A fast-paced, run-oriented offense gets the headlines these days for the Fort Zumwalt North football team. But the Panthers also have a pretty good defense as well.
Fort Zumwalt North’s defense showed its muscle against Timberland. The Panthers “D” shut out Timberland for over three quarters and the offense did just enough as Zumwalt North defeated the Wolves 24-7 on Friday night for the Class 5, District 3 championship at Fort Zumwalt North High School.
Fort Zumwalt North (11-0), which won it’s 11th straight game will host Lebanon in a Class 5 quarterfinal next Saturday at 1 p.m.
It was the Panthers defense led by junior linebacker Jaylin Vaughan, and senior linebacker Vernell “King” Rue that kept Timberland’s offense shut out until the fourth quarter. Vaughn and Rue lived in the Wolves backfield in this second game between the teams in three weeks.
“We were just calling out blitz calls and getting back there and I think we had a lot of good coaching and we had a lot of great calls that helped us,” Vaughn said.
Vaughn made it happen on both sides of the ball against Timberland. He scored a pair of touchdowns on two red-zone runs.
A 6-foot-3, 240-pound bruiser, Vaughn scored on a 5-yard run to give the Panthers a 7-0 lead with 7:03 left in the second quarter. He clinched the win with a 1-yard jaunt in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter.
It was Vaughn’s physical, dominating presence at linebacker that drew raves from Fort Zumwalt North coach Joe Bacon. “He’s got some pretty special natural abilities and it’s nice to see him perform that well on both sides of the ball,” Bacon said.
Vaughn along with Rue, Eli Paraham-Lewis, Kyle Mallettt, Kader Ndiaye, Trevor Olson, and Jacob Triplett each produced big defensive stops to keep the Wolves grounded.
“I feel confident in saying we definitely have the best defense is St. Charles County and maybe in a pretty big area,” Bacon said. “They have not gotten the credit they deserve.”
The Panthers defense tilted the momentum of the game at the start of the third quarter.
Down 10-0, Timberland returned a North kickoff to the Panthers 33-yard-line.
But Vaughn dragged down Wolves running back Jarrett Wilson for a 3-yard loss and Vernell Rue dropped Wilson in the backfield for a 13-yard loss. Then Vaughn followed with a with a pass breakup on fourth down to stop the comeback drive.
“It’s a great time for us and we have a great time doing it,” Vaughn said of the big defensive stops. “We have a great time doing it and it just feels great.”
Panthers quarterback Jack Ederer hit Rue on a 28-yard skinny post pass for a touchdown with 7:35 to go for a 17-0 edge.
“They have got good guys that can make plays and they’ve got a veteran ball club” Timberland coach Ed Gilreath said. “We came out and held them better than we did three weeks ago and our kids were ready to fight and our kids put it on the line for 48 minutes.”
Timberland (6-5) got its lone score on a 1-yard run by Wilson midway through the fourth quarter.
The Panthers head into next weekend having scored 536 points so far and show no signs of slowing down.
“I like how much of a brotherhood we are,” Ederer said. “We love each other, we hang out and we play for each other and we feel like our teamwork’s better than last year, so we’ll keep moving on.”