Napoleon Esports won its first ever regional title Saturday at Lourdes University, sweeping a four-team tournament to claim the championship.
Napoleon, which is in its fourth year of competing in esports, qualified for the regional tournament after completing an undefeated (7-0) regular season.
The Wildcats then defeated Pioneer Career and Technology Center (Shelby, Ohio) in the semifinals to set up the title match with Whitmer. Napoleon defeated Whitmer 13-8 and 13-4 in a best-of-three series to win the championship.
“This was one of the best experiences I have had as a coach,” said Napoleon Esports coach Jacob Gebers, who has been with the team since its inception. “To see the kids light up and take in the atmosphere was amazing.
“These kids don’t play anything else so it was something new for them to be at an event like this,” added Gebers. “They were beaming after earning the opportunity to play. Then when we won, you could really see their excitement.”
The Wildcats’ regional title came in the game “Valorant.” Esports in Ohio utilizes five different games. This season 62 teams in the state played “Valorant,” with 17 in Napoleon’s region.
The top four teams out of those 17 qualified for the regional tournament.
“Valorant” is a five-player game where the teams, working as a unit, attempt to plant a spike on the opposing team’s area before they can diffuse it. The first team to plant 13 spikes wins.
The Wildcats have seven players on their roster for the fall season. Ashton Creager, Gabe Thompson, Coby MacGregor, Tanyon Creager and Archie Lee were the starters, with Christopher Streetman and Larry Pritchard as subs.
“The game teaches kids to work together to accomplish a goal, like all sports do,” said Gebers. “Some people think this is just picking up a video game and playing. Just like any other sport these kids put in the time at practice to get better. They practice for hours.
“To see those efforts rewarded is the best thing for these kids,” added Gebers.
Following the district tournament, Napoleon, playing remotely from Lourdes University, faced North Canton Hoover in the state semifinals and lost, ending its season at 9-1.
Esports has two seasons during a school year, playing in the fall and spring. Gebers said he hopes the success the Wildcats had this season will lead to more kids coming out for the sport.
“Before COVID we had 50 to 60 kids in esports,” said Gebers. “We’re hoping to get new kids. If we get more kids we might play more games and not just ‘Valorant.’”
Esports, as a sport is also growing in Ohio.
At a recent Napoleon Area City Schools Board of Education meeting, Jared Rex, Napoleon High School’s technology coordinator, said a representative from the Ohio High School Athletic Association was supposed to be present at the regional tournament at Lourdes University.
“We’re on a track probably within about 18 months that it’s actually an official high school sport,” Rex said at the meeting. “So if you see Jacob (Gebers), he’s put in a lot of time after school working with those kids and we’re excited about that.”
At the same meeting Napoleon Superintendent Dr. Erik Belcher said he was on a Buckeye Association of School Administrators Committee for OHSAA and said esports was on the “fast track.”
Esports will begin again in January with open play. The spring season follows in February.