Fort Zumwalt North coach Joe Bacon would like to repeat last season – but with a different result in the final game.
The Panthers had the best season in the program’s history in 2016, finishing 12-2 and winning the Gateway Athletic Conference [GAC] Central division. Fort Zumwalt North lost 49-14 to Vianney in the Class 5 state championship game.
But that was then. Now, it’s time for the 2017 campaign.
Bacon welcomes back five starters on offense and five on defense.
In his first season at Francis Howell last fall, coach Cory Snyder led the Vikings to a 9-3 record and the third round of the Class 6 playoffs. There are six starters returning on offense and four on defense.
The talented Grimes twins are back for their senior year at Orchard Farm. Caleb is a linebacker and tight end, and Cade is a safety and wide receiver. The Eagles went 8-3 last season and won the GAC North under coach Eric Schroer.
The St. Dominic Crusaders won the Archdiocesan Athletic Association [AAA] Large Division last fall and finished 9-2. Coach Blake Markway has three former head coaches on his staff as assistants, in Jim Schottmueller, Ken Moore and Scott Fulton. The crew has three starters back on both sides of the ball.
Timberland has three senior players who have verbally committed to colleges. Tight end Jake Papez and offensive lineman Brad Papez will be going to Bowling Green State and defensive lineman Ja’Von Hune will go north to South Dakota.
Lutheran St. Charles has a new coach. Brandon Tripp takes over the Cougars’ program, which finished 8-3 last fall. It’s his first year as a varsity football coach. Tripp led the CBC track and field squad to back-to-back team trophies in 2013 [third place] and 2014 [fourth place], and was an assistant coach for the Cadets football team that won the Class 6 state championship in 2014.
Here is a look at the teams in alphabetical order and with insight from the coaches:
2016 record: 3-7. Finished fourth at 1-2 in AAA Large Division. Lost 33-3 in opening round of Class 3 playoffs.
Coach: Charlie Elmendorf, entering 23rd year as head coach
Assistant coaches: Cory Elmendorf, Pat Steagall, Doug Rothfuss, Shane VanDiest and Jack Lloyd
Returning starters: 7 offense, 8 defense
Players to watch this fall: Louis DeGuentz, Adam Moore, Luke Loewenstein, Jake Korba, Ben Wilson, Blake Rufkhar, Timmy Goetges and Mitchell DeGuentz
Newcomers expected to contribute: Jack Allison and Wil Czeschin
Team strengths: Experience and the senior class.
Goals: Win AAA. Advance in the playoffs.
Favorites to win the AAA Large Division: St. Francis Borgia, St. Dominic
Final thought: “We are excited to begin the season,” Elmendorf said. “Our senior class is a very experienced group with leadership and talent. Avoiding injuries, developing younger players and improving weekly are important for us to be successful.”
FORT ZUMWALT EAST LIONS
2016 record: 4-6. Tied for fourth at 2-3 in GAC Central. Lost 49-14 to St. Dominic in first round of Class 4 playoffs.
Coach: Scott Eacret, entering 11th year as head coach
Assistant coaches: Bryan Beerman, James Wofford, Marvin Byrd, Jim Klevorn, Rob Hawkins, Don Philips, Don Morris and Wally Ferguson
Returning starters: 7 offense, 6 defense
Team strengths: Senior leadership.
Goals: Win week one.
Favorites to win the GAC Central: Fort Zumwalt North
Final thought: “We are expecting great leadership from our seniors,” Eacret said. “Many of them have started since they were sophomores.”
FORT ZUMWALT NORTH PANTHERS
2016 record: 12-2. Finished 5-0 to win GAC Central. Lost 49-14 to Vianney in Class 5 state championship game.
Coach: Joe Bacon, entering 10th year as head coach
Assistant coaches: Elis Brister, Josh Cooper, Nick Fisher, Mike Iannicola, Karl Odenwald, Marty Robinson, Carl Scharf and Brandon Whitmore
Returning starters: 5 offense, 5 defense
Offense: Spread option
Players to watch this fall: Jack Ederer, Kader Ndiaye, Trevor Olson, Vernell “King” Rue, Mareon Lowery, Eli Paraham-Lewis, Jaylin Vaughn and Bryce Rowles
Newcomers expected to contribute: Jacob Triplett, Yosef Kropp, Kyle Mallett and Zach Hall
Team strengths: Experience on both sides of the ball. Several years of varsity experience for multiple players. Strong leadership within several classes in our program.
