Aug. 22 signaled the beginning of another football season for St. Charles County area teams and for the Fort Zumwalt West Jaguars and Jaguar Nation that meant pads popping, cheerleaders cheering and touchdowns under the Friday Night Lights.
Fort Zumwalt West began the 2014 season on the road against the Holt Indians and the second year of Coach Neil Nowack’s tenure much like the first one.
The Jaguars struggled a bit early and then caught fire midway through the first quarter clicking on offense and defense to roll to an easy 42-7 season-opening victory over the game, but overmatched, Holt Indians.
“It’s the first game of the year and you don’t always know what to expect, Nowack said. “It’s nerves and everybody wants to make big plays and try to do a little too much. (But) once our offense and defense settled down and keyed in on their responsibilities we played a lot better.”
The game started out a bit sluggish for both teams but by halftime the Jaguars had rolled to a 28-0 lead scoring two touchdowns in each of the first two quarters.
In the third quarter, the Jaguars came out firing on all cylinders.
Senior quarterback Chase Brown along with senior Logan Anderson are two major keys for Fort Zumwalt West when the Jags have the ball.
Brown ran for a touchdown and hooked up with Anderson on an acrobatic long pass and run for a 40-yard score against Holt. Anderson also scored on a 1-yard run in the third quarter. In total, Brown threw for 194 yards in the game while Anderson had four catches for 79 yards receiving.
“Chase and Logan are both tremendous contributors for our offense and their leadership on and off the field really helps set a strong focus on success for our program,” Nowack said.
But it’s not just Anderson and Brown that make the Jaguars shine on the gridiron. Senior safety Dylan Bruce and senior safety Blake Benoist are two of nine returning starters on defense that give the Jaguars a bruising, physical persona between the lines.
Bruce led the club with 10 tackles in the Jaguars’ opener while Benoist racked up six tackles in against the Indians. Senior linebacker Roark Penn also is a force for the Jaguar defense.
“Dylan Bruce has been a three-year starter and a dynamic player for us,” Nowack said. “Roark Penn and Blake Benoist along with Bruce have started for three years and they give us tremendous experience and flexibility to run different defenses.”
In the season opener, the Fort Zumwalt West stop crew had a few hiccups early giving up a couple of deep drives, but they did not break. From the middle of the first quarter on, the Jaguars defense became a steel wall giving little breathing room for Holt playmakers – except for a late third quarter touchdown – and holding the Indians to a paltry 180 yards of total offense.
In upcoming games, opposing offenses will find the Jaguar defense hard to move on.
“Our offense has plenty of ability but we really lean on our defense to set the tone and carry us,” Nowack said. “They really do a good job of flying to the ball, making plays and they really help the offense with field position.”
In 2013, Fort Zumwalt West went 8-4 and was knocked out by Columbia Rock Bridge in the Class 6 quarterfinals. This year, the expectations are back up and the Jaguars seem ready for the challenge of going deeper into the playoffs.
“Every year, everybody wants to take out (Fort Zumwalt) West,” Brown said. “We definitely feel like we have the potential (to make a playoff run).”
Anderson added what may be the Jaguars winning combination, “Play hard play-by-play and don’t take any plays off.”