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Golf: Vineland heads to sectionals as surprise contender

This season started off differently for the Vineland High School golf team.

The Fighting Clan hope to end it differently, too, when they play in the South-Central Group IV tournament today at Linwood Country Club at noon.

Vineland surprised nearly everyone by winning eight of its first nine matches to clinch a spot in the playoffs.

The Fighting Clan started 0-7 last season. Playoffs were the furthest thing from the players' minds.

"I don't think people thought we were as strong as we are," sophomore Eric Dargis said in a phone interview Saturday. "I don't think people saw us as a real threat. In the past, teams would just get two wins off us and we would help their season."

That's no longer the case.

Dargis finished fourth at the Cape-Atlantic League individual tournament with a 74 and hopes for a similar strong showing in today's sectional tournament.

Junior Cody Freese has helped Dargis give the Fighting Clan, the No. 10 team in The Press Elite 11, one of the top duos in the CAL. Ricky Acosta, Matt Adams, Rhett Williams and Jeff Rowan round out the top six.

"I feel as though we have a really strong chance at qualifying as a team to go to the TOC (Tournament of Champions)," Dargis said.

The top two teams and top five individuals (with ties) qualify for next week's TOC.

No. 11 Mainland Regional leads the list of area qualifiers in South-Central Group III at Running Deer Golf Club in Pittsgrove Township at 9:30 a.m.

Mainland's Colin Roche, who tied a school record with a 32 at Linwood Country Club on Wednesday, is among the favorites.

Roche qualified for the TOC as an individual last season and has played well in 18-hole tournaments this season.

Middle Township has won two straight South-Central Group II titles and will be favored again today at Wildwood Golf & Country Club at 9 a.m.

Senior captain James Kelly and freshman standout David Hicks have played well all season and have the potential to win the individual crown.

Kevin O'Donnell and John Longstreet are the team's third and fourth players on paper, but don't be surprised if either one finds his way into the top five as an individual.

The Non-Public South A and B and North A and B tournaments will be held at Mountain View Golf Course in Mercer County at 11 a.m.

CAL individual and Carl Arena/Al Rifkin champion Cody Dazen is on a short list of favorites in South Non-Public A along with the Hermits, the No. 6 team in the Elite 11.

Holy Spirit's John Sommers qualified for the TOC as an individual last season in South Non-Public B and hopes for a repeat performance.

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