf coach Joe Feaganes retires

After 40 years of teaching young players, Joe Feaganes retired as Marshall's golf coach in April.

Feaganes was the dean of Marshall's athletic department, having been the Herd's coach since 1972.

The 68-year-old coaching veteran had been involved in golf at Marshall for 50 years since his playing days in college.

The Conference USA Championships served as his "final nine" walk at Texarkana Country Club in Texarkana, Ark.

Daniel tabbed to lead Herd women

On May 29, Matt Daniel was announced as the new women's basketball coach for Marshall, replacing Royce Chadwick who left for Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

Daniel, who came to Marshall from Central Arkansas, instantly brought an energy to the floor with a young staff and a higher-paced level of play for the Herd women.

His coaching philosophy -- tabbed the "Home of Higher Hoops" -- led him to three consecutive seasons with 21 wins or more -- called "Blackjack" in his book.

He was the Southland Conference Coach of the Year in 2010 and 2012 and the Sugar Bears won the regular-season title in 2012 while going 16-0 at home.

In his first season, the Herd is currently 6-6 heading into Sunday's contest at Navy in Annapolis, Md.

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