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Top 40 Sports Moments Of The Last 40 Years

October 5, 2018

Slow news day?

It happens to the best newspapers and most-watched networks in America’s smallest and biggest cities.

Relying on the entire Wyoming Valley (and then some), however, The Citizens’ Voice sports staff seemingly always has something to write about.

• A 15-mile drive on Interstate 81 separates Mohegan Sun Arena and PNC Field, where the next generation of Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Yankees ply their trade in the minor leagues.

• MAC Freedom members King’s, Misericordia and Wilkes all have thriving athletic programs at the college level, while this region also boasts a large number of readers interested in Penn State.

• We’ve got scholastic sports covered with about 18 high schools — depending on the sport — as far west as Berwick, east as Pittston Area, north as Tunkhannock, south as Hazleton Area, and everywhere in between.

• We publish local results from bowling, golf and rugby, as well as horse racing at Pocono Downs; and when there’s a boxing or mixed martial arts card, we are there to write about it.

The past 40 years have provided us with countless sports moments that will long be remembered in the Wyoming Valley.

Perhaps most impressive is the diversity in the stories; amateur, high school, college, professional, male, female, baseball, basketball, field hockey, football, soccer, softball, and the list goes on.

It’s never easy when we try narrowing down such things, like in 2005 when The Citizens’ Voice ranked the top-100 athletes and 2012 when we listed the top-25 teams.

But we recently came up with this list of some can’t-miss sports stories — 40 of them — covered by The Citizens’ Voice, a list that gathers new nominees on a regular basis.

July 26, 1980

Wilkes-Barre Memorial Stadium hosts the Big 33 Football Classic, which included 11 recruits going to Penn State, eight to Pittsburgh and two to Temple.

The all-star rosters featured local players Jeff Feulner (Berwick), Todd Slusser (Berwick), Harry Hamilton (Nanticoke Area), Mike McCabe (Scranton), Bruce Kozerski (Coughlin), Dave Shimshock (Coughlin), Ron Solt (Coughlin) and Steve Gawlas (GAR).

The West defeated the East, 16-0.

March 21, 1981

Lake-Lehman wins the PIAA Class 2A wrestling championship as a team, while also having three individual state champions in Ricky Bonomo, Rocky Bonomo and Mike Leskowsky.

Oct. 12, 1983

Hanover Area junior Ted Tryba captures the PIAA boys golf championship at Penn State, where the future PGA Tour member wins a playoff hole and the WVC’s first state title in the sport.

Twenty-seven years later, in 2010, Pittston Area’s Brandon Matthews won the PIAA title. Holy Redeemer’s boys team won the PIAA Class 2A title in 2013.

Jan. 2, 1987

Penn State and Miami play in the Fiesta Bowl, a 14-10 win for the Nittany Lions that sets a record for most-watched college football game ever and clinched Penn State’s second consensus national championship under coach Joe Paterno.

Nov. 19, 1988

Crestwood’s 2-1 win against Northwestern Lehigh in the PIAA Class 2A field hockey championship awards Comets coach Elvetta Gemski her first of five state championships.

Gemski’s 1988 squad was the first WVC field hockey state champion, although Wyoming Seminary (coach Karen Klassner), Valley West (Linda Fithian) and Lake-Lehman (Jean Lipski) have since won state titles and helped the conference grow its reputation as a powerhouse in the sport.

Dec. 10, 1988

The Berwick Dawgs ring in the first year of the PIAA state football playoffs with a 13-0 win against Aliquippa, which was the No. 2-ranked team in the country.

Head coach George Curry went on to build a dynasty with the Dawgs, winning PIAA titles in 1992, 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1997.

April 26, 1989

The long fight to bring professional baseball back to Northeastern Pennsylvania ends in front of a sellout crowd at Lackawanna County Multi-Purpose Stadium in Moosic, where the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons make their home debut.

March 31, 1990

Nanticoke Area’s girls basketball team completes a perfect season with a 77-67 win against Beaver Falls for the PIAA Class 3A title.

The Trojanettes scored 100-plus points in five games and were unstoppable en route to going 30-0.

Nine years later, in 1999, Bishop Hoban came out on top in a game featuring teams with a combined 58-5 record, as the Argents defeated Girard, 46-42, for the PIAA Class 2A girls basketball championship.

Dec. 8, 1990

Other than Berwick, the WVC’s first state title in football is won by Hanover Area, as its 20-19 victory over Cavevin Catholic in the PIAA Class 2A final completes a 14-0 season for the Hawkeyes.

1990-91

Meyers graduate and Notre Dame wide receiver Raghib “Rocket” Ismail finishes runner-up to BYU’s Ty Detmer in Heisman Trophy voting.

