Forced out as the head football coach at Eagle Point High in January, Jacob Schauffler wasn't sure what direction he would go in the early aftermath...
Ryan Allred can speak with authority on the Class 3A/2A/1A boys golf state tournament.
But the coach of defending champion St. Mary's is reluctant to predict the outcome of this year's event, which will be Monday and Tuesday at Quail Valley Golf Course in Banks.
Westside Christian, last year's runner-up, and Catlin Gabel have been putting up good scores, he said, and should be challengers.
"But you never know," said Allred, whose team won the District 6 title Tuesday at Rogue Valley Country Club. "Teams can get hot towards the end. We've played a few invitationals up in Portland, and we've done well. But there are schools from Bend and other schools we haven't seen yet. I wouldn't want to make a prediction."
Few schools in the state, regardless of classification, have played as well throughout the spring as the Crusaders, however. They shot an 18-hole round of 294 at Centennial 21/2 weeks ago, and also have a handful of scores under 310.
Combine their stellar play with the experience of having been there, done that, and you have what must be considered the state favorite.
St. Mary's fired a 649 in last year's 3A/2A/1A tourney at Trysting Tree in Corvallis, beating out Westside Christian by eight strokes.
"It does help," Allred said, referring to the experience gained in 2011. "All these guys, except for Brandon (Chun, a freshman) have been to the state tournament, and they've won, so I think we're the team to beat. I can safely say that since we're the defending champions. But we have a lot of work to do."
Sophomore Dylan Wu leads St. Mary's. He shot a 5-under-par 139 for two rounds in the district tournament, including a second-day 66.
Wu was fifth at state last year with a two-day score of 152. He was the only freshman in the top 40.
He expects his chief competition again to come from Rogue River junior Kevin Murphy, runner-up at district with an even-par 144.
Murphy has finished second each of the past two years at state, shooting 146 last season, seven shots behind Cole Sajonia of Enterprise, who graduated.
Murphy helped the Chieftains to seventh place, and the team will make a return trip to state after placing second to St. Mary's at district.
Reedsport's Montana Frame, also a junior, registered the same rounds as Murphy, 74 and 72, and returns in hopes of improving on his co-second-place finish.
"I feel like I can win this tournament," said Wu, who has failed to break par only twice this season, and those rounds were each 1 over. "I feel like it'll just be Kevin again (as main his competition). I feel like I have a lot more confidence this year."
St. Mary's hasn't played at Quail Valley before but is scheduled for a practice round today.
Allred has played it.
"It's a fair course, a good test," he said. "There aren't any gimmicks. It's pretty long, about 200 yards longer than here (RVCC). Most holes are more open, but there are trees and water. It'll be exciting."
St. Mary's junior Will Street, who was third at district, and fourth-place Tom Thorndike, a sophomore, will join teammates Mark Lynn, a sophomore, and Chun on the Crusaders' roster.
Westside Christian, in Lake Oswego, returns two players who cracked the top 10 at state last year in juniors Mark Stockcamp and Tyler Jorgensen.
Catlin Gabel won the District 1 tournament at Quail Valley with a score of 657. Conor Oliver led the Eagles with a 154.
All of the state tournaments will be on the same days.
North Medford's Daniel Schuler and Ashland's Matt Hedges are in the 6A and 5A boys tourneys, respectively, at Emerald Valley in Creswell. Phoenix's Travis Campoy is in the 4A boys event at Quail Valley.
On the girls side, South Medford's Christina Phelps tees it up at Trysting Tree, and Cascade Christian's Monique Kaldunski and St. Mary's Jordynn Rothfus are in the 4A/3A/2A/1A tournament at Eagle Crest in Redmond.
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email firstname.lastname@example.org