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The Spartans showed off their skills with an impressive 21-stroke win in the Draper Valley Classic last Thursday.
Christian Moody | Special to The Roanoke Times
Cave Spring’s Drew Lagan ranks No. 1 on the list of Timesland top five players for 2013-14.
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
A year ago, Timesland was loaded in the high school golf department.
Salem won the VHSL Group AA title, with Blacksburg’s Ryan Mondy capturing the individual crown. In Group A, Galax’s John Bryant took individual honors while James River finished a close second in the team chase.
Well, times have changed this fall because of key losses through graduation, not to mention the recent transfer of a player who would have been atop this year’s list of the preseason’s five best players — an overhaul in the VHSL classification system that means there will be six state golf tournaments instead of three.
One thing, however, hasn’t changed much. The best bet for a state champion? Try Giles.
No stranger there. Veteran coach W.R. Johnston’s clubs —which will compete as a Group 2A team in golf under the brand new classification system put in place this fall — won the Group A title in 2009, plus finished second to Galax (now a Group 1A school) in 2008 and 2010.
The Spartans provided strong evidence last Thursday they are ready for another title run, rolling to an impressive 21-stroke romp in the 17-team Draper Valley Classic.
Led by medalist Kory Wilson’s career-low round of 4-under 68 that included a 30 on Draper Valley’s front nine, the Spartans finished with a nifty 12-over 300 total to steamroll second-place Princeton, W.Va. Freshman Joe Clark posted 72 and senior standout Gunar Frazier had 74.
Anchored by Frazier, a first-team All-Timesland selection after finishing second in the state last year, and Wilson, a second-team All-Timesland choice a year ago, Johnson has strong hope of another state crown.
“Last year we took what we had,” Johnston said. “I knew we were one more year away because I knew we needed one more score and the freshman [Clark] was coming this year. Honestly, we kind of surprised ourselves by taking fourth and we were pretty tickled with that.
“We’re going to take experience and build and see how good we can be. It’s going to require a lot of work. How good we’re going to be is going to depend on how much they work the next two months.”
Despite the loss of top gun Korey Watts, James River (Group 2A) exhibited signs Monday that it could make another run at the title. Carol Brenner’s club finished a strong fourth in the 24-team Heritage Invitational, beating a slew of bigger-school squads such as Cave Spring, Jefferson Forest, Hidden Valley and Blacksburg. Seniors Luke Arney (76), Sean Kessler (79) and Trevor Statome (79) led the Knights.
Meanwhile, there appears to be a drop-off of talent in the area’s bigger-school ranks.
No program took a bigger graduation hit than Salem. The Spartans (Group 4A in 2013-14) lost all six starters to graduation off a club that captured the state crown in a cakewalk, winning by 25 shots.
“No need to talk to me this year,” said veteran Salem coach Thad Snyder, whose young and inexperienced club had one player break 89 and finished 21st, 74 shots behind winner E.C. Glass at the Heritage.
“It’s always a process with these kids — they’ve got to learn how to make the team, then they’ve got to learn how to play in a tournament, they have to learn how to count. It’s a long process and we’re at the very beginning of that process.”
Cave Spring (Group 3A) has three solid senior starters in Drew Lagan, who finished second in the state last year, Meagan Board and T.K. Garrett. Chris Benson took over the Knights’ coaching reins from Steven Biscotte, who is currently working on his doctorate degree at Virginia Tech, and will sorely miss longtime ace Nick Brediger, Timesland’s 2011 player of the year.
Elsewhere in the River Ridge, Blacksburg’s hopes of bringing home a fourth state crown in eight years were all but wiped out when junior standout Ty Olinger informed Bruins coach Rick Mattox two weeks ago that he’s transferring to North Cross. Olinger was tied for fourth in the state last year. The left-hander, who would have been ranked No. 1 in the preseason’s top-five individual rankings, has plans to reclassify at the private school, which will allow him another year before college.
“If Olinger had been here, we would have been the team to beat in the district,” said Mattox, whose club is classified as Group 3A, and finished 10th in the Heritage.
In the Blue Ridge, William Byrd (Group 3A) is the popular favorite to rule the roost. Coach Kevin Tuck said he’s got eight players who are capable of posting scores in the 70s. Senior Ben Belcher, junior Dylan Carr and the Chocklett brothers — junior Austin and freshman Derrick — top Tuck’s lineup.
“When one of top kids shoots 84 or 85, my No. 5 or No. 6 could come in at 78. I think the balance is what will make us good this year.”
Lord Botetourt (Group 3A) lost big-hitter Justin Nichols and two other seniors off last year’s club that finished third in the state.
Cavaliers coach Todd Smith has a solid No. 1 in Lyndsey Hunnell, plus capable Nos. 2 and 3 in Hal Bailey and Jacob Barnard.
“We’ll be looking for that fourth score all season,” Smith said.
Jefferson Forest (Group 4A), which shot 295 and 300 in winning a pair of matches before taking fifth in the Heritage, could be a team to watch. Cavaliers coach Garnet Manley’s squad is paced by junior Zeke Shen and senior Brian Touna.
More clues as to what may happen on the course this fall will be provided in the 36-hole Bob McLelland Metro championship. The tournament starts today at Ole Monterey and concludes Thursday at Blue Hills.
Weather Journal70 Thursday to ice Sunday?