Following his All-American college career, Ismail skipped his senior year and the NFL, instead signing with the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts.

He later played nine season in the NFL.

Sept. 11, 1992

Red Barons outfielder Cary Williams makes the greatest play in team history, an over-the-shoulder catch at the right-center fence that preserved an eighth-inning tie against Pawtucket in the Governors’ Cup semifinals.

The Red Barons rallied to win that game and the series, clinching their first appearance in the Governors’ Cup finals.

Dec. 10, 1993

The PIAA Class 2A football championship is easily won by Dallas, 31-7, over Washington — a fitting end to a dominant postseason run by the Mountaineers.

June 28, 1995

After record-setting careers in high school at GAR and college at Florida State, Wilkes-Barre native Bob Sura is selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the 17th pick in the first round of the NBA Draft.

Sura, a 6-foot-5 guard, played 657 NBA games over 10 seasons with Cleveland, Golden State, Houston, Detroit and Atlanta.

July 12, 1995

Lackawanna County Stadium hosts its first and only Triple-A All-Star Game, as the Red Barons’ home field welcomed future big-leaguers like Jeromy Burnitz and Jason Isringhausen, as well as the main attraction, Derek Jeter.

June 4, 1996

Outfielder John Oliver, an 18-year-old at Lake-Lehman, is selected with the 25th pick in the first round of the MLB Draft by the Cincinnati Reds.

Oliver flashed his skill with a .648 batting average, 55 hits, 25 stolen bases and 11 home runs his senior year, but his professional career was cut short due to injuries.

July 20, 1996

A lifetime of hard work pays off for Crestwood graduate Diane Madl, who plays with the U.S. women’s national field hockey team in the opening games of the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

Madl was the first local field hockey player selected to an Olympic roster, although Sara Silvetti (Crestwood), Lauren Powley (Sem), Kelsey Kolojejchick (Sem), Kat Sharkey (Sem) and Paige Selenski (Dallas) would later join the ranks, too.

Nov. 15, 1997

The Coughlin Crusaders play one of the best overtime periods ever seen in PIAA soccer, scoring four goals in 20 minutes to blow past Cathedral Prep in a 9-5 win for the Class 3A boys soccer state championship.

Ten years later, in spring 2007, the Dallas Mountaineers won District 2’s first girls soccer state title in a 4-1 win against Catasauqua for the PIAA Class 2A crown.

March 14, 1998

The Wilkes men’s basketball team overcomes a nine-point halftime deficit, as the Colonels — on their home court at the Marts Center — beat Hunter College, 58-55, and advance to the NCAA Division III Final Four.

While the Colonels lost the next game, head coach Jerry Rickrode at the time had the second-highest winning percentage among D-III coaches. He trailed only Bo Ryan of Wisconsin-Platteville, a Wilkes grad himself who later coached Wisconsin.

Nov. 13, 1999

After playing their first 13 games on the road due to construction, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins finally play their first regular season game on home ice at Northeastern Pennsylvania Civic Arena and Convention Center.

The Pens opened with a 4-2 win against Kentucky in front of an electric capacity crowd of 8,500-plus.

Jan. 15, 2001

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins host the AHL All-Star Game at First Union Arena, where the Penguins’ own John Slaney — traded from the Penguins to Philadelphia in the same week — brings home MVP honors.

The 2000-01 season brought monumental success to the franchise, which made a deep playoff run and lost the Calder Cup in six games against the Saint John Flames.

Jan. 28, 2001

Meyers graduate Qadry Ismail becomes the first WVC graduate to play for a Super Bowl-winning team, as he and the Baltimore Ravens defeated the New York Giants, 35-7, in Super Bowl XXXV.

Ismail caught one pass from Trent Dilfer for 44 yards.

2002

The King’s football team wins its first MAC championship in a 9-3 season that ends in the NCAA Division III Sweet 16.

Defensive end Steven Wilson, who had 89 tackles, 39 tackles for loss and 17 sacks, capped the season while being selected D-III National Defensive Player of the Year.

March 17, 2002

A day that lives on in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins history not for the win/loss result — a 4-0 Penguins loss — but for the fight.

The Penguins racked up 162 penalty minutes and the Syracuse Crunch added 124 in a game that featured what’s become known as “The St. Patrick’s Day Massacre,” for which the AHL handed down suspensions to the Pens’ Steve Parsons, Jason MacDonald and Darcy Verot.

June 13, 2003

Nanticoke Area opened the door for local softball teams, becoming the first WVC team to win a state title with its 4-0 defeat of Center for the PIAA Class 2A championship.

