POTTSBORO — After finishing in third place in last year’s state golf tournament, Pottsboro head coach Greg Nix was pleased with his team’s results and wanted to see the Cardinals get another shot at a state title.

The five Cardinals will get that chance this week as they return to Grey Rock Golf Club in Austin for the Class 3A state championships that start on Monday.

“We’ve been practicing all summer just getting ready for the season,” junior Hayden Kent said. “We had a young team and we’re ready to show out just like we did last year.”

Pottsboro earned its way back to state by shooting a total score of 670 (315-318) at the regional tournament back in April in Bullard. The Cardinals finished runners-up to Troup, which shot a two-day total of 624.

Three of those golfers — Kent, sophomore Garrett Townsend and junior Austyn Reily — will be making a return trip to state. Freshmen Jack Estes and Nathan Halfmann will be heading to state for the first time.

They’re led by the individual regional champion in Reily, who shot four-under par over two days (70-70). Townsend (78-78) took home fifth place while Kent earned a top-10 finish (79-83). Nix credits the trio for leading the way this season.

“Those three are extremely mature for their age,” Nix said. “As soon as the state tournament was over last year, they started talking about making it back this year. They never got distracted and they’re a really driven group.”

That experience from last year is also something that the three value and believe it can carry over to the tournament again in 2018.

“I think we have a better chance this year getting that state title,” Reily said. “Placing well last year gives us a lot of confidence that we can do just as well this year.”

“It feels a lot different,” said Townsend. “There’s a new group of people and now being a little more experienced helps us prepare for state. We know the course and we’re prepared to finish better than last year.”

The Cardinals have had to deal with other challenges. A cooler than usual late winter and early spring has limited team practice time. On top of that, Kent and Estes also are taking part in a playoff run for the baseball team. The Cardinals faced Eustace in the area round this past weekend.

In some ways, having to balance two sports can prove to be a blessing in disguise.

“With playing baseball, I haven’t been able to practice much golf but it just helps me stay mentally focused,” Kent said. “If I have a bad game in baseball, I can just go to the course and the same if I have a bad round.”

That mental toughness is one reason the team believes they can come away with a better result this time around. Each player has their own goals from bringing home the individual title in the case of Reily to Townsend’s goal of a top 10 finish. For the team, the goal remains the same: bringing the team title back to Texoma.

“I think we have a better chance this year getting that state title,” Reily said. “After finishing in the top 10 last year, it gave me a lot of confidence as to what I have to do. I’m looking forward to having a good state tournament this year.”

“We had a really great regional tournament, especially since we were leading after the first day,” Nix said. “I just want to see us go down there and compete, be consistent and just let it happen.”