NORMAL -- Regardless of gender or sport, Burlington Central has never captured a team state championship.
But after opening-round action Friday at the boys Class 2A state golf finals on the campus of Illinois State University, Central is in prime position to end the ever-elusive hunt for a school first.
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Matt Weber, whose junior campaign came to an ignominious conclusion with a state suspension for playing in an unsanctioned national tournament, toured the DA Weibring par-71 layout in 4-under par to open his front side.
The Indiana-bound senior gave all 4 shots back on his inward nine, but his level-par 71 was not only good for a second-place tie but, even more important, the anchor score for the Rockets' 314 total.
Four teams are separated by two shots headed into final-round action Saturday as Pontiac (312) holds the narrowest of leads over Dunlap (313), Burlington Central and Rockford Boylan (314).
Weber enters his last round of prep golf in a second-place tie with Boylan senior Danny Gorman; East Peoria sophomore David Perkins fired a sterling 68 to take a 3-shot lead for the individual state championship.
"I hit every green (in regulation) on the front nine, so I had a lot of opportunities," said Weber, who had three birdies in succession before closing with a fourth red number on No. 9. "I got a few putts to drop (on the front nine)."
Weber would add a fifth birdie on the back nine, but his dream round hit a major speed bump on the only par-5 on the inward nine.
"The back is a little tougher," Weber said. "I made an uncharacteristic bad swing on No. 13 and made a very careless double (bogey)."
Weber does not have individual glory on his mind as second-round action beckons.
"I'm going to try and put up a good score to help our team," Weber said.
Austin Niesel complemented Weber with a 5-over 76 for the Rockets, and the remainder of their collective card was completed when Andrew Sherman and Jacob Ledebuhr posted respective rounds of 83 and 84.
Joe Sherman and Jeremy Crosby had respectable non-counting rounds of 85 and 88 for Central.
"The thing that saved me was my putter," Niesel said. "I didn't give myself a lot of birdie opportunities. But I putted well."
"I couldn't be prouder of a set of boys," Central coach Deb Twenhafel said. "(Before the season started) I really, truly thought we could get downstate. This was a goal of theirs. They want to bring that hardware home."
The 2010 Rockets' boys soccer team was the last Central program to earn a state trophy when they finished fourth in Class 2A.
At the Class 3A tournament at the Den at Fox Creek, Jacobs' Chris Boyle and Jack Ramsett, both seniors, fired rounds of 1-over 73 and 76, respectively.
Boyle is in a three-way tie for ninth place in the largest-class division, where defending state champion Hinsdale Central (295) holds a 7-shot lead over Glenbrook North after first-round play for the team title.
Huntley junior Trent Craig is also in contention for all-state status after a 77.
Neither two-time Class 2A state qualifier Matt Yonkovich, a senior at Kaneland, nor Aurora Central Catholic senior Sean Harreld made a birdie as at-large qualifiers Friday.
But both players fashioned consistent rounds to put themselves in contention for all-state distinctions.
Yonkovich fired a 78, and Harreld was a shot better; both players are hovering around top-20 status.
"(Harreld) was doing some scrambling, didn't hit many fairways and greens," ACC coach Jim Parker said. "Three or four times, he made some good putts to save par."
Raghav Cherala, the first four-time all-conference performer in Rob Prentiss' career at St. Charles North, toured the Den at Fox Creek in Bloomington with nine-hole scores of 41 and 38 for a 79.
The North Stars' two-time Upstate Eight River player of the year is the lone local competitor in the Class 3A state finals.
Defending state champion Hinsdale Central (295) holds a 7-shot lead over Glenbrook North in the largest-class division.
In the Class 1A boys meet at Prairie Vista in Bloomington, Westminster Christian senior Connor Rejman shot a 6-over 78 and is tied for 18th place. Elgin Academy sophomore Frankie Bisconti had a 92.
In Decatur at the Class A girls state tournament, St. Edward junior Ryann Scully shot a 94 and is tied for 62nd place at Red Tail Run. Scully shot a 51 on her first nine then came back with a 43.