Longhorns have sights set on additional state success
by Carlton D. White
March 10, 2014 11:56 PM | 2612 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Kell golf team, from left, Ryan Hines, Matthew Hines, Mark DeCoster, P.J. Varner, Eli Newsom and coach Craig Hines, has solidified itself as one of the best programs in the county. The Longhorns are looking for their third straight finish in the state’s top 10.
The Kell golf team, from left, Ryan Hines, Matthew Hines, Mark DeCoster, P.J. Varner, Eli Newsom and coach Craig Hines, has solidified itself as one of the best programs in the county. The Longhorns are looking for their third straight finish in the state’s top 10.
With 16 consecutive region championships and multiple state tournament appearances, Harrison has proven that it’s an established boys golf program.

Kell would like the same kind of consistency the Hoyas have, and after three straight state playoff showings, the Longhorns are certainly on their way.

Since 2011, when Michael Hines shot 67 to win the Class AAAA individual state championship and Kell finished seventh overall as a team, the Longhorns have made two more state tournament trips and placed in the top 10 each time.

The program won its first region title in 2012 — Matthew Hines was the region runner-up — and went on to finish sixth in the state. Last year, Kell placed third in the region to qualify for sectionals, and Mark DeCoster was the region runner-up. At sectionals, the Longhorns beat the advancing score to qualify for a third straight state tournament where the team placed ninth.

With a group that includes DeCoster, a senior, juniors P.J. Varner and Matthew Hines, and freshmen Ryan Hines and Eli Newsome, Kell coach Craig Hines hopes to begin rivaling the success and consistency of a team like Harrison.

“The hardest thing for coaches to do is to establish a tradition of consistency in winning,” Craig Hines said. “First you have to have good players, and once you establish success, the standard is created for what’s expected. With our two freshmen, they know what they need to do during the year and in the region tournament and the goal is to get to the state tournament.

“They see that you don’t just play high school golf when the season starts. All of my guys will go through that, then right into their summer, fall and winter schedules. They start playing tournaments year round and it dominoes. Before you know it, you’re pretty consistent.”

DeCoster, Varner and Matthew Hines have all been with the program since they were freshmen.

“They’ve all participated in the state tournament,” Craig Hines said. “So we have a tradition and a goal started now to qualify for the state championship, contend to be a region champion and finish in the top 10 at the tournament every year.

“With the guys we have, we’ve grown accustomed to doing that. So, when we get into that region tournament or into sectionals, they know what they’re supposed to do.”

Like Harrison and Kell, the boys program from Mount Paran Christian hopes to make a return after finishing fourth in the state last year. Lassiter is also looking to get back, while Walton wishes to return after failing to advance out of the sectional round.

The Hoyas return nearly their entire lineup, including Nick Bell, Sam Maryland, Matt McMahon, Luke Schniederjans and Jacob Eanes. Harrison won its 16th straight region title and placed 15th at state a year ago.

Mount Paran, which won the Region 4A crown and placed fourth in the state, returns its entire starting lineup, including Tyler Young, Mack Alford, John Busby, Davis Hall, Jameson Versteeg, Patrick McGeary and Jake McWhorter. The Eagles are hoping that experience can lead to the school’s first state championship.

Billy LeProhon anchors a Lassiter team that graduated three four-year starters and tied for sixth in the state last year, while Walton, which returns John Yi, Michael Sheehan, Connor Edison, Matt Flynn and Andrew Yowell, hopes to bounce back from a fifth-place showing at the region meet.

Individually, Kennesaw Mountain’s Jonathan Keppler, Hillgrove’s Tyler Cunningham and Walker teammates Joe Reich and Johnny Hsu are also looking to return to the state meet.

Walton, Harrison and Mount Paran Christian have been the most consistent teams on the women’s side in recent years.

The Lady Raiders return three of their top four golfers — Abbey Williams, Lindsay Seagraves and Autumn Gabe — who led the team to a tie for fifth at last year’s state tournament. Walton’s depth and experience with other new and returning golfers should keep Walton in contention for a state championship.

The Lady Hoyas bring back two starters — Hailey Willman and Caroline McLeod — from the team that won its 16th straight region title and placed 10th at state.

After years of success in Class A, Mount Paran Christian will not field a varsity team this season due to a lack in participation. Only Madison Laton returned from last year’s Region 4A runner-up squad that also placed sixth in the state.

Individually, Whitefield Academy’s Madison Barnett also wants to return to state after tying for seventh last year.

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