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Kittanning eyes golf title

| Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012, 10:37 a.m.
Kittanning senior Evan Cravener watches his putt during a match against Apollo-Ridge on Monday, Aug. 10, 2012.
Kittanning senior Jordan Klodowski watches his shot during a match against Apollo-Ridge Monday, Sept. 10, 2012 at Kittanning Country Club.
Kittanning sophomore Cole Davis hits a shot during a match against Apollo-Ridge on Monday, Sept. 10, 2012 at Kittanning Country Club.

Members of Kittanning's boys golf team said at the beginning of the season that they'd contend for a Section 1-AA title.

Halfway through their schedule, the Wildcats have kept their word.

Kittanning, in its first year as a Class AA program, is atop the section standings and well on its way to a second title in team history. The team average has hovered around 200, and the lineup has grown deeper during the past few weeks.

Coach Bud Stanley and his boys aren't prepared to celebrate just yet. Another half of section play and team playoffs await. But the Wildcats acknowledge their position is enviable.

“We control our own destiny,” Stanley said. “In any sport, that's where you want to be.”

With all of its starters from 2011 back, Kittanning was a preseason frontrunner for the section title. To the degree that any existed, concerns about the team's chances centered on the Wildcats' unfamiliarity with new opponents' courses and on the potential struggle of a still-young lineup that included three sophomore returning starters.

Neither youth nor new courses led to trouble, though.

Through six matches, the Wildcats actually maintained a better average as visitors than hosts. On the road, they averaged 199 as a team. At Kittanning Country Club, the mark jumped to 210.

Kittanning Country Club is more difficult than most local courses, said Stanley, who considers such a scenario a bit of a home-field advantage.

As for Kittanning's youngsters — one year did wonders for their mental maturity. Two of the Wildcats' top three scorers, Cole Davis and Noah Kunst, are sophomores. Another sophomore, Noah Spang, has started in the top six all season. And sophomore Christian Miller, an alternate during the early portion of the season, might soon become a full-time part of the Wildcats' lineup.

“I've definitely limited my mistakes,” said Spang, who had the fifth-best average among the regular starters through six matches. “My scoring has improved immensely from last year, just from thinking through my shots.”

Even as sophomores became more prominent members of the team, harmony among the older and younger Wildcats continues to exist.

“We're the closest team in the WPIAL,” Davis said.

Seniors Jordan Klodowski and Evan Cravener are enjoying their role reversals. When Kittanning won the section title in 2010, Klodowski and Cravener were the talented sophomore starters who sought guidance from the senior-laden Wildcats. Now, they're in charge of shaping the underclassmen.

“I'm trying to help the guys, just with everything I learned, and the things I went through when I was younger,” Klodowski said. “All to help them grow faster.”

Kittanning might encounter its toughest challenge Tuesday, when the Wildcats travel to Buffalo Golf Course to play Freeport, the Section 3-AA leader. The boys look forward to the match as a measuring stick for where they stand in Class AA. But Cravener indicated that the Wildcats know better than to let their attention stray from the section race.

“That's when you lose,” Cravener said, “when you get bored and start to underestimate opponents.”

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