GRANVILLE - The Potters are headed to the state capital.
The East Liverpool golf team finished first Wednesday at the Ohio Division II District Golf Tournament at Granville Golf Course to qualify for the Ohio State Golf Tournament Oct. 12-13 at the Ohio State Scarlet Course in Columbus.
The Potters finished first with 314. East Liverpool finished one stroke ahead of second place St. Clairsville as the Red Devils ended up shooting 315. Columbus Bishop Watterson ended up third with 317.
"It is an incredible feeling," East Liverpool head coach Ben Wright said. "I'm real happy for the kids. It's feels like we have been leading up to this point for few years. After three years of coming up just short, it is an incredible feeling to finally get there."
Getting to the state tournament was one of the Potters' goals for this season.
"That's been one of our goals," Wright said. "It's one of our goals I don't talk about much. I don't want to put any unneeded pressure on the kids, but in the back of my mind it is always a goal."
Individually for the Potters, Blake Prince earned co-medalist honors shooting a 74. St. Clairsville Zach Keylor also shot 74.
Also for East Liverpool, Joey Cilone contributed a 76, Isaac Davidson delivered an 80 and Alex Watson shot 84.
Finally, Ryian Burson recorded an 87.
"They were extremely excited and relieved," Wright said. "They know a lot of people have been following them. There were high expectations. They have gone through all kinds of emotions. They couldn't be more excited right now."
For the Red Devils, Seth Vannoy ended up with a 77, Adam Jeffries shot 81 and Caden Myers recorded an 83. Finally, Jared Bughy tallied an 86.
"We knew St. Clairsville was a tough team," Wright said. "We knew going into this that they would be one of the teams we were going to have to compete with.
"It is nice to have two teams from the Eastern District coming out of there. A lot of times we don't get enough credit. the kids on both teams get along. Our kids get along with the St. Clairsville kids. It is good that they are going down there with us. It will be nice to have someone we are familiar with down there with us."
The top two teams and the top two individuals not on a qualifying team advanced to the state tournament.
"I think half of East Liverpool knew we had qualified before we were halfway home," Wright said. "We got congratulation messages from all over the place. We have received a lot of messages. We heard from parents. We heard from people who went to East Liverpool but now who live out of state. We have heard from players I coached three or four years ago. They are sending messages. It is great."
Bexley's Grant Murphy and Watterson's Jon Ransone each also qualified for the state tournament. Both golfers shot 75.
Johnstown-Monroe's John Carlisle also shot 75, but he lost a one-hole playoff to Murphy and Ransone.
"First of all, tomorrow is going to be a rest day for the kids," Wright said about his team's plans heading into the state tournament. "Today was a very-long day. After that, we'll get back get to practice. We will practice and then we will go to a practice round next Thursday on the Scarlet Course. We are going to get back into our routine at the end of the week. We don't want to try and change anything. Everything has been working so far, so we don't want to do anything too different."
The Potters will have more than a week to prepare for the state tournament. Wright said he is not concerned about the long layoff his team will have to deal with heading into the tournament.
"No, not really," he said. "I think the kids need a day or two of rest. Today was mentally and physically taxing. Today was the toughest course we have played. It is tough not only skill-wise, but it also tests the players mental abilities.
"After today, the kids can use a couple of days to unwind. Then, we will get back to it next week. We will get back into our regular routine. Then Thursday we will have a practice round. We will play like it is the real thing.
"We will be OK. We had a layoff during the regular season. We had a week off, and we performed well after the break. We will be all right with it."
The Potters were tested at the district tournament, but in the end the East Liverpool golfers stepped up their game and came through down the stretch.
"These kids battled," Wright said. "After nine holes it didn't look good. We had to the back nine which we thought was the toughest nine. There was no give up in these kids.
"We had to make a couple of putts on the last hole to win this. Blake and Isaac were the last ones out. They had to sink puts for us to win it, and they did. These kids battled all the way until the end."
The team's achievements means a lot to the city, the community and the school.
"We have never gotten out of sectionals," East Liverpool Athletic Director Bob Shansky said. "This is the first team to make it to districts. This team has won sectionals, the district and now they are headed to the state tournament. I'm not taking anything away from any of our other teams.
"This is a great thing. The team only has one senior who actually starts. We have a young team. The team is mostly made up of freshmen, sophomores and juniors. We are hoping they do well. Hopefully, they will be back for the next three or four years.
"We would love to see their success continue. It is great for the school, and it is great for the community that these young men have been able to do that. They work hard in the offseason. They work hard in the summer. They work throughout the season.
"They are a confident group. You don't see that very much. They go into every match thinking they are going to win. That is the way it should be.
"I don't think people realize how hard these kids work at golf. It takes a lot of time. It really does.
"It is nice that they are representing the area in golf. I don't think a lot of people think about golf in Eastern Ohio. To have two teams make it of the district says a lot about the Eastern District. I don't think we get a lot of credit for a lot of things. This is nice to see."