North Carroll golf coach Bill McDonald won't have to worry about retooling for a while.
Despite a roster dominated by sophomores, the Panthers began the season 7-0 and will be among the favorites to qualify for their third-straight state tournament at tomorrow's Class 4A-3A District I championships at Wakefield Valley Golf Club in Westminster.
"Our sophomores are the strength of our team," said McDonald, who has eight 10th-graders on the roster. "The young kids that were good freshmen have gotten even better."
The Panthers feature three players - sophomores Michael Coppa, Brian Rampolla and Bryan Johnson - who have averaged under 40 (for nine holes).
Another sophomore, Matt Cheyne, has alternated the team's No. 4 spot with junior Travis Mewhirter. In high school, six players on each team compete, but only the top four scorers are counted.
McDonald attributes the success of his younger players to the time they have spent on the course - specifically at Piney Branch Country Club in Hampstead.
"These kids have been playing there since they were single-digit ages," McDonald said. "What's nice is that the other half who aren't members there work there, so they play a lot."
This season, North Carroll has defeated every county opponent except Westminster. The Panthers are scheduled to face the Owls on Oct. 10.
Westminster won last year's inaugural county tournament, thus claiming the county title. This year, however, the formula for determining the county champion has changed drastically, eliminating the possibility of top teams losing a chance for the title because of one bad day.
Now, teams score one point for each county victory throughout the season, then up to six more based on their finish at the tournament, which is scheduled for Saturday at Oakmont Green in Hampstead.
A career night
Century quarterback T.J. Willoughby threw only three touchdown passes as a junior. Given that, to call his recent game at South Carroll a career night would be an understatement.
Willoughby completed 13 of 23 passes for 289 yards and five touchdowns - three more than his previous career best - in a 42-28 win over the Cavaliers. The senior's effort earned him Chesapeake Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors.
"We have really quick outside receivers. They were just getting by everyone, and the line was giving me good time," Willoughby said. "I didn't even know I had that many [touchdowns] until someone told me." He also kicked a 37-yard field goal.
Cavs look to rebound
New South Carroll football coach Greg Mihalko wasn't overly concerned after his team's 0-2 start this season.
Having lost 21 of their 22 starters after last year's run to the Class 2A state finals, the Cavaliers are focused on progress more than records.
"We're still trying to have a self-identification of who we are and who goes where," said Mihalko, a former assistant coach. "We've just got to shore up some things and take away the big plays."
Quarterback David Ringold and receiver Jesse Meetre helped the team put up 28 points against Century - a week after getting shut out by Westminster. It then continued its progress on Thursday with a 28-7 win over South Hagerstown. To submit news and story ideas about Carroll County high school athletics, contact Rich Scherr at CarrollSports@comcast.net.