RIVERVIEW — Riverview High's Ian McConnell could have taken the club covers and draped them on his drivers. He could have forgotten about a return trip to the state championship, chalking it up to a vicious two-hole stretch. He could have blamed it on a course known for eating up the best golfers.
Instead, McConnell nearly did the impossible.
McConnell came within a tee's length of hitting a double eagle on the par-5 17th hole at Wentworth Golf Club and went on to take medalist honors at the 2A boys Region 4 tournament, becoming the only local player to qualify for next week's state championships.
"An eagle always helps," McConnell said.
Indeed it does. McConnell bogeyed and double-bogeyed the 14th and 15th holes, respectively, leaving him in a tie for the title with playing partner Doug Letson (Plant) through 16 holes.
Then came a moment to remember.
As the final two holes loomed, McConnell blasted a 280-yard screamer into the fairway. He then took a 3-wood from 220 yards and played a slight draw into the blustery conditions. He nearly holed out, rolling it within 6 feet of the cup. McConnell tapped in the eagle and made par on the 18th hole to finish at 72, one stroke better than Palm Harbor's Matt Cote.
With the win, McConnell will now compete in the 36-hole state tournament Tuesday and Wednesday at Providence Golf and County Club in Davenport. McConnell finished tied for 12th at 5-over par last year, rebounding from a first-day 77 with a 72.
"(I thought I played) really well, except for the first four holes," McConnell said. "I was five-over through four holes (on day one) and ended up shooting five-over for the tournament."
Considering his rough start last year at states, McConnell admitted he was "maybe a little" nervous. But he isn't counting on that feeling next week.
"I'm kind of a veteran now I guess," McConnell said. "So I know what to expect this go-round."
Durant also qualified for the state girl's team competition with a 311, three shots better than second-place Wharton. Erika Wardzinski (73) and Amy West (74) led the way for the Cougars, who will also play at the state tournament.
Armwood (7-0) at Hillsborough (5-2)
Last week: The Hawks beat Plant City, 35-0. The Terriers lost to Plant, 44-28.
Quick count: Armwood's defense is downright nasty. The front four, led by Ryne Giddens, could don USF jerseys and look right at home. Petey Smith spearheads a fierce linebacking corps, and Angelo Hadley fronts a wicked secondary. Blanking the Terriers might be a little much to expect, but it wouldn't be a surprise either.
Wright's pick: Armwood
Sarasota Booker (4-2) at Spoto (1-5)
Last week: The Tornadoes were beaten by Southeast, 20-13, and the Spartans handled Sickles, 34-14.
Quick count: If Prince were to do costume design for a football game, it would be this one. Purple will be everywhere as Spoto welcomes an extremely athletic Booker team. Keep an eye out for Booker quarterback Brock Waters, who can beat you with his feet or his arm. And for the record, my favorite Prince song is Purple Rain.
Wright's pick: Booker
East Bay (3-3) at Bloomingdale (4-2)
Last week: The Indians had a bye, and the Bulls beat Leto, 20-13.
Quick count: The Indians have lost three of their last four but had the bye last week to regroup. Bloomingdale keeps inching closer to its first season above .500.
Wright's pick: Bloomingdale
Durant (4-3) at Sarasota Riverview (4-3)
Last week: The Cougars defeated Freedom 24-21, and the Rams lost 52-20.
Quick count: The Cougars will be gearing up for Riverview coach John Sprague's 'Rambone' and the nimble feet of running back Andre Booker. But for all you Cougar fans making the trip south, stick around for the halftime show. The Rams' Kiltie Marching Band is worth it. Bagpipes are sweet.
Wright's pick: Sarasota Riverview
Lennard (3-4) at Lake Placid (1-4)
Last week: The Longhorns were crushed, 56-0, by Tampa Bay Tech, and Lake Placid lost to Mulberry, 49-7.
Quick count: The mighty Dragons have but one win on their side this season. That came at the expense of Celebration, a Class 1B school.
Wright's pick: Lennard
Newsome (5-2) at Plant City (3-4)
Last week: The Wolves blanked Riverview, 30-0, and Armwood beat the Raiders, 35-0.
Quick count: Everyone talks about Armwood's stifling defense, but how about the Wolves? Newsome has shutout three of its last four opponents, and don't be shocked if the Wolves run the table from here out.
Wright's pick: Newsome
Sarasota (2-4) at Riverview (0-6)
Last week: The Sailors had a bye week, and the Sharks lost 30-0 to Newsome.
Quick count: A quick look at Riverview's schedule reveals some pretty ominous signals. After the Sailors tonight, the Sharks face Wharton and Durant. Brandon will then be the only thing standing between this proud program and a winless season.
Wright's pick: Sarasota