Goals: Improve on last season’s accomplishments. Compete for the GAC Central title. Compete for the District 3 title. Play great football every week.
Favorites to win the GAC Central: Whichever team can come ready to play every single Friday night.
Final thought: “Last season was the most successful in school history,” said Bacon about the Panthers’ third consecutive conference and district titles and first appearance in a state championship game. “However, last season is over. This is about a new group of boys with their own goals, their own strengths and their own season to play out. The guys we’re counting on the most in this current group have bought into the offseason grind that you have to do in order to play well against top-tier teams. We will continue to play many quality teams, both conference and non-conference, and will be tested early and often throughout the season. This team is looking forward to the challenge of trying to raise the bar for our program one last notch through their hard work and determination.”
FORT ZUMWALT SOUTH BULLDOGS
2016 record: 5-6. Tied for second at 3-2 in GAC Central Conference. Lost to 50-19 to Forth Zumwalt North second round of Class 5 playoffs.
Coach: Adam Hamilton, entering first year as head coach.
Assistant coaches: JV Williams, Maurice Vick, Eric Mitchell, Chris Galvin, Jason Caimi, Prentice Henderson, Vince Licameli and Matthew Mikel
Returning starters: 3 offense, 4 defense
Players to watch this fall: Blake Bennett, Gavin Cork, Devin Williams, Josh Cox, Dominic Licameli, Lucas Pagano, Brent Mattli, Sam Weir, Baylor Cole, Ben Long and Jalen Whitfield
Newcomers expected to contribute: Isaiah Edmonds, RJ Keen, Dylan Clapsaddle, Alex Drmac, Nick Mattli and Kieran Snowden
Final thought: “We’re excited about competing in the GAC Central,” Hamilton said. “Our kids have been working hard all summer in the weight room, on the field and in the film room to be ready to give their best efforts on Friday nights.”
FORT ZUMWALT WEST JAGUARS
2016 record: 6-5. Finished 5-0 to win GAC South. Lost 24-14 in second round of Class 6 playoffs to Francis Howell.
Coach: Neil Nowack, entering fifth year as head coach
Assistant coaches: Ben Pike, Tim Fine, Jeff Auten, Doug Brown, Tyler Horner, Drew Hare, Anthony Farley, Ric Troupe, Mike Rimmer, Dan Zull and Dan Hayes
Returning starters: 9 offense, 8 defense
Captains: Mike Fine, Marquis Majors, Jake Stern, Jake Verschoore and Jordan Williams
Players to watch this fall: Jake Verschoore, Zhiyir McCloud, Logan Williams, Marquis Majors, Josh White, Mike Fine, Clayton Ivie, Macklin Zinselmeyer, Jordan Williams, Matt Harris, Jayce Guion, Dylan Williams, Cameron Echols, Jerome Waggoner, Alex Wisnieski, Jack Strassner, Jake Stern, Sam Wolfe, Trey Durbin and Geo Houston
Newcomers expected to contribute: Geo Houston, Jack Strassner and Max Zuccarello
Team strengths: Team is fortunate to have a great group of returning players and we have good leadership from our senior class.
Goals: Play hard and get better every day.
Favorites to win the GAC South: There is as much talent in our conference this season as ever. There are several teams that could win the conference this season.
Final thought: “We have a great group of young men that have worked extremely hard,” Nowack said. “I’m excited to watch this team develop and grow throughout the year. Our senior class has really matured into a good group of young men and leaders and I’m excited to watch them this season.”
FRANCIS HOWELL VIKINGS
2016 record: 9-3. Finished second at 4-1 in GAC South. Lost 49-14 to Blue Springs in third round of Class 6 playoffs.
Coach: Cory Snyder, entering second year as head coach
Assistant coaches: Justin Schmidt, Mike Muench, Jason Skidmore, John Locke, Pat Doering, Mark Schopp, John Brune, Mark Malawey, Jon McDonald, Jeff Ehrhardt and Carl Wayne
Returning starters: 6 offense, 4 defense
Offense: Pistol spread
Players to watch this fall: Jack Flynn, Josh Unland, Max Hefner, Andrew Funk, Kyle Siebenshuh, Jonny Krone, Joe Faron and Daylan Dalton
Newcomers expected to contribute: Tyler Sprouse, Niboh Gideon, Drake Heismeyer and Jonah Libbert
Team strengths: Returning starters on offense, linebackers on defense.
