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Watson, Fort Zumwalt East relish chance to win district championship at home

Fort Zumwalt East senior quarterback Ben Watson and sophomore wide receiver Amori Johnson work on sideline pass routes during practice on Nov. 6, 2018, at Fort Zumwalt East High School. [Jonathan Duncan/Mid-Rivers Newsmagazine photo]

Last fall, Ben Watson and his Fort Zumwalt East teammates had their postseason ended by Riverview Gardens in the Class 4, District 3 semifinals. they lost by a point, 42-41.

This time around, Watson and the Lions are roaring and ready to move further in the playoffs.

Thanks to a 31-0 win over Priory in the last week’s Class 4, District 3 semifinals, top-seeded Zumwalt East is playing for a district title for the first time in four years, and they’re eager to clear the district championship hurdle at home against Hannibal on Friday at 7 p.m.

“We’re super excited,” Watson said. “Our goal every year is to win a district championship game and to keep moving on, so we’re super excited.”

The Lions have been one of the hottest teams in Class 4 since losing to perennial Class 5 power and district rival Fort Zumwalt North on Oct. 5.

Riding a four-game winning streak, Zumwalt East [9-2] is playing well in all phases of the game of late. Lions coach Scott Eacret said that hard work, discipline and cohesiveness have helped Zumwalt East get back into the district title game for the first time since 2014.

“They have earned it and they have really worked their tails off to get to this point,” Eacret said. “They were so close last year and that’s been kind of burning in their bellies all year.”

Watson, the Lions senior standout quarterback has been the driving force with his playmaking ability on offense.

He has scored 25 touchdowns and rushed for 1,217 yards while throwing for 1,462 yards through the air and 13 scores.

“We’re fairly young up front and inexperienced and we don’t necessarily always execute to a T, but Ben does a good job of creating things and making things happen,” Eacret said.

Watson is quick to point out that he is not the only playmaker for the Lions as he credited sophomore wide receiver/defensive back Amori Johnson, sophomore wideout Joshua Johnston, and senior Qui’lon Bennett, and senior running back Tristan Davis with giving the offense the firepower to overwhelm opposing defenses.

The Lions offensive line also has blossomed with Watson’s leadership and his weekly dinners with them during the season.

“Our O-line they’re young but they are definitely chipping away and working hard,” Watson said. “Heck, I have linemen meals for a reason. I feed them every Wednesday night so they will block for me.”

In order to take down Hannibal [8-3] in the district championship game and keep the playoff run going on Friday, Zumwalt East will have to be strong on offense, defense and special teams, and win the turnover battle.

“Hannibal is solid team year in and year out, so we’ve got to be disciplined in our defense and execute better on offense, and win the turnover battle as always,” Eacret said. “Turnovers from here on out are always magnified.”

Watson feels the Lions are ready to take that next district step this weekend.

“Last year was definitely heartbreak for us and that’s what I told the guys last Friday night,” Watson said. “We could have had it but we didn’t. This year, we finally get a shot, and I’m hoping we can take it home.”

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