ELYRIA — All season Elyria Catholic coach Rick Montgomery tinkered with his lineup and scheduled the Panthers for tournaments where they would face bigger Division I foes with one goal in mind — getting his team ready for Tuesday, the day of the Division II sectional tournament at Forest Hills Golf Course.
The plan worked to perfection.
With four golfers all shooting 83 or lower and led by senior Josh Wells, who carded an 8-over par 78, Elyria Catholic won the sectional championship, shooting a 323 to finish six strokes ahead of second-place Lutheran West (329).
The Panthers and Longhorns will be joined at next Tuesday’s Division II district tournament at Windmill Lakes in Ravenna by Doylestown Chippewa, which finished third with a score of 347.
Chipps sophomore Jared Braman earned medalist honors with a 6-over par 76.
The story of the day was Wells, the No. 5 golfer in the Elyria Catholic lineup, putting up the third-lowest score of the day.
“I parred all of my par 3’s today. Every single one of them I hit the green. It was lovely,” Wells said. “I was expecting to shoot well but I wasn’t expecting a 78. I was thinking more low 80’s.”
It turns out the No. 5 spot is the perfect place in the lineup for Wells.
“Usually I don’t like playing high up because it’s a lot more intimidation,” he said. “The five is more relaxed. I hope I can play it more.”
Sophomore William Muzilla and junior Kyle Mahaffey each shot 81 for the Panthers and senior Devin Pluta rounded out the scoring with an 83.
Mahaffey qualified for districts as an individual last season and is the only one in the lineup with district tournament experience.
“I’m looking forward to having the whole team go and not just myself this year. It’s always good to have that support behind you,” Mahaffey said. “The past few tournaments have been kinda rough for us but today everyone was focused in. Seeing that at the start of the day kinda made me happy for everybody when I started the round.”
Montgomery knew he had talented players who could put up district qualifying numbers, he just wasn’t sure if they’d all come through on the same day.
“I knew we had the ability. This year we had some kids step it up. We were 9-2 in dual meets and all the schools in our conference were D-I except us,” Montgomery said. “I didn’t want to come in with high expectations because last year we were so disappointed when we didn’t get out. The talent was always there. It was just a matter of putting it together.”
Wells said Elyria Catholic’s challenging schedule – the Panthers beat seven Division I teams earlier in the year at Forest Hills in the Elyria Pioneer Invitational — prepared it well for sectional play.
“It helped so much. All season we faced all these teams that would shoot really well, so that what I was expecting today,” Wells said. “Coming out here, it was a treat to see teams that were more middle-of-the-road, and we came out and really did well.”
Firelands sophomore Jackson Talbott came up two shots short of advancing to districts with an 83.
Lutheran West was led seniors John Smolik and Sam Spacek, who shot 77 and 81, respectively.
The Falcons finished sixth as a team, while Keystone, with all underclassmen in its lineup, finished eighth and Black River was 14th.
Elyria Catholic (323): Kyle Mchaffey 81, Devin Pluta 83, Nick Urbaczewski 91, William Muzilla 81, Josh Wells 78.
Lutheran West (329): Sam Spacek 81, John Smolik 77, Hunter West 95, Tyler Robinson 88, Jakob Gross 83.
Chippewa (347): Ben Ellis 91, Brady Barnett 88, Hunter Cichon 92, Jared Braman 76, Andrew Bertsch 96.
Medalist: Jared Braman, Chippewa, 76
Individual qualifiers (Top three individuals not on a qualifying team) advance to Division II district at Windmill Lakes): Drew Schnee, Beachwood, 80; Nate Burke, Beachwood, 80; Luke Stergar, Benedictine, 81
Other team scores: Beachwood 349, Northwestern 354, Firelands 355, Triway 357, Keystone 366, Orrville 374, Fairview 383, Norwayne 388, Benedictine 392, Holy Name 409, Black River 423
Beachwood (349): Drew Schnee 80, Nate Burke 80, Matt Blumenthal 108, Andrew Belleli 91, Patrick McCourt 98.
Benedictine (392): Luke Stergar 81, Jack Kehres 89, Steven Zachlin 107, Kevin Hurst 115.
Black River (423): Cliff Kovacic 107, Nathan Moore 119, Zach Lahood 91, Kyler Foster 106.
Fairview (383): Ryan Eckert 85, Andrew Repasy 99, Jack Munro 103,Tyler Holliday 105, Tom Biddle 96.
Firelands (355): Jackson Talbott 83, Carter Grude 97, Beau Grude 88, Jacob Newman 87, Will Foley 102.
Holy Name (409): Zach Lepkowski 89, Niko Negron 88, Sam Hauck 131, Noah Prevost 115, Matt Laspina 117.
Keystone (366): Jake Morgan 87, Ian Morgan 89, Bryan Sayers 94, Rocky Huston 96, Kyler Yusko 96.
Northwestern (354): Cal Rhamy 86, Joey Ballinger 90, Jordan Alishouse 89, Jake Hjerpe 89, Trevor Fernman 102.
Norwayne (388): Justin Melsker 86, Hunter Mueller 101, Jared Coffman 93, Tyler Sampsel 108, Andrew Jacobs 121.
Orrville (374): Jacob Banton 90, David Dilyard 94,Kaiden Domer 102, Parker Duxbury 88, Cody Weidner 102.
Triway (357): Colton Snyder 102, Spencer Schmid 85, Jake Miller 89, Griffin Braun 84, Gavin Stutz 99.