The road to the Blanchard Valley Conference golf championship runs through Van Buren.
At least it has for the last 11 years.
But the Black Knights graduated a pair of talented seniors from last year’s squad that not only won the BVC, but finished fourth in the Division III state tournament.
Don’t bet against Van Buren, though.
Even though coach Eric Heitkamp lost BVC medalist Hunter Foltz and BVC first teamer Brandon Wehrle, both of whom were four-year letterwinners, to graduation, the Black Knights have some top-notch golfers returning.
A trio of seniors, Connor Ohlrich, Noah Frederick and Quentin Weddell, return with state tournament experience to lead the Black Knights.
Ohlrich, who boasted a 40.05 average in 2017, already posted one solid finish when he was second individually in the Black Knights’ season opener at Heatherdowns Country Club on Saturday. Frederick (41.47 average) is the returning BVC Player of the Year while Weddell had a 42.4 average.
Add in junior returning letterwinner A.J. Overmyer (47.0), and the Black Knights should feature a potent lineup once again.
Lakota is also looking to defend a league title.
Coach Ty Ray’s Raiders won the first league golf championship in school history last season when they captured the Sandusky Bay Conference River Division title.
They will be solid again with sophomore SBC Player of the Year and Division II girls all-Ohioan Kyleigh Dull (38.0 average) back. Juniors Colt Dible (43.0) and Marshall Minich (45.0) and sophomores Connor Hill (46.0) and Jayden Bonnell (48.0) are also back for Lakota.
There was a change of coaches this season at Fostoria as George Scott Jr. takes over as head coach from Brian Oestreich.
As of now, Scott only has three golfers on the team. Seniors Trey Groves and Jacob Counts are both returning letterwinners while the other member of the squad is freshman Blaine Groves.
The Redmen will be hoping to get at least one more student to join the team as four players are needed to qualify for team scoring.
HEAD COACH: Ron Pahl (4th year, 19-29).
2017 DUAL MATCH RECORD/LEAGUE FINISH: 5-13/7th in Blanchard Valley Conference.
HOME COURSE: Lakeland Golf Course.
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Wyatt Lucas, sr., 50.0 average; Casey Cramer, jr., 49; Will Recker, jr., 53.
TOP PROSPECTS: Kenny Durst, sr.; Andrea Dauterman, jr.; Joel Lininger, soph.; Aiden Tiell, soph.; Evan Lieurance, fr.; Logan Hartsel, fr.
NOTABLE: Returning players Lucas, Cramer and Recker could all average in the 40s for the Redskins this season. Pahl expects his two freshmen to also crack the varsity lineup.
HEAD COACH: Eric Poffenbaugh (2nd year).
2017 DUAL MATCH RECORD/LEAGUE FINISH: 5th, Northern Buckeye Conference.
HOME COURSE: Birch Run Golf Club.
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Carter Taft, sr., 53.0 average; Mason Greene, sr., 54.0; Austin Minich, sr., 54.0; Paul Meyer, sr., 56.0.
TOP PROSPECTS: Not available.
NOTABLE: Taft was Elmwood’s No. 4 man in last year’s NBC tournament and is the Royals top returning player from a team that placed fifth in the league tournament. The Royals graduated three all-NBC players from that team, first-teamer Aaron Smith and honorable mention selections Kaeleb Borner and Braden Dauterman.
HEAD COACH: George Scott Jr. (1st year).
2017 DUAL MATCH RECORD/LEAGUE FINISH: Not available/8th in Northern Buckeye Conference.
HOME COURSE: Lakeland Golf Club.
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Trey Groves, sr.; Jacob Counts, sr.
TOP PROSPECTS: Blaine Groves, fr.
NOTABLE: Scott has taken over a Fostoria program that started last season without enough players for team scoring purposes. The Redmen will be in that situation again with just three golfers to start the season. Trey Groves and Counts do have varsity experience, though.
HEAD COACH: Mike Rietzke (4th year).
2017 DUAL MATCH RECORD/LEAGUE FINISH: Not available/3rd in Blanchard Valley Conference.
HOME COURSE: Loudon Meadows Golf Course.
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Cody Balliet, sr., 39.0 average.
TOP PROSPECTS: Owen Schumm, sr.; Layne Myers, soph.; Kiley Cline, soph.; Devin Falter, fr.; Walker Suter, fr.; Tyson Swanagan, fr.; Luke Graham, jr.
