MOUNT COBB – Previewing the upcoming season in most high school sports involves assessing returning athletes and reputations of established programs.
Better impressions are formed when the first contests are held, but even then the comparisons must be weighed against differing competition and challenges.
The Lackawanna League golf season is much easier to assess after just one day.
All of the teams with any chance of competing for titles attend the season-opening Jackman Memorial Tournament each year at Scranton Municipal, giving a strong hint as to who will be the top teams and individuals in the season ahead.
As is often the case, it was Scranton Prep that left the strongest impression Friday.
The Cavaliers won the team championship by 16 strokes and had four of the top seven individuals, including Moosic residents Evan Joyce and Nick Johnson.
The Jackman title does not assure regular-season and post-season championships for Scranton Prep, but it does make it clear that the teams wishing to pursue those titles will have to find a way to beat the Cavaliers.
A year ago, Abington Heights, Scranton Prep and North Pocono went 1-2-3 in the Jackman. Those teams produced half of District 2's eight state qualifying boys' players. Abington Heights and North Pocono tied for first in the Lackawanna South, just ahead of third-place Scranton Prep and North Pocono ultimately emerged as the District 2 team champion.
"It was great to get the title back from Abington Heights," said Joyce, who shot 74 to finish third for the Cavaliers behind individual champion David Pompey (70) and low sophomore Chris Cerminaro (73). "It's kind of like a kickoff to the year. We're always pumped to win it.
"Whoever wins it, it gives a little confidence going into the season."
Pompey's confidence should be soaring. He rallied to the title with a remarkable 5-under-par, 31 on the back nine, including a hole-in-one at the par-three 12th hole.
"It was a very good day," said Johnson, who shot 74. "To win the Jackman is spectacular. It's a very prestigious team tournament to win and to win as an individual.
"It's a great win for Dave Pompey to take that one home."
Joyce was dominant early and Pompey was even stronger late.
Johnson was steady while posting the tournament's second-best score among juniors. He put his driver within 70 yards on 14, his fifth hole, knocked his approach to four feet and posted his only birdie of the day.
"I just hit it solid all day," Johnson said.
The 49th rendition of the pre-season golf tournament leaves the distinct impression that Scranton Prep will once again be a solid team all season.