GRANVILLE - The St. Clairsville Red Devils are headed back to the Ohio High School Athletic Association State Golf Tournament.
The Red Devils fired a 315, which was good enough for the second and final spot in next week's state tournament, which will be held at Ohio State University's Scarlet Course on Friday and Saturday.
The Devils were a stroke behind their season-long nemesis East Liverpool and finished two ahead of Columbus Bishop Watterson to earn the return trip after their efforts at the Granville Country Club.
ST. C. senior Zach Keylor tracks his shot during a tournament earlier this season. Keylor won the district with a round of 74 and helped lead the Devils back to the state tournament.
"It was a fantastic day," said St. C. head coach Rick Oberdick. "I said last week it's how good you can play today and we were good enough today. We left a few strokes out there and we feel like there are a couple of places we could have done better, but these kids troopered through. You just never know which one of these guys is going to step up."
Oberdick altered the Red Devils' schedule some this season. The varsity squad played in mostly all 18-hole matches and faced as tough of competition as he could find to set up for the tournament.
However, the Red Devils had hit a little of a "lull" as they finished second to the Potters in the OVAC and sectional and just weren't playing as well as they had earlier in the season.
"There was definitely a concern because we got off to such a hot start," Oberdick said. "Not winning the OVAC was a little disheartening, but one of the kids said, '(going to state) makes up for not winning the OVAC.' Those are neat comments because this is where you really have to step up. These kids had the confidence they could do it."
To help combat the nervous energy, Oberdick changed things up a little bit for his team. He sent them to the course in their older golf shirts and shorts, which was different than during the sectional when they broke out new shirts.
"We had to do something to ease the pressure a little bit," Oberdick admitted. "The competition was tough this year and I know Watterson is for real. They beat Park earlier this season, so the competition was better than last year and this course was tough, too."
Leading the way for the Red Devils was senior standout Zach Keylor, who fired a solid round of 2-over 74.
Keylor's effort was good enough for co-medalist along with East Liverpool's Blake Prince.
The round didn't start well for Keylor. He went out and shot the first four holes in 3-over par, but finished the round at 1-under.
"I got real lucky on a few holes and I battled," Keylor said. "I had some putts begin to fall and I started to gain some momentum."
Junior Seth Vannoy, who transferred to St. C. from Marietta last winter, was the second best score for the Devils with a solid round of 5-over 77. Adam Jeffries had a round of 81 and senior Caden Myers finished with an 83 to round out the scoring. Included in Myers' round was an impressive 1-under on the backside, which Oberdick said was the tougher half of the course.
Keylor was especially proud of how the entire team battled its way through the windy conditions on a difficult track, which included fast and challenging greens.
"We weren't playing well as a team, but we all kept battling," Keylor said. "Every shot mattered from all of us. We all just hung in there."
The Red Devils will learn their tee times later in the week, but they're soaking up the opportunity to go back to the state tournament after they finished eighth a season ago at the tournament, which was held at the Northstar Gold Resort in Sunbury.
"I think this means even more than last year because of the pressure of getting back," Keylor said. "Not too many teams get to go once, but to get to go twice, it's just a great accomplishment."
Oberdick and his players talked on the way back to Belmont County about improving on last year.
"We would love to end up on the podium and if we shoot our best, at the right time, we're capable," Oberdick said.
Martins Ferry also took part in the district tournament. The Purple Riders put forth a solid sixth-place finish with a score of 329.
Senior Andrew Chlon led the Riders with a score of 77. Chase Stuckey posted an 81, while Taylor Shane checked in with an 83. Zac Riggenbach finished with an 88 to round out the Riders' scoring.