NOTABLE: After a third-place league finish a year ago, the Chieftains may be in rebuilding mode after losing a solid senior class. Balliet is back after posting a 39.0 average last year. Also of note, Kiley Cline will play with the boys team despite the Chieftains fielding a girls squad this season.
HEAD COACH: Ty Ray (4th year).
2017 DUAL MATCH RECORD/LEAGUE FINISH: 13-4/Sandusky Bay Conference River Division champs.
HOME COURSE: Sycamore Hills Golf Course.
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Kyleigh Dull, soph., 38.0 average; Colt Dible, jr., 43; Marshall Minnich, jr., 45; Connor Hill, soph., 46; Jayden Bonnell, soph., 48.
TOP PROSPECTS: Not available.
NOTABLE: The Raiders have a solid core of returning golfers that won the school’s first league title a year ago. Dull was the SBC Player of the year and a first-team all-Ohio selection in the OHSAA girls tournament. Dible and Minnich were second-team all-SBC selections as sophomores.
HEAD COACH: Scott Hall (6th year).
2017 DUAL MATCH RECORD/LEAGUE FINISH: 6-7/4th in Sandusky Bay Conference River Division.
HOME COURSE: Seneca Hills Golf Course.
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Jacob Theis, jr., 48.0 average; Eric Theis, jr., 54.0; Chris Acree, jr., 50.0; Dalton Reinhart, jr., 57.0; Devin Nye jr., 57.0.
TOP PROSPECTS: Brandon Seifert, soph.; Ethan Pahl, soph.; Cole Miller, fr.; Carson Whipple, fr.; Sam Whipple, fr.
NOTABLE: Hall has five experienced players back, but thinks he has a pair of sophomores and three freshmen that will push his returning juniors for varsity spots. There are no seniors on this year’s roster at New Riegel.
HEAD COACH: Matt Combs (12th year).
2017 DUAL MATCH RECORD/LEAGUE FINISH: Not available/5th in Sandusky Bay Conference River Division.
HOME COURSE: Green Hills Golf Course.
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Brandon Swartz, sr.; Jarett Woodall, sr.; Carson Steyer, jr.; Kaleb Wilkinson, jr.
TOP PROSPECTS: Jack DeRan, jr.; Dre Toy, soph.; Andrew Combs, fr.; Colin Nutter, fr.; Dylan Baker, fr.; Casey Clouse, fr.; Alec King, fr.
NOTABLE: Look for two or more freshmen to crack the lineup for the Stockaders this season.
HEAD COACH: Joel Ardner (2nd year).
2017 DUAL MATCH RECORD/LEAGUE FINISH: Not available/2nd in Sandusky Bay Conference River Division.
HOME COURSE: Seneca Hills Golf Course.
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Dominic Mangiola, sr., 44.0 average; Brayden Thomas, sr., 43; Maddy Brown, sr., 46; Jacob Kin, sr., 48; Will Klepper, sr., 49.
TOP PROSPECTS: None.
NOTABLE: Tiffin Calvert has just five players, all seniors, but all of them are solid golfers. Brayden Thomas returns after averaging 43.0 strokes per nine holes last season. Brown is a two-time district qualifier in the girls tournament and Ardner thinks she has a shot at qualifying for state in her final try.
HEAD COACH: Eric Heitkamp (16th year, 149-16).
2017 DUAL MATCH RECORD/LEAGUE FINISH: 9-0/Blanchard Valley Conference champs.
HOME COURSE: Red Hawk Run Golf Course.
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Connor Ohlrich, sr., 40.05 average; Noah Frederick, sr., 41.47; Quentin Weddell, sr., 42.40; A.J. Overmyer, jr., 47.
TOP PROSPECTS: Dalton Swope, jr., 55.14; Grayson Temple, jr., 49.3; Lucas Badertscher, jr., 55.8; Travis Neumeister, soph., 50.17; Max Greenawalt, soph., 51; Kaleb Bishop, soph., 58; Casey McCauley, jr.; Adam McKinniss, soph.; Carson Goble, jr.; Ethan Johnson, soph.; Alan Woodall, fr.; Ryan Strapp, fr.; Hayden Carr, fr.; Justin Overmyer, fr.; Anthony Huffman, fr.
NOTABLE: The Black Knights lost a talented senior class but return three of its top six golfers from last year’s team that won the school’s 12th straight BVC title and advanced to the Division III state meet for the eighth straight year. The past three years, Van Buren has been fourth or higher in the final state standings.