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Foothill League boys golf preview: West Ranch story

Can the talent-rich Wildcats fend off the challengers and win another league title?

Posted: March 22, 2010 11:08 p.m.
Updated: March 23, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Valencia's Jonathan Chang will be gunning for the Foothill League championship this spring.

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Complacency is another opponent to a championship team.

For two years running, West Ranch boys golf has run away with the Foothill League title.

Yet early on in 2010, the Wildcats haven’t set the world on fire with their play.

Sure, they’ve continued to play well, yet they haven’t broken 400 this season — something they did in every Foothill match last season.

Now, could another team come in and upset the reigning champs?

Odds are, the Wildcats will win a third straight title due to the amount of talent they have.

Yet West Ranch will have its challengers — Valencia most notably.

But there are now five teams in the Foothill League who believe that they can compete for a berth in the CIF-Southern Section playoffs.

With that much competition, this year’s league matches have the potential of having different results every time out. 

Starting from the top, though, West Ranch has the golfer who everyone considers to be the top guy in the league in J.J. Holen.

Just a junior, Holen is a threat for par or below every time out.

After Holen, another underclassman, C.J. Espino, figures to add another edge for the Wildcats.

The sophomore came out of nowhere last season to post a co-medalist performance in the first Foothill match.

After those two, veteran Clayton Thatch and Luis Garcia could post sub-80 scores.

But West Ranch head coach Jeff Holen said he hasn’t seen his team’s best golf yet.

“To me, anything can happen on any given day,” he said. “Do I think (Valencia) can take us? We’re deep across the board. On any given day I think all our players can shoot mid-70s.”

But Holen said if his golfers play average and Valencia plays stellar, the Vikings could give them a run in a given match.

But can Valencia consistently do that?

The Vikings lost their best player to graduation in Max Homa.

Now a sophomore, Jonathan Chang steps in as a solid replacement.

Chang finished sixth overall in Foothill play last season.

But Valencia also lost Alex Macaluso, who was third overall in the Foothill, to graduation.

Is that too much of a loss?

“If everything works out and everyone plays to their potential, we can post four scores in the mid-70s and one in low-70s hopefully,” said first-year head coach Robert Waters.

Behind Chang, the next-best Valencia golfer was 26th overall last season — Patrick Stroh.

Yet Stroh, Daniel Kim and Matt Noltemeyer have all given Waters confidence about his team.

“We have quite a few guys stepping up right now,” Waters said. “I’m expecting good things.”

Here’s where the traffic jam begins.

Saugus, Hart and Canyon all have playoff potential.

Each team has the ability to finish in third place, or even second, in a match.

Total strokes are the measure for the playoffs and the worst score is thrown out, so one bad day isn’t costly.

Two bad days could eliminate a team.

Saugus will rely on its top three golfers to shoot low and hope the rest of its lineup plays consistently strong.

Junior Andrew Moore was Saugus’ best golfer last year, finishing 12th overall in league.

Moore has shown the capability of consistently shooting below 80.

If he, Kyle Morey and James Osborn can maintain that level of golf, Saugus has a chance.

“If our kids will just play the course smart, not try to overdo things, (that’s the key),” said Saugus head coach David Stradling. “Our (Nos.) 4, 5, 6 are about the same golfers. They’re not going to shoot even-par. (I tell them) ‘It’s not your job to do that. Make five, six pars, you’ll be in the mid-80s.’”

Hart thus far has been averaging about 420 as a team.

That would place the Indians on the outside looking in compared to last year’s numbers.

Indians head coach Pete Calzia knows that his team will have to improve if it wants to grab the No. 3 spot.

But it will have to do it with a team that’s low on experience.

The Indians had the No. 4 golfer in the league last year in Tanner Diaz, who has now graduated.

Hart has no one that ranked in the top 44 returning for this year.

Yet Calzia is confident in the abilities of senior Taylor Stimson.

Calzia said there’s also potential in sophomore Chad David, junior Robbie Witkowski and junior Tim Waschak.

“I definitely think we’re the team for that three spot,” Calzia said. “I know we’ll get competition from Saugus and Canyon, but if these players respond as I’ve challenged them, then we should be the third-place team and we can possibly challenge for the second-place team.”

Canyon has similar sights.

The Cowboys have not made the CIF-Southern Section team postseason since 1998.

It’s a very real possibility that they can make it this year.

A lot of those hopes rest on the shoulders of big-hitting senior Justin Golden.

Golden was the 10th-best golfer in the Foothill last year and Canyon has surrounded him with the most talented bunch it has seen in recent memory.

Behind Golden are his brother, Alek, and twin brothers Skyler and Logan Veis.

Canyon head coach Taggart Lee said senior Chase Malpede is another golfer capable of shooting in the 70s.

“What I see in our kids is a solid amount of dedication and the nice part is we’re having fun,” Lee said.

Golden Valley, meanwhile, has the opportunity to do something it couldn’t do on a regular basis last season — compete with a full team.

Sean Weiss, who skipped last season, is back with the Grizzlies and should provide Golden Valley with an solid No. 1.

Head coach Tony Moskal said sophomore Tyler Pearlman is an improving player with potential.

Moskal said that La Mesa Junior High, a feeder school for Golden Valley, now offers a golf class.

So the future could be brighter for the Grizzlies.

“I think so,” Moskal said. “(Things) can’t get much worse.”

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