Region Preview: Panthers must get past Titans for region title

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The Panthers were county champions but have two more goals in mind: winning the region and state. Warren Standridge/For the Paper.

They have the best layers to the cake; they just need the icing on the top.

The region tournament is set for April 23 and the boys of Jackson County Comprehensive High School are sitting on top of the leader board but they are sharing the fame with North Oconee High School.

The Titans aren’t just any ol’ team. They are the defending state champions and look to be headed in the same direction this year. The icing would consist of the Panthers pulling the upset over NOHS.

“[The only time] we played against them was in a tournament down in Jekyll Island. I didn’t have my No. 1 player and he didn’t have his No. 1 player and they beat us by five shots,” said head coach Warren Standridge.

If and when those two No. 1 golfers meet up, it could turn into a real doozy. However the return of Panther Thomas Whitley is uncertain. Whitley suffered a wrist injury and his playing time is limited.

“The kid [from North Oconee] is probably one of the top three or four golfers in the state. He’s legit. He’s a sophomore and was the low medalist winner last year for the entire state,” Standridge said.

Make no mistake about it, Whitley has a lot of rank in terms of accountability and leadership, but the Panthers will not put all their hope in his performance alone. Standridge says it will take an entire team effort to get the job done.

“I think having Thomas back has made a difference in our scores. Their confidence just went up. He is another senior that helped build this program. The kids look up to him,” said Standridge. “We have a lot of depth on our team but the six or seven guys we have in the lineup have to perform [well].”

Jackson County knows North Oconee is the team to beat but there is not as much pressure as there was in the past to beat the top rated team.

“In the past, you knew you had to beat a particular team to make it to state. Only two teams would go to state instead of four. We were always battling for one of those top two spots. This year, it’s not about the region. The bottom line is shooting that 340. That is a score we need to move on,” Standridge said.

When asked what it would mean to him as a coach to defeat the Titans, Standridge said, “I think it would be the pinnacle of what you could get in golf right now. They are as good as we are going to see. He has everybody back except for one kid. I think it would be a great accomplishment for our kids.”