For the first time in the brief history of prep bowling, the Ohio Valley will be represented.
St. Clairsville's boys squad and St. John Central senior Aaron Ebbert punched their tickets to the Ohio High School Athletic Association's eight annual state bowling tournament in Columbus during district action in Zanesville Saturday afternoon.
The state bowling tournament is scheduled for Friday at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.
PICTURED IS the St. Clairsville boys’ bowling team that qualified for the OHSAA’s Division II?state bowling tournament to be held Friday in Columbus. The Red Devils finished second to Maysville in Saturday’s district tournament held in Zanesville. Kneeling, from left, are Josh Yeager and D.J. Milligan. Middle row, from left, are Isaac Toohey, Carlos Schneider and Anthony Kolakowski. Standing, from left, are Coach Michael Heath,Andrew Hageter, Nate Heath and Zach Dopkiss.
The Red Devils, who are in just their second season of bowling after spending the first several years as just a club sport, posted a team score of 4409, which was second to Maysville's 4433.
"It's not really set in yet," Devils' head coach Mike Heath said of advancing to the state tournament. "Our kids bowled really well and they're very excited about advancing, but they also realize the job's not done yet."
The Devils and the Panthers went back-and-forth on the scoreboard throughout much of the afternoon.
"They led after the first game, we took the lead after the second and they took it back entering the Baker Games," Heath said. "I think we got as close as 10 pins of them during the Baker Games, but just couldn't get over the hump. Both teams really bowled incredibly. There was just great energy in the whole place."
Once the final scores were tallied, immediate excitement took over when the Devils realized they'd be making the trip to Franklin County.
St. Clairsville, which won the are league title with a 14-1 record, enjoyed one of their best performances of the season, according to their head coach.
"We thought that if we bowled the way we're capable, we could beat anyone," Heath said. "Our kids worked really hard this past week and things went our way."
The Devils put forth a balanced effort, which was very pivotal, according to Heath.
Josh Yeager was the Devils' top bowler with a three-game score of 672. Senior Nate Heath checked in with a 634.
Anthony Kolokowski recorded a 621, Zach Dopkiss knocked over 616 pins and D.J. Milligan checked in with a 593.
"When you only have 79 pins between your first and fifth guy, things are looking good for you," Heath said. "Our guys were really balanced today."
Heath doesn't expect any problems getting his team re-focused on what lies ahead this week.
"They're already planning practices for the week," Heath noted. "This is a really special group of kids. They're pleased with their performance, but they're still hungry for more."
St. John Central's Ebbert becomes the first individual qualifier from the area to the state tournament.
Ebbert posted an impressive score of 681 to earn the right to compete on Friday.
The Times Leader will have more on the state-bound bowlers during the course of the week.
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