Dublin Jerome High School boys golf coach Craig Zesiger understands that it will be difficult for his team to win a third consecutive Division I state championship after losing three of its top five players to graduation in Michael Harris, Chad Howard and Mert Selamet.
Nevertheless, the Celtics are aiming for their sixth state title in just their 10th season. They also won Division I championships in 2005, 2007 and 2011 and the Division II title in 2004.
"Our expectations are always high because of what we've been able to accomplish in a short amount of time," Zesiger said. "We haven't had a turnover of players like this before in the four seasons I've been involved with the program, but our ability to reload has been pretty impressive in the past and I'm optimistic that we have the talent in place to have another good season."
Jerome has returned its top two players in senior Brady Bohl and junior J.D. Fletcher.
Last year, Bohl carded a 161 to tie five others for 12th at state on Ohio State's Scarlet Course and Fletcher shot a 163 to tie two others for 22nd, as Jerome (630) edged Centerville (631) for the title.
Rounding out the starting lineup are sophomores Grant Lewis and Adam Stephens and freshman Jack Herceg. Junior Gabe Penegor and sophomore Camden Solomon also are expected to contribute.
"We had 27 kids try out for our team and there was a lot of good, young talent in that group," Zesiger said. "J.D. and Brady have returned to lead us and Jack has one of the best mental games that I've seen out of a young player. We have a lot of talent on our varsity B team, too, so our depth will be very good."
Jerome opened Aug. 6 by finishing fifth (308) in the 18-team Mount Vernon Country Club Classic behind champion Pickerington North (300). Herceg led the Celtics with a 1-under-par 71, followed by Fletcher (77), Lewis (77), Bohl (83) and Stephens (85).
Jerome, which is looking for its 10th league title in as many years, then shot a 292 in the first round of the OCC-Cardinal Division tournament Aug. 7 at Turnberry to finish first, ahead of Westerville Central (317), Westerville South (322), Scioto (332), Westerville North (338), Hilliard Darby (341), Hilliard Bradley (343) and Canal Winchester (453).
The Celtics shot a 299 to win the second round of the OCC-Cardinal tournament Aug. 12 at Granville Golf Course.
Jerome is hoping to win its first sectional and district titles since 2011 after finishing second at sectional at The Players Club at Foxfire and third at district at Apple Valley a year ago.
"We aren't in the strongest division of the OCC, but winning our league is one of our big goals before we turn our attention to trying to win sectional, district and state (titles)," Zesiger said. "I think our kids possess the talent level to get back to Scarlet, and once you've made it to state, anyone has a chance to win as long as you execute when it matters."
Sparling returns to lead Shamrocks
The defending Division I state champion has returned to lead Coffman.
Senior Nick Sparling carded a 145 at state last season to edge runner-up Chase Johnson of Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit (147) and become the Shamrocks' first individual state champion.
Senior Brennan Whitis also has returned for Coffman, which placed third at state a year ago with a 641, finishing 10 strokes behind runner-up Centerville. Whitis shot a 177 at state to tie three others for 57th in the 72-player field. Rounding out the roster are seniors Brandon Gray and Matt Pietrusik, junior Mehdy Slama and sophomore Keldon Fukunaga.
"Our talent level is pretty similar to last year," coach David Woodmansee said. "Nick is a great role model for the rest of our guys. We lost some good senior leaders, but the kids who were behind them worked hard and will pick up where they left off."
Coffman is looking for the OCC-Central title after placing second (24-4) to Upper Arlington (27-1) a year ago.
The Shamrocks, who won three consecutive OCC-Central titles from 2009-11, shot a 296 in the first round of the league tournament Aug. 7 at Granville Golf Course to finish first, ahead of UA (310), Olentangy Liberty (322), Marysville (331), Thomas Worthington (332), Hilliard Davidson (336), Central Crossing (348) and Westland (467). Sparling was medalist with a 64, finishing one stroke shy of the course record.
Coffman shot a 294 to win the second round of the OCC-Central tournament Aug. 12 at Apple Valley.
"We really want to win our conference badly because it's the toughest conference in the state of Ohio most years," Woodmansee said. "We won the first round, but UA was missing a couple of key players, so they will be tougher to beat in the (final) three rounds.
"Obviously, we'd love to compete for sectional, district and state titles, too."
Last season, the Shamrocks won the sectional at Darby Creek and placed second at district.
Irish coach likes team's progress
Scioto coach Roger Murphy is encouraged by what he has seen from his young team.
The Irish, whose roster is comprised of sophomores Jason Greiwe, Sam Humphries, Blake Moody, Joey Nave and Nick Pothoven and freshman Austin Dyson, are coming off a season in which they finished last (1-27) in the OCC-Cardinal and 10th (372) in the 12-team Division I sectional at The Players Club.
"We have a good team and all six of them are young players, so our future looks good," Murphy said.
Scioto finished fourth (332) in the first round of the OCC-Cardinal tournament Aug. 7 at Turnberry. Dyson carded a 75 to lead the Irish, followed by Moody (81), Nave (88) and Pothoven (88).
Scioto shot a 341 to tie Bradley for third in the second round of the OCC-Cardinal.
"We're really pleased with the progress we're making," Murphy said. "We're playing a strong schedule so we're going to be tested, but I'm optimistic that we're ready for the challenges that are ahead of us."