By Jeff Nations
FRONT ROYAL -- In the grand scheme of things, Thursday's Bull Run District mini tournament at Shenandoah Valley Golf Course really didn't mean a whole lot to Central.
There is still a Bull Run District regular-season title to compete for, but good luck with defending Group A state champion William Monroe looking strong again. But just because some of their longtime Bull Run rivals -- like Strasburg and Clarke County -- will be playing in a different classification come postseason tournament time, that doesn't mean Central doesn't care about beating them.
That's why the Falcons' second-place finish behind William Monroe prompted plenty of smiles among Central's squad. The Falcons fired a combined 330, well behind William Monroe's 297 but two shots better than Strasburg (332) and six above Clarke County (336).
Playing well at Shenandoah Valley, where the Falcons will eventually be competing in the 3A-East Conference 28 tournament along with Warren County (which finished sixth on Thursday) and William Monroe, is an added bonus for coach Jeff Walters' team.
"Runner-up in this tournament, for us, is a big success because William Monroe is such a dominant team," Walters said. "They're a non-factor, we don't even consider them -- we know they're going to win. Our focus, especially with the new configuration of the league, is we want to be successful here at the conference tournament and get some kids into regionals.
"... We know it doesn't really mean anything until the end of the year, but it does give us a little boost of confidence to know that when it comes down to it, we have a chance to compete against some of the better teams in our league."
Missing regular scorer Joey Canzurlo from the lineup, the Falcons still got solid production from Ben Kline (74), Joseph Plauger (76), Jacob Allwine (82) and Tyler Ferrero (98) on the par-71 White-Blue course at Shenandoah Valley.
Kline ended up as the runner-up to William Monroe's Logan Yates, who fired a 67 to claim medalist honors.
"I played pretty decent, just a lot of scrambling, a lot of up-and-down," Kline said. "I had a few three-putts and whatnot, but altogether it was a pretty decent round. There were a few strokes left out on the course. All in all, this is a pretty tight golf course but I managed it pretty well."
Kline said Shenandoah Valley doesn't reward the big hitters as much as some of the area's other golf courses.
"This course, it plays a lot tighter than people think," Kline said. "You have to lay back on a lot of shots. You can't really just hit driver everywhere you want to. It's a strategic golf course, and that's how it always plays."
Plauger knows all about it. He's a junior member at Shenandoah Valley and has plenty of experience on the course, which helped him to stay out of trouble and post another solid score for the Falcons. The highlight came on the par-5 Blue No. 1 hole, where Plauger ripped his opening drive right down the middle of the fairway, hit a "perfect three-wood" to get the ball within about 10 feet, chipped to within 2 feet and sank his putt for a birdie.
Overall, though, Plauger said his short game made the difference.
"I was putting really well today, made a few good putts for par," Plauger said. "A couple of them I just misread -- I missed a three-footer on one hole."
Strasburg junior Jacob Smith had a solid day for the Rams, carding a 78. His teammates didn't fare so well. Normal top scorer Tyler Doman settled for an 81, Colten Smith had an 83 and Garrett Richards tallied a 90 for the Rams. Strasburg beat the Falcons by 15 strokes in Tuesday's first Bull Run District mini at Shenvalee Resort.
"We were fortunate enough to finish ahead of them on Tuesday in the first district mini," Strasburg coach Ricky Bowley said. "Today they played a lot better and we didn't play as well, so that combination did us in today."
Bowley would like to see his squad continue to bunch their scores together, and play with more consistency this season as the Rams gear up to compete in the Class 2A-East Conference 35.
"We would like to score well and improve, and make the gap between our good days and our bad days as little as possible," Bowley said. "Hopefully Tyler and some of the others can bounce back and score better in the next match."
Warren County coach Matt Wadas got another encouraging performance from his young squad, which jumped up two places to sixth after finishing last in Tuesday's opening district mini.
"Each days the scores came down," Wadas said. "We played Tuesday, a mini, and we were eighth. We were sixth today, so I can't ask anymore of this young group than to just keep improving."
Courtney L'Amoreaux led the Wildcats with a 94. Other scorers for Warren County were Chase Hatfield (97), Brandon McWhorter (100) and Peyton Poe (110).
Wadas is enjoying the Wildcats' new rivalries in the Bull Run after playing several years in the Evergreen District.
"I like it," Wadas said. "I like being with these local teams. Last year we were with Brentsville and Fauquier, and those were all nice guys and good kids, but we had to travel. Facing teams like Strasburg, it's like being home."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com>