VASSALBORO, Maine — Experience and depth were the keys to winning the high school golf state team championships Saturday at Natanis Golf Course.
Gorham and York high schools used experience to win classes A and B, respectively, and St. Dominic Academy of Auburn used its depth to defend its Class C crown after graduating four of five competitors from last year’s title squad.
Gorham won in Class A with a day’s-best total of 309 on the Tomahawk course, York took its fourth straight Class B crown with a 311, also on Tomahawk, and St. Dominic retained the C title by posting a 319 on the Arrowhead layout.
St. Dom’s coach Kevin Cullen was ecstatic about his team’s performance in winning their fourth title in seven years.
“This one was the most emotional for me because nobody gave us a chance,” he said.
That’s because he had to bring up a lot of new golfers to the varsity level.
“This is a totally different team [from previous years],” said Cullen, whose Saints also won in 2007 and ’08. “We graduated six of our top seven from last year.”
The Saints’ only returnee was No. 1 man Zack DeBlois, who shot a 2-over-par 74.
“The rest moved up from JV,” said Cullen, “and they did better than any other team I’ve had.”
Cullen believes his Saints set a state mark with their score.
“The best score we ever had was 321 six years ago,” said Cullen. “To break 320 in Class C is awesome.”
Cullen gave credit to his top golfer.
“DeBlois has been a major rock the last four years,” Cullen said. “He has been a true leader of this team. We practice every Saturday, and he’s right there [helping his teammates]. It made a big difference.”
After DeBlois, the other four Saints were Mike Richard with 79, John Marcous 80, Andrew Marcous 86 and Mitch Lorenz 88.
Perennial Saints nemesis Houlton — which won in 2006, 2009 and 2010 — finished second with a 342, Winthrop was third with 351, followed by George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill at 355 and Deer Isle-Stonington at 356. Sam Grindle led the Mariners by tying for the day’s low round with a 69.
The four best scores of the five-player squads determine the team score. Ties are broken using the fifth score.
In Class A, Greely of Cumberland Center was second among the 12 teams with a 314, followed by Cheverus of Portland at 316, Falmouth at 319 and Bangor with 325.
In Class B, York bested Maranacook of Readfield by 13 strokes in the 13-team field. Yarmouth and Camden Hills tied at 332 with Yarmouth winning the tiebreaker. Cape Elizabeth was fifth at 336.
Gorham coach Rick Altham pointed to No. 3 man Nathan Roop, a senior whose 1-over-par 73 cemented Gorham’s victory over the 11 other teams. Roop was the last member of the five-man team to post a score and it closed out all hope for the Rams’ challengers.
“Roop had his best tournament round ever,” said Altham.
The Rams were upset when Falmouth won a year ago and were determined to go out on a strong note.
“This year, the kids made it their ultimate year,” said Altham. “Last year, they lost by a stroke [to Falmouth]. This year they were determined from the get-go.”
Roop’s effort backed teammates Mike Caron (77), Spencer LaPierre (76), Andrew Scontras (83) and Brian Rex (87).
York coach Steve Freeman admitted he was a little worried before the round started.
“I was very concerned they were too hyped up,” he said. “They knew it was something they wanted to do.”
As long as he kept them from being too excited, Freeman felt the Wildcats would be OK.
“They were very focused,” he said. “They knew what they had to do and what they had to shoot.”
For Peter Carley, the Wildcats’ No. 1 player, his emotions were still running high after it was all over.
“We wanted to end [their high school careers] with a state championship and we did it,” said Carley. “It couldn’t have ended any better.”
Carley shot a 79 for York, one of four that the team posted Saturday.
Kyle Cone led the Wildcats with a 75, Luke Claflin shot 79, Hayden Pate 78 and Morgan Briggs 92. All but Briggs are seniors.
“For the seniors, this was our last year, and we all came through,” said Carley excitedly. “This is the best it’s ever felt.”
Camden Hills coach Mark Wallace likes the progress his young Windjammers are making. They have three sophomores and a freshman among their top five.
“I didn’t even think about catching York,” he said. “We’ve been on a four-year plan [to improve] and this is year two. They’ve outperformed the plan. This was awesome.”
Wallace already are looking forward to 2013.
“I’ve got a whole bunch of kids dying to play golf,” he said.