Another Trojanettes team, in 2010, went on to win a state title, as did Holy Redeemer’s squads in 2015 and 2016.

2003-04

Wilkes running back Brett Trichilo is named the NCAA Division III football Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons.

Trichilo graduated from Wilkes as the school’s all-time leader in several single-game, single-season and career rushing categories.

April 25, 2004

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins complete their down-three-games-to-one rally in the Calder Cup East Division semifinal series against Bridgeport on Konstantin Koltsov’s overtime game-winner for a 3-2 win against Bridgeport.

The legend of goalie Andy Chiodo grew in the win, as well, which capped a series that saw Games 1, 2, 3, 5 and 7 go to overtime. The Pens later lost in the Calder Cup finals.

2004-05

Head coach Mark Belenski’s Bishop O’Reilly Queensmen dominate their way to consecutive PIAA Class A boys basketball championships.

The back-to-back state champs used guard Tim Crossin as their go-to player, as he led Bishop O’Reilly to a 70-54 win against Sewickley Academy in 2004; and 65-61 against Kennedy Catholic in 2005.

2006-07

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre baseball franchise loses its affiliation with the Philadelphia Phillies, who, in the coming years, are replaced by the New York Yankees.

Shortly after, SWB wins its first Governors’ Cup championship amid major renovations at PNC Field and the team being rebranded as the RailRiders.

2007

The closing of Bishop Hafey, Bishop Hoban, Bishop O’Reilly and Seton Catholic leads to the creation of one local Catholic high school in Holy Redeemer.

The Royals’ girls volleyball team was the school’s first to win a district championship, and coach Jack Kablick’s team has since won every title for which it has played.

2007

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pioneers Arena Football team enjoys another winning season, perhaps its best, which includes 14 wins, a division championship, several exciting playoff wins and a loss in ArenaCup VIII.

The Pioneers won two more division titles in two years before the af2 folded and the franchise ceased to exist.

2007-08

David Morgan becomes the first national champion in any sport at King’s, as the 133-pounder won back-to-back NCAA Division III wrestling titles.

Jan. 22, 2012

Penn State football coach Joe Paterno dies following a tumultuous end to his life and legendary career, only months after being fired for his role in the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal and Paterno’s diagnosis of lung cancer.

Paterno’s death ushered in a new era of Penn State football led by coaches Bill O’Brien and James Franklin, the latter of whom has led the Nittany Lions to Big Ten and Fiesta Bowl championships.

Feb. 25, 2012

Arguably the greatest single day in the history of Misericordia athletics, the Cougars’ men’s and women’s basketball teams beat local rivals to win their first MAC Freedom championships.

The men’s team beat Wilkes, 69-42, and the women’s team beat King’s, 64-54.

Feb. 22, 2014

The Wyoming Seminary Blue Knights end Blair Academy’s decades-long dynasty atop the National Prep Championships, as Sem unseats Blair by finishing 43 points ahead of Blair and winning its first national title.

2016

The RailRiders post a franchise-record .636 winning percentage (91-52) and win the Governors’ Cup and Triple-A championships, capping a season led by future Yankees Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino and Clint Frazier.

June 16, 2017

Dallas joins elite company, becoming only the second WVC baseball team to win a state championship with its 5-0 PIAA Class 4A title win against South Park to put an exclamation point on a season that started 2-6.

The 2008 Berwick Bulldogs were the first WVC state champion baseball team. They defeated Somerset, 6-2, for the PIAA Class 4A title.

May 21, 2018

After eight straight years of winning MAC Freedom championships, Misericordia’s baseball team finally gets out of the Mid-Atlantic Regional tournament by winning two games in one day and booking its ticket to the NCAA Division III World Series.

The Cougars went 1-2 at the World Series in Appleton, Wisconsin.

May 22, 2018

Months, if not years, of speculation ended when the Wilkes-Barre Area school board voted to merge the athletic programs at Coughlin, GAR and Meyers into one program.

May 25, 2018

Payden Montana of Berwick wins her second consecutive PIAA championship in the shot put, as Montana’s 51-foot throw broke a record that had stood since 1980.

Aug. 15, 2018

Perhaps the all-time greatest Little League playoff run for a local team ends, when Tunkhannock’s majors softball team loses the championship game to Ohio, 3-0, in a nationally televised game in Portland, Oregon.

Along the way, Tunkhannock’s all-stars won district, sectional, state and regional titles.

Steve Bennett, Stephen Connors, Tony Maluso, Tyler Piccotti, Jim Reeser and Eric Shultz contributed to this report.

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