In 2020, the Helias Crusaders believed they were poised to possibly hang a state championship banner in Rackers Fieldhouse.
The senior-dominated team had its title dreams disappear when the spring season was canceled. Helias was returning five qualifiers from a team that finished fifth in the Class 3 state tournament
"We would have been really hard to beat for any team in any class," Helias coach Jay Higgins said.
In 2021, those seniors have graduated. But the belief in earning state honors is still there, even with an inexperienced team.
"The goal hasn't changed," Higgins said.
Drew Higgins is the lone senior who will start the season on the varsity. Higgins, a team captain who has signed to play at Columbia College, tied for 22nd at state in 2019.
"He has really helped run practice, help the young kids," Jay Higgins said. "It's a big help when we're working with the JV to develop them as players for the future."
Drew Higgins was a starter for the Helias football team that won a Class 4 state title this season.
"He'd like to end his high-school career with two state championships as a senior," Jay Higgins said.
Drew Higgins will hold down the No. 1 spot in the lineup. He averaged a 37 in eight qualifying rounds in practice.
Davis Linhart enters the season at No. 2, posting a 37.75 average. Graham Johnson, a junior, and freshman Archer Schnieders both averaged 39s, while freshman Burke Bauer came in at just above 40.
"I can see as talented as some of the other guys are, Drew will get pushed for the No. 1 spot," Jay Higgins said. "That's helping Drew, he's working hard to maintain that No. 1 spot."
Even though it is a young group, they are golf veterans.
"They've played all over the state, we're lucky," Higgins said. "A lot of freshman have never played in a tournament, but all of these kids have that experience, some since they were 8 years old.
"They shouldn't be intimidated."
There are some JV players — junior Connor McDaniel, senior Tyler Gerling and junior Jordan Ralston — competing for varsity positions.
"We have some kids pushing to get a spot," Higgins said. "Those guys will give us some strong players on the JV."
Higgins believes the team has the ability to post school records for low 9- and 18-hole round scores.
"We can have one or two of those days where we all gel and we can get there," he said.
The Crusaders, who have won eight straight district team titles, are waiting to hear what classification they will play in during the postseason. That information will be released later this month by the Missouri State High School Activities Association.
This will be the first season for the boys to experience the new qualifying format for the state championships. In the past, the district team champion sent all five of its players to state. But now, only the top 20 individuals from each district will advance. That means if you don't advance at least four players, you cannot post a team score.
The Crusaders believe they have the ability to get to state as a team.
"With golf being an individual sport, it's going to be tough for a lot of other teams to be able to post the scores that we can post," Higgins said.
Helias, who will play in seven tournaments, opens the season today in an event in Columbia that includes the Rock Bridge Bruins.
"It's going to be great to start against one of the best teams in the state in Rock Bridge," Higgins said.