Last season wasn't the most memorable for Warren G. Harding's football team, going 2-8.
WGH first-year coach Steve Arnold and those returning players to the 2012 team knew that as the Raiders improved to 9-2 and lost to Mentor in a Division I, Region 1 quarterfinal.
"One of the things we stressed this year was handling adversity," said Arnold, who was named the Northeast Inland District Division I coach of the year. "We had to coach our kids on how to handle adversity. They went though a lot of adversity last year. I don't think they handled it well. We handled it in a positive way and got better."
Arnold wasn't the only first-year area coach to be bestowed such an honor. Niles coach Brian Shaner (Division III), Ursuline coach Larry Kempe (Division V) and Liberty coach Brian Jones (Division IV) all won that honor. Jones split the award with Creston Norwayne coach Joe Harbour.
All the coaches echoed the sentiments that they wouldn't have won these awards without their assistant coaches and players.
In addition to these coaches were a pair of defensive players of the year - Austintown Fitch senior Billy Price (Division I) and Youngstown Christian's KaeVon Green (Division VI).
Howland senior De'Veon Smith was named offensive player of the year in Division I. Smith eclipsed the Trumbull County career rushing mark set by former Champion player Jimmy Rasey in 2010.
"I'm elated," Howland coach Dick Angle said. "It's very well deserved. He's competed at a high level this year and last four years. He never had a bad game on either side of the ball. This young man was a starter as a freshman, and a very hard worker. He's certainly deserving of the award. I think he's the best in Ohio but I'm prejudiced."
It can also be said that Liberty had the best turnaround of any team in Ohio, going from 0-10 in 2011 to 9-3 this season.
"Like I said all along, the biggest thing was we had the pieces coming back that we could build our core around," Jones said. "Having success early in the season would determine if we had a good or a tough season. The players bought into my philosophy from Day 1. They kind of ran off with a few (wins) in the middle of the season. We knew if we could beat Lakeview maybe we could get a conference championship. We were able to get that one and solidify our playoff spot. We then got a playoff win which was huge for our 17 seniors. We're very satisfied with the season and excited for the kids and what they accomplished."
At Niles, the Red Dragons accomplished a lot in 2012.
"The season we went through there were so many highlights it's hard to narrow it down," Shaner said. "Maybe leaving Poland with a win? Maybe leaving Howland with a win? Maybe it was in Week 10, beating East? That was a real emotional win. One of my senior captains handed me the game ball. Then, we were watching our boys celebrate having their first home playoff game in Niles history."
Kempe, who is a John F. Kennedy graduate, said these coaches honored had the knack of pushing their programs to greatness.
"They have got a message into their football program that, 'You have ability. You can rise above and perform well,'" Kempe said. "It's a tribute to the Mahoning Valley. We play very good football. We have some very good athletes."
Tim Cleveland also contributed to this story