Apopka’s undefeated boys bowlers are poised to add another state championship to its glowing resume. But veteran Blue Darters coach Doug Campbell said that can’t happen if his ultra-talented team leaves spare change on the table.
Knocking down all 10 pins for strikes is the obvious formula for success at the state tournament, which opens with the opening round of girls play on Tuesday evening at Orlando’s Boardwalk Bowl Entertainment Center. But just as crucial is cleaning up an imperfect first shot by knocking down any pins still standing to pick up the spare.
“They’ve been shooting really high numbers,” Campbell said after his team’s impressive District 8 tournament victory last week. “But at state it always comes down to [picking up] spares. If you leave them empty, it hurts you. Bad.”
Apopka holds the state record with five state team titles since the Florida High School Athletic Association elevated the sport to sanctioned state championship status in 2003. No other boys program has won more than twice.
But the Blue Darters have not celebrated a state title since winning their five in a row from 2013 through 2017.
Apopka is 14-0 this season and its only graduate from last year’s state runner-up squad was 2019 area Player of the Year Ben Bailey.
Apopka has seven players averaging 198 pins per game or better — led by senior Josh Kennedy, junior Nathan Wesley and ninth-grader Isaiah Jackson.
District 4 champion Leesburg, District 7 winner Oviedo and District 9 qualifiers East River and Timber Creek are also teams to watch in the boys tournament, which starts Wednesday morning.
Leesburg’s strong district tournament showing included three-game series scores of 677 by Billy Rivera and 644 by Christian Pruett.
Winter Park’s girls are also undefeated, including a District 8 victory, and are looking to add a bowling team title to their school’s stature as the Central Florida leader with more than 60 FHSAA championships across all sports.
The Wildcats are joined by defending state champ and District 7 winner Oviedo, which is also undefeated. District titlists Boone and Tavares are also in the girls field. Oviedo won four of the past seven championships, including three of the past four.
Circle Christian senior Macy Barber, who finished third in the girls individual bracket last season, was the area’s highest-scoring qualifier with a three-game series of 698 in district play.
Oviedo’s Jacqueline Gonzalez turned in a 623 district series and Winter Park’s Sophia Bastian carded a 615.
The tournament expanded from two days to three this year to reduce the number of teams inside the facility as a COVID-19 precaution. Attendance is limited for the same reason.
The tournament wraps up Thursday with individual championship matches set to start at 1 p.m. and the team finals at 6:05.
This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Varsity Content Editor Buddy Collings can be reached by email at email@example.com.
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