Liberty surging toward district

Gary Knittle was under the impression the Liberty High School boys golf team would be in the Division II sectional this year, facing the likes of Lakeview, Ursuline and Cardinal Mooney for a shot at district play — something the Leopards haven’t done for quite a while, if ever.

It’s a daunting task heading to the Windmill Lakes Course in Ravenna.

You can say it was a nice surprise when he and his team found out Liberty was in the Division III sectional at Riverview Golf Club — a course they’re quite familiar with.

Knittle said he and his team will get in a couple of practice rounds before Tuesday’s Brookfield Invitational. It’s less than a month to go until the sectional.

It’s a course senior Andy Everly is happy to play.

“At Riverview you can hit the ball basically anywhere you want, except for a few spots,” he said. “At Windmill you have to hit it long and straight if you want to have a chance of scoring there.”

This season, Liberty’s golf team has put up low marks following last season’s 10-4 mark in the All-American Conference, Blue Tier.

It’s not a surprise the Leopards started the season 9-2 after Wednesday’s tri-match between LaBrae and Newton Falls. The Leopards are 8-2 in the AAC Blue. It’s the best start in the seven years Knittle has been coach.

“We kind of saw this coming,” Knittle said. “They’ve put it all together and I’m very pleasantly surprised.”

Andy and Mike Everly, not the singing brothers, but more of the golfing type, average 41. Mike is a junior.

Senior Nick Longo struggled to start the season with a 44 average, but with recent scores of 37, 37 and 39, he’s brought it down with Andy and Mike.

His swing has changed.

“Getting long and straight off the tee,” Longo said. “I’m hitting more of the center of the green. Giving me more of a chance to score.”

The Leopards have been struggling to find a fourth player to consistently go with the top three.

Junior Anthony Marsco, who is in his second year of golf, is being brought along. He is the normal fourth golfer. However, newcomer and junior Michael Walker and senior Jordan McFadden have each reached the top four a couple of times. They are battling for the fifth spot, but McFadden may have the edge.

“We knew going into this year we had a legit chance to do something special,” Andy Everly said. “We still believe that. We’re trying to find our fourth man to make that team solid.”

Tuesday, Liberty is at the Brookfield Invitational with other area teams. Thursday, the Leopards are at Yankee Run against Brookfield.

The two teams know each other well, are good friends and have maintained a good rivalry the past couple of seasons.

“We look forward to the Brookfield match,” Knittle said. “They know they’re good. They looked at the score Tuesday and said, ‘We shot a 167. They shot a 168.’ They know it can be done.

“We just have to come out in all four. We’ve got to have our three play well and get that fourth score down a little bit. It’s a great little rivalry we’ve had the last three years.”

Liberty is in the Division III District at Riverview Golf Club this year, facing the likes of last year’s district champion and favorite Brookfield, Bristol and McDonald. Liberty hopes it can be one of the three to make it out of sectionals.

“They believe they’re part of the top three,” Knittle said.