The powers, coaches always like to say, reload. They do not rebuild.
Red Mountain High School, state champion in seven of the last eight years, faces one of its biggest reloading challenges this season as the Lions try to remain the state’s premier boys golf program.
Four of coach Randy Spilsbury’s top five players from last season have graduated. That’s the bad news. The good news is the one returning player is 5A champion Ryan Brooks, who beat 2001 champ and teammate Charlie Beljan by two shots last year.
"We’ve got some new faces and some young kids,’’ Spilsbury said.
Three of the four seniors who played for the Lions last year, Beljan, Blaine Bailess and Kenny Evans, have gone on to play in college.
Dobson, which lost the team title by three shots last year, returns all five players (all seniors) who competed in those state championships. These are Dobson players who have beaten Red Mountain in other tournaments. The Mustangs just haven’t done it when it counted the most.
BOYS TEAMS TO WATCH
Red Mountain: Defending state champion has only one returning starter. That may not matter considering the depth of the Lions’ program.
Dobson: All five players, led by Brent Hook, are back to try to give the Mustangs their first state championship.
Arcadia: A fourth-place finish in last year’s 4A state championships is considered a down year for the Titans.
Desert Mountain: The Wolves are always on the verge of being considered among the elite at the 5A level.
Apache Junction: The Prospectors just need to get Scott Aydelotte a little help to become a contender.
GIRLS TEAMS TO WATCH
Hamilton: Coach Rick Miles thinks this version of the Huskies could be the best in school history.
Chaparral: The Firebirds, with several new faces, will be going after their fifth straight 4A state title.
Dobson: The Mustangs need to find depth to have any chance of improving on their third-place finish at state last year. Desert Vista: Led by Taylor Paskell, Brittany Stew and Sydney Liles, the Thunder will challenge to be the top team from the East Valley.
Cactus Shadows: This team has back most of the lineup that finished a surprising second at last year’s 4A state championships.
Sept. 2-4: Ahwatukee Cup; Harvey Pennick Invitational.
Sept. 5-6: Brophy Invitational; Cave Creek Invitational.
Oct. 28-31: Regional tournaments.
Nov. 3-6: State tournaments.
TOP 5 BOYS PLAYERS
Ryan Brooks, Sr., Red Mountain (above): Latest in great line of Mountain Lions linksters. Should be in hunt to defend his 5A individual title.
Chase Bingham, Sr., Dobson: Along with Hook and Thames, gives Mustangs the kind of depth it takes to win state titles.
Brian Thames, Sr., Dobson: Was All-Tribune honorable mention pick last year.
Brent Hook, Sr., Dobson: Right on the heels of Red Mountain’s Brooks and Beljan last year, finishing third in 5A. Can he end the Mountain Lions’ run of individual titles?
Scott Aydelotte, Sr., Apache Junction: His "disappointment" over finishing second at 4A meet says plenty about what the Tribune’s 4A Player of the Year wants to accomplish this season.
TOP 5 GIRLS PLAYERS
Jennifer Sun, Sr., Chaparral: Firebirds’ ace was right in thick of 4A tournament a year ago, finishing third.
Sophia Choi, Sr., Hamilton: Top returner on deep Huskies team, was 5A Fiesta Region champ.
Christina Schams, So., Corona del Sol:
Central Region runner-up a year ago, finished in top 15 at 5A meet.
Meghan Martinek, Sr., Marcos de Niza: Was top-five finisher in Central Region and was 12th at 5A state meet.
Bethany LeClair, Sr., Pinnacle:
Finished year tied for fourth at state tournament, just ahead of teammate Carleen Halbrink.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH Ryan Caughlan, Sr., Dobson; Lucas Delgado, Jr., Red Mountain; Mark Mueller, So., Red Mountain; Greg Button, Jr., Red Mountain; T.J. Rickerd, Sr., Dobson; Dan Saltz, Jr., Pinnacle; Josh Porter, Sr., Arcadia; Felix Engstrom, Sr., Chaparral; Andrew McLaren, Jr., Arcadia; Kyle Epperson, Sr., Cactus Shadows; Ben Leising, Jr., Cactus Shadows; Russ Baker, Sr., Apache Junction; Mike Erickson, Jr., McClintock; Sydney Liles, Jr., Desert Vista; Taylor Paskell, Sr., Desert Vista; Natasha Cenjek, Sr., Saguaro; Francesca Cocchiarella, So., Dobson; Brooke Schneider, Jr., Cactus Shadows; Meghan Bremer, Sr., Cactus Shadows; Liz Cortez, Jr., Chaparral; Melanie Boyles, So., Marcos de Niza; Carleen Halbrink, Sr., Pinnacle.
WHAT’S NEW First-timer: Cactus Shadows, if it challenges for the state title, will do it with first-year coach Mike Sarraino at the helm. She’s back: 4A champion Andrea Ratigan of Tucson Rincon will be back to defend her individual title. Defending champs: Phoenix Xavier will be chasing its 22nd girls state championship. Exchange rate: Felix Engstrom, a senior at Chaparral, is a foreign exchange student from Sweden.