By KEVIN HARRIS
FLOYDS KNOBS —
On paper, it appears the Floyd Central boys’ golf team has a great chance to vie for another state championship this season.
The Highlanders have three key players back from their team that finished fifth in the 2012 IHSAA State Finals at The Legends Golf Club in Franklin. Coaches across the state have taken notice of Floyd Central’s potential in 2013 by ranking it third in the Indiana High School Golf Coaches Association preseason poll.
But as far as Highlanders’ coach Mike Cason is concerned, this team has some work to do if it is going to reach the state finals for the fifth consecutive season and win the program’s third state title.
“We’ve got some kids coming back with a lot of experience,” said Cason, who led the Highlanders to back-to-back state championships in 2006 and 2007. “But we’re going to have to develop some guys to get them better. We’ve got to bring those guys along.”
Floyd Central’s top three players are seniors Daniel Shepard and Devin Jenkins and junior Jack Sparrow.
Jenkins finished third in the season-opening Fuzzy Zoeller Invitational on Saturday at Covered Bridge Golf Club in Sellersburg with a 1-over-par 73. Shepard fired a 76, while Sparrow had an 82.
Shepard, who finished eighth at state last year, and Jenkins will both play NCAA Division I golf at IPFW next season.
But Cason says the Highlanders need to have someone shoot low, consistent scores at both the No. 4 and 5 positions for them to have a legitimate shot at a state crown.
Floyd golfers who are expected to fill those holes are senior Alex Beyer, junior Connor Welch and sophomore Eric Lamm. Cason also says sophomore Clayton Crum has a chance to be a solid player despite having limited experience on the links.
Even though Cason believes his players, especially his veterans, are motivated to redeem themselves at state this season, they need to work on some things to reach their potential.
“I think they’re pretty hungry. But this is a different kind of season. It doesn’t feel like a veteran team to me,” said Cason, who lost two of his top players to graduation in Austin Peckham and Jay Holderman. “We need someone in the fourth and fifth spot to step up.”
One thing that has Cason concerned is the work ethic of some of his players during the offseason. The Floyd Central boss expected some his troops to enhance their skills more.
“I’ve been disappointed in a few of them, quite frankly,” Cason said. “But that could be a blessing in disguise because they might have been burned out a little bit on golf. They are a tough team to figure out. But my job is to get these kids to play better, and that’s what we’ll do.”
A challenging schedule should prepare the Highlanders for the postseason, where they will run into some of the best teams in the state.
After finishing second at the Zoeller Invitational this past weekend, Floyd Central will compete in the Hall of Fame tournament at Rock Hollow Golf Course in Peru next weekend.
On Saturday, April 13, the Highlanders will play in the Tiger Invitational at Stonehedge Golf Club in Winona Lake, followed by the Spring Preview tournament on Saturday, April 20 at The Legends Golf Club. Floyd Central also will compete in the Bloomington North Invitational on Saturday, May 4 at the Indiana University course in Bloomington.
“We’re going to be playing a lot of different courses this year, so that should get us ready for state,” Cason said.
REST OF THE AREA TEAMS
Led by juniors Tony Wagoner III and T.J. Fraley, coach Tony Wagoner II says it is one of the most talented teams he has had since he took over the Braves. But Borden is young with sophomore Elijah Franklin and freshmen Reilly Gray, Kamden Hurst and Niko Frascella.
“I think we’ll show a lot of improvement this season,” the elder Wagoner said. “We play in four 18-hole invitationals and an 18-hole match with Henryville, so that should help us.”
The Pirates’ top two players are seniors Chris Braun and Jordan Scott, and sophomore Brady Christman is one of C’town’s key returnees. Coach Adam Tolliver expects contributions from freshmen Cody Donahue and Andrew Shaw.
“I think Braun and Jordan will carry us,” Tolliver said. “[Braun’s] got a good attitude and will probably shoot in the low 40s for us.”
Senior Jayson Arrell hopes this is the year he advances to regional. He came up two strokes shy of making it out of sectional as a sophomore and missed a regional berth by one shot at last year’s sectional.
