"I think Field is head and shoulders above

By David Carducci Record-Courier staff writer Published:

"I think Field is head and shoulders above the rest of the teams in that division," said Mogadore co-head coach Tom McClary, whose team is the hands-down favorite to win the PCL National Division. "Field should be very good."

The elder statesman of the young Falcons team is junior No. 1 man Mike Rainieri.

"Mike shot 82 in the Hardy Invitational at Massillon Elms," said Field coach Rich Eden. "We finished 18th out of 28 teams in that event, and I was extremely happy."

The younger players in the Falcons' lineup have shown that they are already capable of competing.

With Rainieri missing the team's first match, freshman Brett Walchalk stepped into the No. 1 spot and competed head-to-head with Tallmadge's Chad Mosholder, who is considered one of the top players in the state.

"Brett shot 81," said Eden. "For a freshman to go up against one of the top players in the state like that and not be intimidated, I think, is pretty impressive."

Of Field's four sophomores, Ray Berry and Jesse Bruce are returning lettermen. Jeff Trout and Jake Umbright are making their first appearance on the varsity as sophomores, and senior Matt Branham is fighting for another spot.

"I think we can be very competitive, but really I'm looking forward to the future with these kids," said Eden. "These are all real quality young men. We are young, and we are only going to get better."

Southeast comes in as the defending PCL champion, after shocking Mogadore in last year's league meet.

The Pirates, however, have some question marks with a young team that features four juniors and three sophomores.

"We have only two kids returning with two years of varsity experience," said Southeast coach Dave Murray. "After that, we are starting off fresh."

The Pirates will look to experienced juniors Joe Divoky, Rance Robenstine and Matt Hricko for leadership. The trio averaged 42.5 in their qualifiers.

"All three of those guys have their strengths and weaknesses, but I'd like all three to improve in terms of their course management," said Murray. "Mental composure will be important. They tend to press a little bit, and they need to learn how to bounce back after a bad hole. That only comes with experience."

Sophomore Eddie Roberts shot a fine round of 86 in his first varsity match, and sophomore Aaron Pettigrew showed promise with an 89. Fellow sophomore Brent Hilliard appeared in five varsity matches last year and is expected to add some experience.

"I talked to the guys after the first match and told them I'd like someone to step up in a leadership role," said Murray. "Since we have no seniors, a junior may have to take that roll. We may struggle early, but that might not be too bad. We struggled early last year, and ended up winning (the league championship)."

Crestwood has a nice mix of youth and experience at the top of its lineup with senior Jeremy Bockmuller returning at No. 1, sophomore Justin Muesel returning at No. 2, and freshman Ryan Pesecky making his debut at No. 3.

Bockmuller and Muesel compliment each other with similar games in the low 40s, while Pesecky owns a 44 average and "loads of potential," according to first-year Red Devils coach Jeff Piero.

"Ryan is going to be outstanding," said Piero. "He is consistently in the low 40s. I'm really looking forward to the next four years with him."

At No. 4, the Red Devils return Matt Rihtar, who averages 46. Juniors Matt Hartman and Jeremy Johnson follow with averages of 47.

"These guys all work well together," said Piero. "I think right now the key for us is going to be putting. That part of their game needs tightening up. Hopefully, we'll continue to get better and get in good position for the (PCL Tournament). I'm looking forward to a good year."

Garfield coach Steve Howell is also looking forward to a good season.

"I think we should be much better than we were last year when we were 3-11," said Howell. "We've shown a lot of promise during the preseason."

The G-Men have interchangeable parts at the top of the lineup, with four guys capable of shooting in the low 40s, including senior Paul Miller, sophomore Chris Dyett, senior Jeremy Lemaster and Matt Szabaga.

There is little drop off in the final two spots, with Rob Layer and Zach Kissell also firing scores in the low 40s.

"It's nice that when it's close and we are down a few when our No. 3's and 4's come in, I know our five and six can really perform well," said Howell. "It's not at all unusual for our five or six to have our best scores on any given day. I think if we are going to do anything in the league, we'll do it either this year or next year. We have the potential.

"Last year, we lost most matches by a couple of strokes. Now with a little bit of maturity, we may turn those scores around."

Like Garfield, Streetsboro is set for a turnaround after going winless last season.

The Rockets already won their first match under second-year coach Jeff Rainer, with a non-league victory over National Division rival Windham.

"There's no doubt about it in my mind," said Rainer, who also coaches the Rockets' girls basketball team. "If we continue to improve like we did this offseason, we'll be a factor by next year. That doesn't mean we are throwing out this season. We are going to try to win as many matches as possible. Since I've been at Streetsboro, this is the hardest working team I've been around."

Nearly everyone in the Rockets lineup has trimmed eight to 10 strokes off their averages from last year. Junior Jason Polak has cut his average from a 56 to a 47. Russ Schaeffer shot 45 Wednesday against Windham, after averaging 59 last season.

The biggest drop has been turned in by Adam Abramowicz, whose average has fallen from a 66 last season to a 49 this year.

The Rockets received a boost with the addition of senior Greg Shepper, who transferred from Field. Shepper holds down the No. 1 spot, averaging 46.

Freshman Jeremy Knight and Josh Polak add to the Rockets potential. Knight has turned in average scores in the low 40s during practice at Raccoon Hill.

"It is a lot of fun to watch these kids get better and better," said

Rainer. "Hopefully, this can be a fun year."

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