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League title to lose?

West Ranch remains favorite to repeat, will face tough test in Vikes

Posted: March 23, 2009 11:42 p.m.
Updated: March 24, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
It comes around the same time every year.

Tony Moskal, the boys varsity golf coach at Golden Valley, spouts a load of truth with a heavy dose of humor before the Foothill League golf season tees off.

Known in the Santa Clarita Valley for the past couple of years as the premier color man for high school football contests on radio and TV, the blunt, yet knowledgeable New Yorker did it again.

"I want to congratulate West Ranch for winning the Foothill League title," he said, nearly a week before the first Foothill match.

The humor was evident, but the truth might not be that far behind as the Wildcats are the consensus favorite this year.

But the defending league champions do have one squad leering over its shoulder with every putt, punch and pound.

That team would be Valencia.

"They're favored, but look out for us," said Valencia head golf coach Rusty Swisher of the Wildcats and his team.

They're favored for good reason.

West Ranch returns an improved and much-more carefree J.J. Holen and a number of other low-shooting golfers.

Holen, still just a sophomore, burst onto the scene last year by shooting near par nearly every time out.

Though fellow sophomore and All-Santa Clarita Valley golfer Jay Lim transferred to La Canada, West Ranch still might be the most talented group in the valley.

Collin Wheeler, who won the Newhall Land Cup as a sophomore but missed most of last season because of ineligibility, looks to turn in a full season in 2009.

Increasing West Ranch's fortunes is veteran Clayton Thatch's ability to shoot low and enough depth on the back end of the team to keep scores low.

The Wildcats shot a school record 359 on March 10.

West Ranch's goals aren't just league-related, but head coach Jeff Holen said it wouldn't be unrealistic for his team to compete for a CIF-Southern Section regional title and individual playoff success as well.

Holen realizes, though, that as others have showered the Wildcats with pre-league accolades, the Foothill will be more competitive this year. West Ranch ran away with the title in 2008.

"It's definitely not going to be as easy as last year," Jeff Holen said. "Valencia has some players."

Valencia makes a good argument about its talent level compared to the other schools in the valley.

Based on experience, senior Max Homa would have to be the league's leading MVP candidate.

Now in his fourth year, Homa has consistently been in the upper echelon of valley golfers, finishing second to Hart's Johnny MacArthur last year.

Valencia also has solid golf experience in senior Alex Macaluso, who could challenge for medalist in every Foothill match.

Freshman Jonathan Chang is another reason why Valencia will be a challenger to the league throne.

Chang's stroke average coming into league play is a team best 72.6.

The Vikings will need consistency from the bottom half of its lineup, though.

As for the third position in league, which would be the league's final playoff team, Hart and Saugus believe they can challenge.

But for the first time in recent memory, Canyon might have a say in it.

Three varsity veterans - Justin Golden, Hunter Bench and Paco Franco - can all shoot in the 70s.

Yet Saugus and Hart may have more cohesive scoring.

Hart head coach Pete Calzia even thinks his squad can push West Ranch and Valencia.

"We could put some pressure on, but haven't hit our strides yet," Calzia said.

The best of Hart's bunch is Tanner Diaz.

An All-SCV golfer as a junior, Diaz expects to be even better this season.

Hart is upperclassmen heavy, with seniors Mitch Camerano and Andrew Maly providing support.

Hart's best score this year is 402, one better than Saugus.

The Centurions are led by a senior, as well, in Justin Hancock.

Sophomore Andrew Moore is pushing him for the top spot, though.

Golden Valley also has room for hope at both spectrums.

Senior Austin Wolitarsky shoots in the 70s and freshman Kai Bragg has shown a lot of potential.


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