Arrell’s supporting cast will be senior Chris Kidd, who Warriors’ coach Tim Byrd said has improved his game in the offseason, and freshmen Nathan Bilkey and Logan Cooley.
Senior Nick Cappola will be the Generals’ No. 1 player as he was one stroke shy of advancing to regional at last year’s sectional. Cappola’s teammates are Bryce Henry, Charlie Lauffer and Luis Bisoso.
New coach Jason Nelson has the Musketeers’ No. 1 player back in Tyler Neal and welcomes a talented freshman in Nicholas Emmert.
“We’re still trying to figure out what we can do,” Nelson said. “Our goal is to get better every day and so far we’ve been doing that.”
The Hornets will have their hands full trying to fill the void left by Evan Embry, who qualified for state last season. Henryville has two seniors in Mitchell Fields and Cameron Furnish, a pair of sophomores in Bailey Reister and Charlie LeFevere and five freshmen.
“Our goals, individually and as a team, are to be competitive in all events, win our conference, and advance in the state tournament,” Henryville coach Robin Embry said. “However, my main goal each season for each player is to commit themselves, develop a great work ethic, and to play with integrity and character. When we do this, the other stuff takes care of itself.”
Coach Dusty Corum welcomes back three players to his top five in seniors Jordan Lacy and Dalton Naiser and junior Dillon Willis. Junior Blayze Damron and sophomore Evan Craig move up into the top five, and Corum expects contributions from freshman Jake Mellon and Zach Brinkly.
“We’ve got a lot of guys and they’ve shown improvement from last year. As for overall performance, we’re looking to be better than we were last year,” Corum said. “Dalton Naiser and Jordan Lacy will be the two key players to carry the team forward.”
The Bulldogs have four veteran players back in seniors Garrett Arnold and Dustin Miller and juniors Jonny Smith and Bret Walts. New Albany coach Rick Belcher also says freshman Addison Greenwell has lots of potential.
“We’re fairly good. We’ve got a lot of upperclassmen,” Belcher said. “Bret has really worked on his game. Addison is going to be on the golf course every day. Those young kids are going to get better and probably push those top kids to get better, I hope.”
The Mustangs’ top two players are sophomores Matthew Wilson and Jake Zimmerman, while senior Wesley Napier returns to the team after a two-year hiatus. New Washington has three sophomore newcomers who have never played golf before in Collin Schindler, Nolan Burton and Caleb Griffith.
“Our No. 1 and 2 golfers have room to improve, no doubt,” new Mustangs’ coach Bret James said. “But I think we can get them where they need to be.”
A veteran roster returns for the Pioneers, who will try to make their sixth state finals trip in a row. Senior Cory Cahalan will lead the squad and should get lots of support from seniors Max Hupp and Robert Waiz and sophomore Mitchell Allender.
Providence also have a couple of talented freshmen in Kevin Crone and Max Leist. Crone paced the Pioneers at Saturday’s Zoeller Invitational with a 76.
The Pioneers will be tested by a tough schedule that includes the Spring Preview meet at Legends, the Bloomington North Invitational and the Legends of Providence Invitational on Saturday, May 25 at Champions Pointe Golf Club in Memphis.
“This team has the potential to be better than the teams from the last two years. If everybody can step up a couple of strokes, I think we can be hard to deal with during the season,” Providence coach Ken Allender said. “Our schedule is also very challenging. We’ve got four of the biggest invitationals in the state that we’re going to, so we’re going to face a lot of top-notch opponents in the state.”
With four sophomores and one freshman, the Dragons have lots of room for improvement. They will be led by sophomore Sam Garr, who has a shot of qualifying for regional this year according to Silver Creek coach Joe Ledbetter.
The rest of the Dragons’ lineup includes sophomores Max Moore, Nick Tinsley and Dylan Dean and freshman Cody Zimmerman.
“As a group, we’re still inexperienced,” Ledbetter said. “Sam is our most experienced player by far. He has played lots of summer golf, and he works hard on his game. Max has improved.”
Note: Information on Rock Creek Academy’s boys’ golf team could not be obtained at press time.