When the season began, the regional seemed a reasonably certain destination for the Franklin Community High School boys golf team.
But after a promising start, the second round of the postseason seemed less a guarantee.
Despite largely solid play, the Grizzly Cubs’ scores drifted more upward than downward and stayed that way — until the sectional.
They fired a season-low round there and now are thinking beyond the regional.
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“We feel pretty good. We played our best round of the year at sectionals, so we feel really good,” said sophomore Javan Johnson, the Cubs’ No. 1 player. “We feel really confident.
“We feel like we can be a state (qualifying) team this year.”
But first things first.
Franklin accomplished its objective of making the regional with a season-best score of 302 at the June 3 sectional at The Legends Golf Club in Franklin. The Cubs earned the third and final team spot in a highly competitive field that included top-ranked Center Grove and No. 10 Perry Meridian.
Center Grove won the sectional with a score of 287. Perry Meridian was next with 294, followed by the Cubs, whose 302 was 10 strokes better than their previous season-low score.
First-year coach Chris Kacarab has been confident all year long the Cubs are capable of shooting below 300. If they can do so at Thursday’s Providence Regional at Champions Pointe Golf Club in Henryville, they’ll be in the hunt for advancement to the June 14 and 15 IHSAA Boys Golf State Finals.
The top three teams from the regional advance to state. The Cubs’ chief contenders will, again, be Center Grove and Perry Meridian.
“Center Grove’s been putting up under-par rounds all year. Perry Meridian, likewise, has been shooting great,” Kacarab said. “Anytime you’ve got teams shooting under 300, they’re going to get attention. They’re going to get respect.
“We are on the verge of being a sub-.300 team. We’ve got the talent to do it, and we’ll see Thursday if we can make that happen.”
Early in the season, the Cubs seemed poised to be a sub.-300 team. They shot a 312 at the Center Grove Invitational at Hickory Stick and finished as runners-up.
But instead of building on the momentum, the Cubs reached a plateau. They routinely shot in the 320s for 18-hole tournaments and seldom dipped below.
But then along came the sectional and newfound confidence.
Behind the steady play of Johnson, senior Kodi Duncan, senior Blake Andrews, sophomore Matt Jordan and freshman Emerson Downing, the Cubs saved their best for the sectional and advanced to the regional for the second straight season.
“I feel like the team is peaking at the right moment,” Kacarab said. “We were around 320 all year for 18-hole invitationals, so to come out and shoot a 302 at the sectionals was a happy thing.
“We don’t have to play a record round to advance (to state). They have to play really well, but I feel like they are confident. They’re competitors, and they’re looking to advance out of regionals.”
Johnson, who shot a team-best 72 at the sectional, credits the Cubs’ resurgence to the fact they play and practice regularly at Hillview Country Club in Franklin and are friends on and off the course.
“Just playing a lot of golf together out here at Hillview, that helps a lot,” Johnson said. “And then going out to eat before and after rounds, that’s always fun.
“Team chemistry stuff really helps.”
What: IHSAA Boys Golf Regional
When: 8 a.m. Thursday
Where: Champions Pointe Golf Club in Henryville
Local teams: Center Grove and Franklin
Feeder sectionals: Bloomington North, Greensburg, Jasper, Madison, Providence, Southport
Advancement to state finals: Top three teams plus five low individuals not on advancing teams