The stage was big for Fort Zumwalt North sophomore quarterback Cade Brister but he never seemed to be rattled. With a little help from Deon Lewis and the Panthers high-powered option offense, Brister and Zumwalt North fought off a fourth quarter challenge from rival Fort Zumwalt South and rolled to a 42-21 homecoming win Saturday (Sept. 27) at Fort Zumwalt North.
Zumwalt North moved to 6-0 (3-0 in Gateway Central conference play) and has now won five straight times over their archrivals.
“We were playing pretty well last week, probably the best we’ve played so far this year and I think we followed up well with that this week,” Fort Zumwalt North coach Joe Bacon said. “I kind of feel like we’re rounding into shape here.”
Zumwalt North got a prime-time effort from Brister, who was making his first varsity start filling in for injured senior Brendan Pierce, who went down with an MCL injury a week ago against Fort Zumwalt East.
Brister ran the Panthers veer option attack almost seamlessly as Zumwalt North rolled to a 20-6 lead in the first half behind a 66-yard scoring run by Brister, a 58-yard scoring catch and run from Brister to Tre Johnson, and a 2-yard touchdown run by Deon Lewis.
Brister ran for 179 yards, two touchdowns and threw for 140 yards and a score as he looked like a polished senior under center.
“Our starter (Pierce) that got hurt helped me out a lot this week to make sure I was ready,” Brister said. “We’ve got a lot of backs that are really good and it’s hard to go wrong in that offense.”
Lewis also provided a big hand as well rushing for 179 yards and three touchdowns. Two in the second half.
Fort Zumwalt South (5-1, 2-1) got back into it early in the second quarter on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Drake Whaley to Marshawn Blackmon.
A 2-yard touchdown run by Cameron Henderson cut it to 20-18 with 7:18 left in the half.
The Panthers had a drive short-circuited by an interception inside the Bulldogs 20 in the final minute before the intermission.
In the third quarter, Zumwalt South pulled ahead on a 36-yard field goal by Zak McCrary for a 21-2o lead.
Behind Brister, the Panthers rolled up 679 yards of offense.
“We are pretty fortunate to have two quarterbacks that can both play at that level,” Bacon said. So to lose one and have our backup step up like that, we’re pretty blessed.”
Zumwalt North exploded in the fourth quarter as the Panthers scored three touchdowns in just over seven minutes to wipe out the Bulldogs lead.
Brister started the eruption with a 5-yard touchdown run to put the Panthers ahead.
The touchdown was set up in part by a botched onside kick the Zumwalt North with great field position on the drive.
“I kind of probably screwed up on that onside kick,” Zumwalt South coach Scott Fulton said. “We worked on it all week and it worked perfect and today we kind of screwed it up.”
North moved to lead to 35-21 on a 47-yard touchdown jaunt by Lewis. Lewis set up the score with an interception on the previous series.
A little over two minutes later, the Panthers iced the game on a 8-yard scoring run by Lewis. The score was set up by Dre’ Hathaway’s fumble recovery.
NOTES: In other games played on Saturday, John Burroughs beat MICDS 42-6, Fort Zumwalt West beat Francis Howell Central 56-0, Fort Zumwalt East stopped Holt 42-12, and Westminster defeated Priory 31-14.