Northland Prep Academy boys golf is in an unprecedented place, in legitimate contention for one of the top spot in the Division III state tournament.
The Spartans, who finished 13th last season, have what they feel is the deepest roster in team history. Currently ranked No. 5 in the division with several regular-season tournament wins behind them, the program has a feeling that something special could happen Monday and Tuesday at the final in Tucson. Even a top-10 ranking would be the best finish at the state tourney, and the Spartans are aiming for more than that.
“I truly think this is our best chance to really do something, make some noise at state,” added senior Caiden Cardiff.
Cardiff is one of just two seniors who regularly start on the varsity squad. Meanwhile, the rest are underclassmen. With a relatively young squad, it was uncertain whether Northland Prep would have a good lineup. All six players on the roster have impressed, though.
But they placed high in a competition, then another, and another. Most recently, the Spartans took third overall in the High Desert Invitational, hosted by Chino Valley, and Cardiff and junior Kendall McCain took first and second, respectively, in the individual competition.
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The level all of the players stepped up to, despite some youth, was promising early in the season.
“Seeing them at the first few practices, we knew that these young guys would help us be a good team. We felt they could push us,” junior Jacob Frate said.
The state tournament is being played at the Omni Tucson National Catalina Course in Tucson, providing great golf conditions for the participants. The Spartans, however, are more used to the cold, windy days of early spring in Flagstaff and other parts of northern Arizona.
Great weather and a dry course could prove an advantage for Northland Prep, as it will probably be the best conditions the Spartans have had at a tournament all season and give them an edge.
The lack of traditional golfing weather in Flagstaff, McCain said, has given the Spartans a bit of a mental edge.
“Nobody sees us coming. We’re the school in Flagstaff where in the winter we can’t play. We don’t have yearround golf,” he said. “That’s humbling, but it’s also motivating to be able to say that we still beat teams even with that disadvantage.”
With a young roster, the Spartans could build a foundation for the future with a solid finish in Tucson. However, the new players are out there to support the veterans in an attempt to take advantage of a chance to score high that doesn’t always present itself like Monday and Tuesday do.
“It might be the best team we’ve had here, and maybe the best we’ll ever be at NPA,” said freshman Dallin Stephens. “So it would mean everything to have a good state tournament, because we don’t know if we’ll be able to do this or the year after. It might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”