Kiski Area, Plum boys golf on collision course with playoff spot up for grabs

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Thursday, September 14, 2023 | 9:24 PM


The Plum boys golf team snapped an eight-year WPIAL team playoff drought last year by finishing second to Central Catholic in Section 4-3A.

The Mustangs took advantage of their opportunity in the first round at Beaver Valley Golf Club and earned a spot in the finals.

Kiski Area hopes to follow Plum’s lead and end a long drought of its own with a berth to WPIALs.

The Cavaliers and Mustangs, both 7-3 in section play, share a home course at Willowbrook Golf Club, and the teams will meet there Friday afternoon. The winner will all but wrap up the section’s second WPIAL berth behind section champion Central Catholic (11-1).

“It is great that we have this opportunity to play in a big match like this with so much on the line,” Cavaliers junior Trey Roberts said. “We can’t worry about what we did or didn’t do in past matches, and we can’t look ahead to what might be in front of us. It’s about focusing on the present and playing the best golf we can. Plum is a really good team, and they have some big wins this season. We have to be at our best.”

Plum coach Brian Dunaway said there will be no home-course advantage Friday.

“We’re very capable of shooting a good number at Willowbrook, and so is Kiski,” he said. “I think the teams are pretty evenly matched, and the pressure will be there. There are no secrets. The guys know each other and what they can do on that course. Whoever is able to handle the pressure moments will come out on top.”

Plum earned its chance at a playoff spot with some big victories, including a 195-204 triumph over Franklin Regional on Wednesday at Meadowink. Four of the Mustangs five scoring golfers — junior Wes Lorish (34), senior Carson Yocca (36), junior Tim Pease (39), and sophomore Tyler Pastor (39) — scored nine-hole rounds under 40.

The win completed a season sweep of the Panthers (7-4).

“There was a lot of excitement to start the season with all the guys who were coming back and after what we accomplished last season,” said Lorish, Plum’s leader in scoring average this season at 35.2 per match.

Lorish shot his best nine-hole score in a high school match — a 32 — twice early in the season, first against Penn Hills at Willowbrook on Aug. 25 and again at Willowbrook against Gateway on Aug. 29.

Pease averages 38 this season, and Yocca checks in with a 40 average for the Mustangs.

Lorish said the section’s competitiveness, led by the back-and-forth results between Central Catholic, Kiski Area, Franklin Regional and Plum, has brought out the best in a number of golfers on each team.

“It is nice to have this much good completion in the section,” Lorish said. “Playing against really good players makes you better, especially for some of our younger and less-experienced players. We expected it would be a challenge to get back to the playoffs. We’ve seen so many close matches decided by just a couple of strokes.”

Kiski Area also owns several key wins. Despite not being at the top of their game last Thursday against Franklin Regional at Willowbrook, the Cavaliers still gutted out a 217-218 win over the Panthers.

Sophomore Max Mottura, who last year qualified with Roberts for the WPIAL Class 3A individual first round, led Kiski Area against FR with a 41.

Mottura, who owns a team-best 38 average with six team-medalist performances this season, shot a 36 to lead the Cavaliers to a 202-212 win over Plum at Willowbrook on Aug. 28.

“It’s fantastic to see what we’ve been able to do,” Mottura said. “We’ve put in the work throughout the season. We beat (Plum) before, but (Friday) is a new day. We both know this course so well. Whoever plays their best and can execute one shot at a time will win.”

Kiski junior Caden Witt is second on the team with five team-medalist performances and owns a 40.1 season average.

After Friday’s match, Kiski and Plum have one section match left each. The Cavaliers face Penn Hills on Tuesday at Willowbrook while the Mustangs face Gateway at Murrysville Golf Course.

“I hope the guys play fearless golf, go out and control what they can control and stay in the moment,” Kiski Area coach John Guzzie said. “It’s been a while since a Kiski team made the WPIAL playoffs. We’re excited to see that culture and the expectations changing. We’re still a pretty young team with just the two seniors in the back of our lineup. There are others coming up, so we have a really nice foundation for years to come.”

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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