SIKESTON -- The Sikeston Bulldogs golf team will be young and green but coach Rick Oetting has confidence that, by season's end, they will be a competitive group.
"If we can mature and peak around district time, this team has the potential to win a district," said Oetting. "I'm bragging on a young team and we'll see if we can live up to it."
The Bulldogs lost four of its top players and return four with limited varsity experience.
Lost through graduation is the team's No. 1 player for the past three seasons, E.C. Atchison, a four-time state qualifier, along with Martin Schaefer, Darris Butler and Zed Hagen.
"This is the first time I've had to basically start over from scratch," Oetting said. "I've got a couple with some varsity experience and a few upper JV players. We're probably going to lose a lot of our early matches, split our duals, then, as the season goes on, I see us jumping a couple spots up each time we enter a tournament so that we'll be ready for districts."
Vying for varsity positions are senior returnees Trey Oetting and Jared Kruger. Both filled fifth positions on last year's varsity squad.
Sophomores Bill Green and Joseph Bowman saw some varsity action as sixth men in the rotation.
Also in the mix for varsity consideration are sophomore Dee Bizzell, who competed on the junior varsity last season; senior Tyler Flaker, who sat out last season; and newcomers, freshmen Dakota Trevino and Mark Fraser.
Trevino may be the most talented of the lot. He participated on the Gateway Tour last summer and qualified for that tour's state tournament.
"He could be a team leader," said Oetting, of Trevino.
Oetting, in his seventh season as Bulldogs golf coach, said the Class 3 District is down this year with most teams suffering from heavy graduation losses. "There are some good teams with Dexter, North County and ourselves," he said, "and I don't count us out this year because everybody graduated a lot of people."
Area-wise, Oetting sees Poplar Bluff and Cape Girardeau Central as the top teams.
Sikeston opens the season Monday against New Madrid County Central at the Sikeston Country Club, then competes in the Notre Dame Tournament at Bent Creek Golf Club in Jackson the following week.
"We're going to see great competition at the Notre Dame Tournament," he said. "It's going to be a tough one for us, playing a hilly course that we're not accustomed to.
"It's a young group and I've got great confidence in them, but there's nothing like experience."