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Knights quickly go from favorites to darkhorses

From conference favorite on Friday to also-ran on Monday.

That is the perception of River Ridge's golf team, which went into last Friday's Sunshine Athletic Conference match as the favorite but is one of 13 teams gunning for favored Chamberlain in Monday's Class 6A, District 7 tournament.

Tee time is 11 a.m. at Tampa Bay Golf and Country Club, located at 11500 Old Tampa Drive in San Antonio (off State Road 52 just west of I-75).

Ron Spriggs, who has one conference title and one district runner-up finish to his credit in six seasons as the Knights' coach, acknowledges Chamberlain, led by Akio Sadakata, is the team to beat.

Still, he is not about to concede before the first swing and feels his team (15-4-1 in the regular season) is capable of pulling off an upset. After all, the Knights earned a pair of victories over the Saddlebrook Academy this season.

"I would say Chamberlain is favored," Spriggs said, adding, "We could have a good day and beat them."

That optimistic outlook stems from having five seniors, all of whom have at one time or another shot in the high-30s this season. That group of experienced players includes Kyle Eskew, Judd Duvall, Josh Reinholt, Tom Knobl and Jason Stoss.

"What I need to do to win Monday is have some kids step forward and shoot 75 or better," Spriggs said. "I'm going to have to have four scores under 80."

A few other coaches of Pasco County teams harbor no such notions.

"I'm looking for a miracle," quipped Gulf coach Paul Girardi, whose team won four of 12 regular-season matches. "I'd just kind of like to see my kids play well."

Girardi would be content if Rafael Luciano, Jay Facemire and Ben Piehl could lower their averages from the low- to mid-40 range.

While Ridgewood coach Gary Anders does not believe his team is on a par with Chamberlain, he feels Rams senior Joey Hudson could give the front-runners a scare.

With 18 holes played in the district tournament compared to nine holes in the regular season, there is a wider margin for error. Girardi, for one, feels it is tough to come back from spring break and then have his players compete in matches twice as long.

"It's like playing a six-inning baseball game and a nine-inning baseball game," Girardi said.

Either way, the additional holes could work to a good player's benefit.

"Golf's the kind of game where you're going to make mistakes," Girardi said. "You're going to make bogeys. You just can't make too many of them."

6A-DISTRICT 7 BOYS GOLF

WHERE: Tampa Bay Golf and Country Club, 11500 Old Tampa Drive, San Antonio (off S.R. 52 just west of I-75).

WHEN: Monday at 11 a.m.

SCHOOLS: Chamberlain, Gaither, Gulf, Hillsborough, Jefferson, King, Land O'Lakes, Leto, Plant, Ridgewood, River Ridge, Springstead and Tampa Bay Tech.

BOYS TO WATCH: Jordan Code, T.J. Heidel, Charlie Hughes and Akio Sadakata (Chamberlain); Fred Sutton (Gaither); Jay Facemire (Gulf); Jody Kaplon (King); Chris Mann (Land O'Lakes); Mike Shea and Jeremy Strickland (Plant); Joey Hudson (Ridgewood); Judd Duvall, Kyle Eskew and Josh Reinholt (River Ridge).

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