Favorites to win the GAC South: Fort Zumwalt West, Timberland
Final thought: “Our kids have been working hard this offseason,” Snyder said. “As a coach, I am personally looking forward to watching them grow as a team and as individuals both on and off the field.”
FRANCIS HOWELL CENTRAL SPARTANS
2016 record: 2-8. Finished 0-5 for sixth place in GAC South. Lost 49-8 to Blue Springs in first round of Class 6 playoffs.
Coach: Pete Eberhardt, entering third year as head coach
Assistant coaches: John Heath, Jeremy Houchins, Eric Heumann, John Howard, Gifford Timothy, Todd Bizzell, Malach Radigan, Tommy Eberhardt and Deion Smith
Returning starters: 6 offense, 3 defense
Captains: Sam Davis, Justin Hedrick, Connor Riebel and Keon Waters
Players to watch this fall: Justin Hedrick, Dominick Puni, Keon Waters, Dylan Thaxton, Connor Riebel and Cole Kreder
Newcomers expected to contribute: Jaccob Schroeder and Adam Lewis
Players who have committed to a college: Dominick Puni to Indiana State
Team strengths: Offensive line.
Goals: Play one week at a time.
Favorites to win the GAC South: Timberland
Final thought: “We have a large senior class, 24 players,” Eberhardt said. “Most of them have been playing since their sophomore year. So, we are really excited to see how they will perform this season. Plus, we have some young talent that we are excited to see play.”
FRANCIS HOWELL NORTH KNIGHTS
2016 record: 6-5. Finished fourth at 2-3 in GAC South. Lost 52-46 to Hazelwood East in second round of Class 5 playoffs.
Coach: Brett Bevill, entering second year as head coach
Assistant coaches: Mike Bevill, Kurt Kruse, Sam Davis, Arty Johnson, Ryan Darks, Charles Lott and Mike Castro
Returning starters: 8 offense, 7 defense
Players to watch this fall: They will all be exciting to watch.
Newcomers expected to contribute: Multiple underclassmen will contribute to the team this year.
Team strengths: We have a lot of returning players as well as younger players who are hungry for the season to start.
Goals: To win the first game.
Favorites to win the GAC South: Francis Howell, Fort Zumwalt West
Final thought: “We have been working hard in the offseason both on and off the field, and are excited to get the season underway,” Bevill said. “We value our team culture above all things, and understand that to be successful, we will have to work harder, be selfless and attack each day with purpose.”
2016 record: 2-8. Finished sixth at 0-5 in GAC Central. Lost 28-20 to Moberly in first round of Class 4 playoffs.
Coach: Ryan McMillen, entering fifth year as head coach
Assistant coaches: Alex Zangriles, Dave Bishline, Zach Kling, Ryan Barnes, Eric Peggs, Brandon Hankins, Kevin Haynes, Ben Ehling and Joe Harrington
Returning starters: Ryan Mason, Jack Nyemetz, Brandon Wortman, Gerardo “Tito” Plaza, Wesley Hines, Jarrin McKeithen, Seth Tate and Garrett Overton
Captains: Donavan Arrington, Hunter Perkins and Ryan Mason
Team strengths: Have a good core of leadership on the team that is really buying into the program and what we believe in.
Goals: To compete and get better every day. For the team to come together as one and support one another through the inevitable ups and downs that happen throughout a football season.
Final thought: “Our players and coaches are extremely excited to get this season started,” McMillen said. “Our team has bought into our core beliefs and culture that we have built throughout this past offseason. We have a good mix of returning starters and younger players that are going to have a big impact on Friday nights.”
LIVING WORD CHRISTIAN EAGLES
2016 record: 2-9. Finished fifth at 0-3 in AAA Large Division. Lost 56-35 in second round of Class 3 playoffs.
