Marquette, Summit Plant Seeds of Program Two Football Teams Start from Scratch

Article excerpt

Football teams at high schools such as East St. Louis, Hazelwood East, Mehlville and John Burroughs are only a few days into preseason workouts. But already they have good reason to believe they will be winners.

Their history says so.

And then there are the schools that have a team but no history. "That's the hard part," said Jim Gagen, the athletic director and head football coach at Marquette High School, which will open its squeaky-clean doors on Sept. 7. "That tradition is so important."

Marquette and Summit high schools - both newly built in the Rockwood School District in West County - will have to build their own football traditions. That doesn't mean the approaching season will unfold without victories, however insignificant they might seem to the rest of the football world.

"The neatest thing is everything you do is new," said Dave Olivo, Marquette's offensive coordinator who is a former quarterback on the football Cardinals roster.

"Everything we do will be (a precedent) for the guys who follow next year," Marquette wide receiver Ryan Leslie said.

Teammate Anthony Critten said: "We get to score the first touchdowns, get the first tackles and set records at Marquette. It's nice. I don't feel any pressure."

Don't look for high expectations as Marquette or Summit take the field for this first season. Neither school will have students beyond the sophomore class. The football teams will play solely junior varsity schedules this season and take on varsity challenges next year.

Marquette is at Kehrs Mill and Clarkson roads in Ellisville, and Summit is at Hawkins and Sugar Creek roads near Fenton. Although construction at each school is not complete, optimism abounds on the practice fields of both football teams.

"Our hope is that when our sophomores are seniors, we'll be competitive," said Gagen, who joined Marquette from Lafayette, where he had been athletic director.

"We think our goal is to win one or two games next year, but by the time our sophomores are seniors, we'd like to be .500 and competitive in the Suburban West" Conference.

If turnout is an indicator, Marquette and Summit both have a promising future, if not a field they can genuinely call their own. Marquette's field is a vast expanse of tractor treads and dirt. The Mustangs are practicing at Crestview Junior High, which is the old Lafayette High on Clayton at Clarkson. The turnout for Wednesday's two-a-day workouts was 102 athletes, Gagen said. …