St. C. bowlers set for state tourney debut
St. Clairsville High School has always been a major player on Ohio’s grandest sports stages.
Just last week, Michael Eaton capped a stellar career with a runner-up finish at the state swimming championships.
In 2012, the school’s football team played for the Division IV state title. Earlier that year, the Red Devils boys’ basketball team played in the Division II Final Four.
Along the way, too, numerous Red Devils have excelled at the state level in track, cross country and wrestling.
Friday, the Red Devils boys’ bowling team takes its turn in the spotlight.
St. Clairsville’s appearance in the Division II championships is not only a first for the school, but for the Ohio Valley.
”We are super thrilled to have made it this far,” St. Clairsville head coach Mike Heath said. ”But we have had a goal from the start of the season to get this far. The kids have the confidence and ability going in.”
Action begins at 10:30 a.m. at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl, located on South High Street in the downtown part of the state capital.
The Red Devils will be joined in the 16-team field by Jonathan Alder, Cardington-Lincoln, Marion Elgin, Warren Champion, Struthers, Fairport Harding, Vermilion, Coldwater, Clyde, Wauseon, Versailles, Urbana, North Bend Taylor, Benjamin Logan and Maysville.
Maysville and St. Clairsville finished 1-2 in last week’s district tournament at Zanesville.
”I don’t want (my guys) to be intimidated on the big stage,” Heath said. ”With the hard work they put in, they deserve to be there.”
And the way Heath sees it, the Red Devils could make plenty of noise. In looking at the scores of the qualifying teams from the district tournaments, St. Clairsville has the third-best score.
Now, while that really doesn’t mean anything in relation to state, what it signifies is prep bowling in the Ohio Valley is on par with the rest of the state. And, in some way, Heath believes, St. Clairsville is representing not only the school, but the Ohio Valley Bowling League, too.
”We’re hoping to put our area of the state on the map,” he said.
Each qualifying team will bowl three regular 10-ping games and three Baker games. At that point, the field will be trimmed to eight and bracketed 1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7 and so on.
”If we get firing on all cylinders it will be a fun day,” Heath said. ”Hopefully, our day doesn’t end after the qualifying round.”
Heath likes the bracket format, which uses Baker games to determine a champion.
”It’s a true measure of a team game because now you can’t rely on one person shooting well,” he said. ”You have to everyone shooting well.”
And here lately, the Red Devils have been peaking.
Seniors Josh Yeager and Nate Heath paced the Red Devils at districts, scoring 672 and 634, respectively.
”Those two kids are the key cogs,” Mike Heath, Nate’s dad, said. ”And when you get support from the others, you know it’s going to be a good day.
”Don’t get me wrong. The other kids aren’t slouches by any means. I don’t have a single one averaging under 180 now.”
Senior Anthony Kolokowski (621), junior Zach Dopkiss (616) and DJ Milligan (593) rounded out the Red Devils’ district scoring.
The remainder of St. C.’s roster includes senior Andrew Hageter, sophomores Nick Schnieder, Isaac Toohey, Taylor Work, Nathan Kennon, Matt Kuhn and Zach Wood, and freshmen Tyler Work and Stephen Hageter.
”Dopkiss has really shot well in the tournament for us,” Mike Heath said.
The team spent much of its practice time earlier this week working on the state shot pattern at St. Clair Lanes.
”We also worked on some equipment modifications,” Mike Heath said.
The Red Devils left for Columbus this morning and will spend the night before arriving at the bowling center early Friday to practice a bit before the tournament to get a feel for the lanes.
”We’re just gonna go up and have a good time,” Mike Heath said. ”We’re one of only 16 teams going, so we belong there.”
Thorp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org