Coach: Andy Hare, entering ninth year as head coach
Assistant coaches: Dave Lehmann, Darrell Bine, Mike McMullen, Kevin Folk, Troy Robertson, Randy Cochrum, Kris Williams, Jesse Robinson, Glenn Huskey, Sam Dieckhaus, Steve Dieckhaus, Tim Culwell, Todd Wunderlich and Mike Heuer
Returning starters: 6 offense, 7 defense
Captains: Ryan Williams and Brady Tolle
Players to watch this fall: Brady Tolle, Zach Harding, Jared Drury, Connor Barton, Evan Soell, Jacob Figge, Ryan Williams, Colin Kissell, Levi Hawkins, Clay Culwell, Braden Hawkins, Chase McCoy, Aidan Currivean and Donovan Lloyd
Team strengths: Offensive and defensive lines, senior quarterback and overall senior leadership.
Goals: Win conference and district.
Favorites to win the AAA Large Division: St. Dominic and St. Mary’s
Final thought: “We are extremely excited to kick this season off,” Hare said. “We have some outstanding players returning and a talented freshman class coming in to help.”
LUTHERAN ST. CHARLES COUGARS
2016 record: 8-3. Went 2-1 to finish second in AAA Small Division. Lost 60-16 in second round of Class 4 playoffs to McCluer South-Berkeley.
Coach: Brandon Tripp, entering first year as head coach
Assistant coaches: Brent Gossett, Chris Schaeffer, Angel Rubio, Cody Eitzmann and Kenny Mays
Returning starters: 6 offense, 6 defense
Captains: Bryce French, Hunter Osborne, Anthony Heard, Jack Grzeskoviak, Caden Propst and Gabriel Rubio
Players to watch this fall: Bryce French, Hunter Osborne, Hunter Grills, Dylan Hawk and Jack Grzeskoviak
Newcomers expected to contribute: Program has 24 freshmen players to start the season. All of them will contribute on the varsity and junior varsity level.
Players who have committed to a college: Jake Versemann to Missouri S&T, Hunter Edwards to Iowa State.
Team strengths: Biggest strength is in the offensive and defensive lines. Team is bigger and faster up front than we have been over the past few years.
Goals: Continue to get better each day.
Favorites to win the AAA Small Division: Trinity Catholic is the returning state runner-up. Most people outside our locker room respectfully will say them. Inside our locker room, we believe it’s Lutheran High.
Final thought: “I am excited about my first football head coaching opportunity. Even though I have been a head track and field coach for over 10 years, football is just different,” Tripp said. “I am very lucky to have such an amazing coaching staff and administration. With their support, we have been able to build something special here at Lutheran over the last few years. The last two seasons, we ended with approximately 23 kids. This year we have over 40 kids on our roster, which is huge for our program. It is a blessing to have depth at every position on the field. Depth creates natural competition, and our players are working hard and getting better each day.”
ORCHARD FARM EAGLES
2016 record: 8-3. Finished 4-0 to win GAC North. Lost 48-27 to St. Charles West in second round of Class 3 playoffs.
Coach: Eric Schroer, entering fourth year as head coach
Assistant coaches: Blake Arnette, Steve Menteer, Mike Turpen, Brad Yount and Mike Hohe
Returning starters: 3 offense, 3 defense
Captains: Caleb Grimes, Cade Grimes, Matt Lewis and Jon Niemeyer
Players to watch this fall: Caleb Grimes, Cade Grimes, Jon Niemeyer, Matt Lewis and Connor Jones
Newcomers expected to contribute: Tyrique Johnson, Blake Weber and Drew Weber
Team strengths: Talented and experienced linebacker group that can play the run and pass very well; good strength/size/speed at the offensive skill positions.
Goals: To develop the mindset that it takes to be successful on a daily basis; to learn to attack every detail with passion and focus; and to improve every day.
Favorites to win the GAC North: St. Charles West
Final thought: “We believe we can compete for our conference and district, if we can continually grow in our ability to execute every time we step onto the field,” Schroer said.
ST. CHARLES PIRATES
2016 record: 3-7. Finished fourth at 1-3 in GAC North. Lost 43-6 to Parkway Central in first round of Class 4 playoffs.
Coach: Joe Leibner, entering eighth year as head coach
Assistant coaches: Bob Leonard, Brad Bichel, Jim Scott, Justin Heinen, Kyle Bert, Nigel Kinworthy, Paul Imbierowicz and Ray Gillespie
Returning starters: 5 offense, 6 defense
Players to watch this fall: Micah Hughes, Dahvonte Henry and Quinton Corbin
Newcomers expected to contribute: Caleb Irons and Zach Schnare
Team strengths: Youth and speed.
