WEST LAFAYETTE — In high school golf, you never know when your score is going to count.
Zanesville learned that firsthand Monday.
The Blue Devils, led by four seniors, got four scores of 84 or better in their Division I sectional tournament at River Greens.
But none were bigger than Hunter Sheppard’s 84, which proved to be the difference in a fifth-score playoff win against Vincent Warren that secured a trip to the district at Apple Valley.
Carrollton won the 11-team event with 314, while Marietta was second at 315. Zanesville and Warren were both at 327.
The top three teams and individuals from nonqualifying teams advanced. Austin Mills’ 80 led the Blue Devils.
Sheppard’s score was just one shot better than Warren’s Reece Patton, who had 85.
After making the turn at 46, Sheppard didn’t envision his scoring making a difference. But it proved vital. He shot 38 on the back nine.
“I didn’t play well at all on the front, but I just tried to concentrate on each hole and not give up,” Sheppard said. “I didn’t know what was going on until it was over. I was pretty excited.”
Mills and Derald Madson, who had 81, both knew advancing was possible.
“We knew we had four players who were solid, but for us to get out we needed to have all four playing well at the same time,” Mills said. “It was nice to finally be able to do that.”
Madson added 81, Conner Lee 82 and Hayden Hayes 84 for the Blue Devils, who had four scores of 41 or better at the turn to put themselves into contention.
Sheppard’s improvement has made the team deeper.
“If you saw Hunter at the tryouts, you wouldn’t have thought he was going to shoot what he shot today,” Mills said. “But he’s really gotten it going the last couple of weeks.”
Zanesville coach Ben Harlan was happy to see his team rewarded. Madson advanced as an individual last season.
“We have a lot of seniors on this team, and they’ve really put in a lot of work to get to this point,” Harlan said. “Having a chance to go to the district, that’s been their goal. We’ll practice a lot this week and go play a practice round next Monday and see what happens.”
Things didn’t go so well for Tri-Valley.
The Scotties, who finished unbeaten in the Muskingum Valley League for the second straight season, shot 340 on a day they never found their trademark consistency.
Senior Austin Beyers shot 78, but classmate and MVL Player of the Year Zack Forker slipped to 84 after running into trouble on the back nine.
Braden Campbell shot 85 and Nick Campbell 93.
“It just wasn’t a good day for us,” Forker said. “It was a good season. We just didn’t finish strong liked we hoped.”
Beyers had an eagle putt on the final hole that would have put him in a playoff at 76, but he three-putted.
It was a microcosm of the Scotties’ day.
“We thought we could make it, but it was a bad day to have a bad day,” Beyers said. “We knew the competition was going to be tough. It just wasn’t our day.”