Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Howell vs. West Tops Bill to Kick off Weekend Play

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Howell vs. West Tops Bill to Kick off Weekend Play

Article excerpt

Francis Howell at St. Charles West.

With all due respect to Duchesne, Francis Howell North and the rest of the Gateway Athletic Conference, it has become the league's feature game in recent years. And this year is no exception.

"This is the one that everybody's been talking about," West coach Steve Stahl said. The two GAC powers will square off at 7:30 tonight at West. Howell, 3-0 overall and 2-0 atop the league standings, is ranked fourth in the statewide Class 5A poll while West, ranked ninth in the Class 4A poll, is 3-0 and 1-0. Both teams are in the Post-Dispatch top 10. "When I took this job, I was told that St. Charles West and Francis Howell North were the big rivalry games, and I'm really looking forward to it," first-year Howell coach Larry Branson said. "I know of Steve Stahl and the great job he does with the program at West. This'll be a real good test for our football team." Howell, which has won the last two GAC titles, beat West 14-0 at Howell a year ago. The key matchup tonight figures to be West's quickness on offense against Howell's quickness on defense. Something has to give: West is averaging 30.3 points per game while Howell is surrendering just 7.3 points a contest. "West is an explosive football team; Tauras Ferguson is extremely dangerous, the fullback's (Erin McGuire) tough and they know how to run the wishbone," said Branson, who has former West coach Jeff Auten on the Howell staff. "Because they've run the offense longer, they're able to make adjustments a lot quicker than we can. At this point, we're still pretty basic. "But it's almost like looking in a mirror." Added Stahl: "Our philosophies are very similar, but that's where the similarities end. Howell's a much bigger team and because of that, it's i mportant that we try to control the ball and the clock. In the last couple of weeks, we've relied a lot on the big play. That's good to see, but it's not something you can bank on, especially against a team like Howell. "If we're going to win this game, we're going to have to show that we can grind it out." The Warriors' main weapon is Ferguson, a junior who has rushed for 345 yards on just 17 carries this season; he has also scored five touchdowns. Howell's main weapons are junior Zack Abron (231 yards, three touchdowns), senior Ben Smith (195 yards, two touchdowns) and junior Justin Hayes (161 yards, three touchdowns). "We're expecting a great football game," Branson said. "You can talk all you want about fancy plays, statistics and everything else, but it still comes down to who can block and tackle and move the football." In other key games tonight: *Duchesne, off to a 3-0 start, will be looking to keep pace atop the GAC when it plays host to the winless Indians at 7:30 p.m. The Pioneers ar e 2-0 in league play while Wentzville is winless in one previous conference game. …

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