Goals: Development of self-starters and fierce competitors.
Favorites to win the GAC North: Orchard Farm, Warrenton
Final thought: “This team is enthusiastic and young,” Leibner said. “It’s a good group of young men who are excited to compete on a daily basis.”
ST. CHARLES WEST WARRIORS
2016 record: 7-5. Finished second at 3-1 in GAC North. Lost 12-7 to McCluer South-Berkeley in third round of Class 4 playoffs.
Coach: Gary Strauss, entering 18th year as head coach
Assistant coaches: Nuru Allen and Ryan Rockow
Returning starters: 6 offense, 5 defense
Defense: 4-4, 4-3
Players to watch this fall: Darius Morrison, Leo Ortiz, Brandon Carbray, Cameren Jett, Jeff Alexander, Cody Blackwell and Matthew Frazer
Newcomers expected to contribute: Clark Henderson, Joey Echele, Joe Presson and Atticus Edge
Team strengths: Speed and versatility.
Goals: To win conference, districts and state.
Favorites to win the GAC North: Orchard Farm
Final thought: “I’m excited for this season because we have a lot of competition for positions, which will make us a much deeper and competitive team,” Strauss said.
ST. DOMINIC CRUSADERS
2016 record: 9-2. Finished 5-0 to win AAA Large Division. Lost 27-7 to Parkway Central in second round of Class 4 playoffs.
Coach: Blake Markway, entering fourth year as head coach
Assistant coaches: Jim Schottmueller, Ken Moore, Scott Fulton, Brian Graf, Phil Brotherton, John Butler, Bob Hennekes and Gerry Lopez
Returning number of starters: 3 offense, 3 defense
Offense: Multiple; pro style and option
Players to watch this fall: Timmy McAteer, Chris Fleming, Theo Pardee, Josh Schipper and Josh Stiffler
Newcomers expected to contribute: Josh Willenbrink, Jack McCormick, Nick Hoac, Jack Niggemeier, Tony Povich, Matt Hanson and Blake Schneider
Team strengths: “By midseason, we will have the deepest backfield we have had since I’ve been at St. Dominic,” Markway said. “Offensive cordinator Jim Schottmueller and wide receivers coach Scott Fulton have really improved the passing game this summer. Our defense was one of the best in Class 4 last season, and has done a great job picking up where they left off with new players from their understanding of the scheme under defensive coordinator Ken Moore.”
Goals: Improve each week and play our best football in October and November.
Favorites to win the AAA Large Division: “There are so many quality and well-coached teams in this conference, I couldn’t pick one,” said Markway. “Every week will be competitive.”
Final thought: “I’m very proud of how our 2017 seniors have stepped up and led over the summer,” Markway said. “We have 32 freshmen on the team who have worked all summer long on the field and weight room, because of the leadership that the senior class provides and sets examples for the expectations of St. Dominic football. That is encouraging because we will replace a lot of starters from 2016, but we are confident due to the work our players have put in and the program that our players have built at St. Dominic.”
2016 record: 6-4. Finished third at 3-2 in GAC South. Lost 9-8 to Fort Zumwalt South in first round of Class 5 playoffs.
Coach: Ed Gilreath, entering sixth year as head coach
Assistant coaches: Craig Collins, Justin Shiroma, Mike Sevier, Warren Honore, Steve D’Antonio, Connor Brown, Scott Johnston, Jeff Renz, Sean Manning, Jason Arndt and Tom Papez
Returning starters: 5 offense, 6 defense
Players to watch this fall: We have a great group of seniors that have been working extremely hard and are leading this team in the right direction.
Newcomers expected to contribute: Our underclassmen have bought into our senior leadership and will step in to fill any gaps there may be.
Players who have committed to a college: Jake Papez and Brad Papez to Bowling Green State, Ja’Von Hune to South Dakota
Team strengths: Will play physical football until the clock reads 0:00.
Goals: To improve every week and play our best football in November.
Favorites to win the GAC South: Fort Zumwalt West or Francis Howell
Final thought: “This group has been working hard since January and is ready to get back on the field,” Gilreath said.