Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Opener Offers Chance to Catch Champs Early

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Opener Offers Chance to Catch Champs Early

Article excerpt

The Fort Zumwalt North football team opens its season tonight, playing host to Francis Howell.

The Vikings, who were 9-2 overall and 5-0 atop the Gateway Athletic Conference a year ago, are again being tabbed as the team to beat among area teams.

But that doesn't bother Zumwalt North coach John Christopher. "If you have to play a top team, I'm not so sure it's not best to catch them early, before they get a chance to get it rolling," Christopher said. "First games are usually decided by mistakes. If we can eliminate those mistakes and play a sound football game, we feel like we might have a chance to surprise Howell. "It'll be a tough game - we know that - but we're looking forward to it." The Panthers were 5-5 overall and 3-2 in league play a year ago. They return a number of key players from that team, including all-league quarterback Tyson Rathert, who threw for 917 yards and 11 touchdowns a year ago. "Having Tyson back is a real advantage," Christopher said. "He has been there before and he knows what it takes to be successful. He has a great arm and he knows how to run the offense. He has earned the respect of his teammates and we're expecting big things from Tyson." With Rathert at the helm, the Panthers figure to open up the offense a bit this season. The team's top returning receivers are seniors Brian Lippard, Andy Ladlie and Doug Lakey. Senior Todd Bruening is the tight end. "Traditionally, we've been a running team," Christopher said. "This year, we'll be much more balanced. Tyson has a great arm and we have some good receivers; we're going to try to take advantage of that." Senior Jeff Newcomb, who rushed for nearly 600 yards a year ago, joins seniors Chad Heflin and Joaquin Thomas and junior Zach Lindsey as the team's top runners. On the line, Bruening (6 foot, 215 pounds) will be joined by seniors Mike Williams (6-2, 250) and Chris Exley (5-10, 170) at tackle, senior Steve Harris (6-5, 205) at center and senior Pat Powers (6-1, 225) and junior Steve Purdy (6-4, 280) at guard. Bruening, a second-team all-GAC defensive lineman, returns at end, where he'll be joined by senior Glen Bell (5-10, 175). …

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