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Return of top player has Blue Devils optimistic

Senior Corey Palma went 8-1-1 as a junior in Lackawanna South

Four other seniors will join Corey Palma, center, in the Old Forge golf lineup. They are, from left to right, Adam Barsigian, Ian Nemetz, Palma, J Argonish and Nick Grevera.

photo by rick notari

Playing in the Lackawanna Scholastic Golf League’s Southern Division proves to be a challenge year-in and year-out for the Old Forge Blue Devils. And this year will be no different.

Despite a disappointing 2010 campaign, sixth-year head coach Joe DeStefano expects his Blue Devils to compete for one of the final three playoff spots that the division is awarded come the post-season.

Last year, Old Forge (4-7) missed out on the league playoffs, finishing one match behind arch-rival Riverside, who they beat during the opening week of play, for the final spot in the post-season. The Blue Devils also lost five of its top six players from that squad.

So what makes DeStefano so optimistic about 2011?

The return of senior Corey Palma.

Palma finished with a team best 8-1-1 individual record as a junior, and also added five wins in better-ball competition. He also finished sixth in the season-opening Jackman Tournament in 2010.

“Corey should be one of the top players in the league this year,” said DeStefano. “He will be our No. 1 player. There won’t be a match that I will hesitate to put him in the No. 1 spot. He could pretty much beat anyone in the league.”

Palma, however, is the lone returning starter from last year’s team. Senior Adam Barsigian started two matches early last season, but gave way to an upperclassman as the senior progressed.

“Corey is going to have to be a leader this year,” said DeStefano. “We only have one other guy with starting experience back. But there are quite a few seniors that I expect their experience in other sports to come through for us on the golf course this year.”

That group of seniors includes Barsigian, Ian Nemetz and J Argonish – all three sport athletes for the Blue Devils. Senior Nick Grevera is also in the starting mix along with juniors Tyler Cavalari and Jared Heckman, and freshman AJ Cantarella.

“The seniors are in the driver’s seat,” said DeStefano when it comes to filling out his six-man lineup. “But we will see how they do this week. We have quite a few juniors and sophomores that could push them to start, and freshman AJ Cantarella has a nice swing.

“The division is hard with the normal top teams – Scranton Prep, Abington Heights and North Pocono. But we should compete for one of the remaining playoff spots.”

The Blue Devils open their season tomorrow against Scranton at Summit Hills at 1 p.m. before taking on arch-rival Riverside on Wednesday at Pine Hills at 10:30 a.m.

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