On to the next round

Winning a sectional title was new to Brookfield and coach Larry Smoot. So was celebrating it.

The Warriors won the Division III sectional at Riverview Golf Course on Wednesday, the first such title in as long as Smoot or Brookfield athletic director Tim Taylor can remember. When their 18 holes were over, the Warriors sat in the clubhouse and waited to hear if they finished in the top three and advanced,

“The director, he told us that we had won, but they were in a hurry to get the playoff going between the individuals in third place,” said Smoot, explaining his reaction when told they took first place. “So, everyone left the building, and it was sort of like, ‘OK.’ So we got our paperwork and everything, got the handshake, and we knew we took first, but they had to take care of (the playoff), so we sort of just slipped away like any other normal event.

“It was funny.”

The Warriors enjoyed their last laugh, and they’ll have company from Trumbull County at the district tournament next week at Tannenhauf Golf Club in Alliance.

Brookfield’s score of 324 was one stroke better than John F. Kennedy’s 325. Bristol was third at 336. The top three teams and top three individuals not on a qualifying team advanced to the district. Individuals who qualified were McDonald’s Joey Ragazzine (78) and Mathews’ Ryan Kay (83), who won a three-person playoff with teammate Anthony Oulton and Windham’s Benjamin Knight.

The Warriors’ Conner Stevens, just a freshman, was the medalist as he fired a 73, recording a 36 on the front nine and a 37 on the back. Fellow freshman Justin Atkinson shot an 82. Senior Bryce Schell recorded an 83, and Nate Smoot posted an 86.

Stevens held off JFK’s Jimmy Graham, who carded a 74 and was runner-up.

“You wouldn’t have known if it was some silly match against any team or something with this much value on it,” Smoot said of Stevens’ demeanor. “He has always been like that, since day one. He’s played in big tournaments (in the offseason). He’s walked in these footsteps before. He knows what he’s doing.”

So does JFK. The Eagles had won six straight sectional titles, but coach Jim St. George was just fine with advancing as a runner-up. This was the first time JFK had its full team playing at once as senior Ryan Theis returned from a season-long shoulder injury. He impressed St. George with two steady rounds of 40 for an overall score of 80. That was second to Graham’s 74.

“Theis with a pair of 40s was outstanding,” he said. “He probably could have broke 80, but I did not expect that out of him.

“I was very pleased with the way the boys performed.”

JFK senior Nick Macali fired an 81, Gannon Fridley added a 90 and first-team all-conference senior Ryan Galle shot 93.

The veteran group is no stranger to the district tournament. St. George said their experience could play a big role.

“It’s more of a mental game at districts,” he said. “The district is the pressure-cooker because only two (teams and individuals not on a qualifying team) go (to state). Four of my five guys have experience, so I really think that’s going to carry over.”

One team new to the situation is Bristol, who edged McDonald’s 340 by four strokes. The Panthers were a perfect 13-0 during the regular season but were seen as a slight underdog behind Brookfield, JFK and McDonald.

They found their way to the district tournament with consistency as four players shot under 90, led by Daniel Lamosek’s 78.

“It’s been so long, I don’t even know,” said sixth-year Panthers coach Doug Seeman of the last time Bristol advanced to the district tournament. “My AD and I were talking about it, and we’re going to have to dig into the record books.”

Freshman Anthony Clark followed Lamosek with an 84. Senior Cody Noga added an 85, and Jakob Webb clubbed an 89. Expectations go out the window now for the Panthers, who are happy to be in this position.

“We had a really great season, and we wanted to do well today, but the pressure is off of us now,” he said. “We’re just free-wheeling it, and we’re just going to do the very best we can next Thursday.”

Brookfield, the champions of the All-American Conference’s Blue Tier, is trying to do something it hasn’t done since 1964 – reach the state tournament.

“These are schools that the kids have played,” said Smoot of Brookfield’s district opponents. “Our group feels like they have as good of a chance as anyone else.”