Eaglecrest freshman Gregory White, left, senior Andrew White, second from left, and junior Noah Bennett, right, team up again on the 2022 Sentinel Colorado All-Aurora Boys Golf Team after helping the Raptors tie for fifth place at the Class 5A state tournament. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Sentinel Colorado)

The Eaglecrest boys golf team turned early optimism into late reality in the 2022 season, during which it elevated the program to a place it had never been.

The Raptors qualified for the Class 5A state tournament as a four-player team for the first time in the 32-year history of the school and three of those four would play well enough over two days at City Park G.C. in Denver to earn spots on the 2022 Sentinel Colorado All-Aurora Boys Golf Team, which is based primarily on state performance.

The Eaglecrest trio of senior Andrew White, junior Noah Bennett and freshman Gregory White are joined by senior Jake Irvine of Regis Jesuit — Aurora’s other team qualifier — and freshman Brayden Forte of improved Cherokee Trail in Aurora’s top group.

Veteran Eaglecrest coach Stan Adams knew he had the potential for the program’s best team given the return of Andrew White, a state qualifier in each of his three previous seasons, the arrival of White’s talented and experienced brother Gregory and the huge strides made by Bennett and senior Preston Unrein via hours and hours of practice and play at Murphy Creek G.C.

While the Raptors found the going tough in the standings of Centennial League play with the likes of Cherry Creek, Arapahoe and Cherokee Trail, they got a chance to shine when they played away from those teams in regional state qualifying. Eaglecrest finished as the runner-up in regionals to earn the second automatic team berth and at state ended up tying with Cherry Creek for highest honors among league teams in fifth place.

Andrew White greatly relished his first experience at the state tournament with teammates (which was the bonus to his individual victory at the Western Region tournament at Adobe National G.C.) and he looked to build on his finishes of 14th as a freshman in 2019, 48th in 2020 and 33rd in 2021.

White shot a 78 in the opening round at state, which in many years might have still had him in contention, but with the way the field handled the course, it put him in a tie for 59th going into the final day. The last of White’s eight career state rounds was a plus-1 71 that brought him into a tie for 38th.

Regis Jesuit senior Jake Irvine earned a second straight spot on the Sentinel Colorado All-Aurora Boys Golf Team as he led the Raiders at the Class 5A state tournament. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Sentinel Colorado)

White finished in time to watch his younger brother rise to the occasion at the end of his second round to climb up the final leaderboard.

Gregory White finished with a 1-under-par 69 in his final round to follow a 71 on the opening day, with the two-day total of 140 good enough to tie him for eighth place. White posted Eaglecrest’s best individual finish since former star Davis Bryant won the 5A state title in 2017 before he graduated and moved on to Colorado State.

The leaderboard was so tight at the top that White was just one stroke out of a tie for fourth place and just three strokes behind individual medalist Caleb Michaels of Monarch.

Bennett had a remarkable season that paid off in his performance in the postseason, as he turned in the final score to help clinch the regional runner-up finish and then exceeded even his owns goals at the state tournament. Bennett opened the Centennial League season with an 84, but by the end of the campaign he shot rounds of 72 and 76 (after he came in hoping to just break 80) to finish tied for 36th.

Irvine joins Andrew White as repeat members of the All-Aurora team as he turned in the top finish for coach Craig Rogers’ Regis Jesuit team, which had a much better showing in the second round, but finished 15th in the final standings with three players in the field that returned from the previous season.

Cherokee Trail freshman Brayden Forte tied for the lowest round of any Aurora player at the Class 5A boys state golf tournament when he shot a 1-under-par 69 in the second round. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Sentinel Colorado)

The Raiders finished fourth at regionals, but all four individuals (Irvine, plus seniors Cole Dewey and Eli Handler and sophomore Roland Thornton) qualified individually.

Irvine had the highest score at regionals among Regis Jesuit players, but finished as the low man at state with rounds of 75 and 73. That put Irvine (who tied for 16th place as a junior) in a tie with Bennett and others for 36th place.

Aurora’s best rounds on the final day of the state tournament came from two freshmen, Gregory White and Forte, who was part of a youth movement that strengthened Cherokee Trail, though coach Jason Leclaire’s Cougars couldn’t get through a difficult regional as a team.

Forte tied White for the best round of the tournament with the 1-under-par 69 (an 11-stroke improvement from the opening round, which was scuttled by one tough hole) and he tied for 38th.

Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports

2022 SENTINEL COLORADO ALL-AURORA BOYS GOLF TEAM

First team: Noah Bennett, jr., Eaglecrest; Brayden Forte, fr., Cherokee Trail; Jake Irvine, sr., Regis Jesuit; Andrew White, sr., Eaglecrest; Gregory White, fr., Eaglecrest

Honorable mention: Cole Dewey, sr., Regis Jesuit; Eli Handler, sr., Regis Jesuit; Christopher O’Donnell, soph., Cherokee Trail; Michael Rosman, jr., Grandview; Roland Thornton, soph., Regis Jesuit; Preston Unrein, sr., Eaglecrest

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