Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Improved Defense Leads Francis Howell to Win over Kirkwood

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Improved Defense Leads Francis Howell to Win over Kirkwood

Article excerpt

WELDON SPRING -- Gus Hetzel did not want a repeat of the first week of the season.

Hetzel's Francis Howell defense yielded 305 yards rushing and 38 points in a rain-filled loss to Fort Zumwalt North in the opener, but the Vikings rebounded in a big way Friday night, holding Kirkwood to just 45 yards on the ground in a 24-14 win at home.

"We got a bad taste in our mouth from the first week," said Hetzel, a junior defensive back. "All the guys just wanted it so much more. We worked hard, the coaches worked hard and it showed."

Howell (1-1), the No. 10 team in the STLhighschoolsports.com large-schools rankings, also held standout junior quarterback Kannon Nesslage in check.

One week after a dazzling 437-yard, nine-touchdown debut in a win at Jefferson City, Nesslage was held to just 213 yards passing and no scores in the defeat.

"Our secondary did a pretty good job not giving up the big plays," Howell coach Brent Chojnacki said "They got us on some short bubble routes and stuff like that, but putting the pressure on the quarterback helped us. That D-line did a great job putting that pressure on and I think we got in his head a little bit."

Seventh-ranked Kirkwood (1-1), which hung 61 points on the Jays in last week's opener, couldn't get its offense going.

"You know what, you've got to give that to Francis Howell," Pioneers coach Farrell Shelton said. "They had a great game plan and they just out-physicaled, outworked us, outcoached us. They had it all. Hats off to them."

After an exciting pregame ceremony honoring first responders and military personnel, both teams had empty opening possessions.

But Howell struck first on its second series, needing just three plays to cover 75 yards.

Junior quarterback Alex Pipes threaded the needle between two defenders with a pass to Reid Weber at the Kirkwood 38 and Weber did the rest, racing in for a 59-yard score and a 7-0 lead just five minutes into the game. …

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