A new, yet familiar face will be roaming the sidelines and calling out instructions when the Fort Zumwalt North boys soccer team takes the field in just over a month for the 2019 season.
Brian Kelleher takes over the Panthers program this fall from previous head coach Chris Stockmann, who resigned after last season to spend more time with his family.
Kelleher had been an assistant coach with the Fort Zumwalt West boys from 2009 to 2014. For the past five years, he has been an assistant with Stockmann at Zumwalt North.
His previous experience, with stops since 1992 at Hazelwood Central, Hazelwood West, Zumwalt South, Fort Zumwalt West and Zumwalt North, make him a good fit for the Panthers. He said that coming back as a head coach this time around was good for him.
“I thought it would be a good challenge,” he said.
In his first season, Kelleher will look to mold cohesiveness and consistency into a group comprised of mostly seniors.
“I think we have nine seniors this season … this will be their third or fourth year playing varsity, so we went from being a pretty young team to now we’re gonna hopefully be one of the more veteran teams around,” Kelleher said.
Top scorers – seniors Thomas DeAvila and Grant Rapplean – are back to give the Panthers some punch on the offensive side of the ball. Sophomore goalie Davis Herbst is back to protect the goal for Zumwalt North.
Kelleher has been busy putting the players through off-season workouts over the summer and said those have gone well.
The Panthers finished 9-13 in 2018 after a dismal 2-23 in 2017.
Kelleher has definite designs on changing the culture within the program and bringing success to the Panthers with this season and well beyond both on and off the field.
“We want to try and improve every year and continue with getting kids out [to play], work hard in the summer, and just continue to kind of stress a culture of winning and getting everybody doing the right thing and acting the right way on and off the field.”