by Frank Aceto
Associate Sports Editor
They have been the class of the Suburban League for quite some time.
But the Blue Devils will most likely need to start getting used to hearing a somewhat unfamiliar word as they venture from course to course during the 2014 season.
The Tallmadge boys golf team, which has captured the last four Suburban League titles, saw its top five players graduate last fall.
They are former state qualifier Zach Mosholder, who plans to continue his academic and golfing careers at Ashland University, Chris Koza, who plans to play at the University of Malone in North Canton, Zach's twin brother, Mike Mosholder, Nate Bickar and Nick Genovese.
"Those five kids accounted for approximately 90 percent of our varsity starts in 2013," Blue Devils' 12th-year head coach Jon Shomo said.
Shomo, who is 81-31 at Tallmadge, which earned a fifth-score tiebreaker win in its debut against Firestone Aug. 6 at Maplecrest Golf Club in Kent, guided the Blue Devils to a 9-2 record (5-2 in the league) last year.
Tallmadge also finished seventh at the eight-team Suburban League Preseason Tournament Aug. 7 at J Edward Good Park Golf Course in Akron.
Shomo believes his new group of players will have their work cut out for them.
"We don't have anyone with a consistent track record like we have had in the past few seasons," Shomo said. "That will be our biggest challenge ... to achieve a level of consistency."
Fortunately for Shomo, he has plenty of underclassmen who have a chance to make significant progress as they gain more experience. Tallmadge has zero seniors on the team.
But Shomo's crew hasn't played too many courses on the varsity level.
Only juniors Jared Landwehr (seven starts), Jimmy Filko (four) and J.P. Allen (one) have been in the starting lineup for the Blue Devils.
While that trio will lead the way, Shomo also expects juniors Jacob DiFiore and Austin Sigman to contribute on the varsity squad.
Shomo said two other players are expected to get some time on the links for both the varsity and junior varsity teams. They are junior Chad Green and sophomore Jake Pallotta.
Rounding out the squad are juniors Griffin Oubre and Tyler Dubin; sophomores Austin Moore and Jake Davis; and freshmen Justin Allen, Derek Peters and Jake Kanatzar.
"We are going to be inexperienced at the varsity level," Shomo admitted. "That is a big hurdle to overcome. It is not realistic to expect such an inexperienced group to play at the level of our teams from the last five years [those five teams combined finished 48-8].
"This season is about gaining varsity experience, showing improvement and learning how to compete at a higher level. This is a very nice group of young men. They will represent themselves, our school and our community well."
The junior varsity coach is Jon Karnuth, who enters his fourth year with the team.
Shomo believes the Suburban League race could be a three-team race.
"The league powers should be Highland, Green and possibly Revere," Shomo said. "Copley and Cloverleaf will be improved."
Both Tallmadge and Firestone finished with scores of 345 Aug. 6. Landwehr and Filko each led the way with scores of 85 and Sigman (87), DiFiore (88) and also contributed.
At the preaseason tournament, the Blue Devils finished with a score of 352.
Highland led the way with a 320 and Green (321) and Copley (329) finished second and third, respectively.
Landwehr led Tallmadge with an 86. Rounding out the top four for the Blue Devils were Sigman (87), Filko (90) and DiFiore (95).
The Blue Devils were scheduled to compete at the Suburban Pre-Season Meet Aug. 7 at J Edward Good Park Golf Course in Akron. Results were not available at press time.
They are set to play Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy Invitational Aug. 11 at Silver Lake Country Club. Play is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m.
Tallmadge is set to play in the Twinsburg Invitational Aug. 14 at Gleneagles Golf Course. Play is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m.