Inside of the walls of the football program, head coach Paul Day and his staff of assistants don’t ever talk about winning state championships.
Never mind Fort Zumwalt West’s 67-40 overall record, six conference titles, and six playoff appearances in just 10 years of its varsity existence, Day just doesn’t believe in premature state championship talk, and he certainly doesn’t encourage it.
The coach instead believes his program is best built to compete for conference and district titles very year, and that the Jaguars should just “let the chips fall where they may” once the state playoffs roll around.
This season though, after going 10-3 in 2010, and advancing to the state semifinals, experts all over the region, and rabid Jaguar fans believe 2011 might just be the year the chips fall in place for Fort Zumwalt West, which at the start of the preseason looks like one of the teams that could win it all come state title time in November.
“Don’t get me wrong, winning a state title is a goal of ours,” Day said, following one of West’s early-morning workouts at Hoekel Stadium earlier this week. “That would be the ultimate. But we just want to continue to improve every single day. I know it sounds cliché, but trust me, in our coaches office and in our locker room (winning conference and districts) is what is talked about.”
Come November though, it might be the Jags that everyone is talking about, especially with a roster as talent-laden and deep as the one West will field this season.
On the offense alone, West features a set of skill players that easily ranks among the best in the area.
Senior running back Ray Harris (5’9, 200) and senior wide receiver Kyle Echols (6’1, 180) are the leaders of this group, after earning First Team All-GAC South honors last season.
Harris was the leading rusher in the GAC South last year with 1,438 yards and 27 touchdowns, while Echols led the league in receiving with 65 catches for 1,123 yards and nine touchdowns.
Quarterback Drew Hare (6’2, 205) was also a league leader for West in 2010, he passed for a GAC South-best 3,201 yards and 24 TDs in his first year as the Jags signal-caller, and Day believes he can be even better in 2011.
“He’s just so intelligent with what he does,” Day said. “He’s one of those guys that just can’t watch enough film, can’t get enough throws. Then you grow to be 6’2, 205, and be blessed with a great arm and great athletic ability, and when you put that stuff together, it truly is like having another coach out on the field.”
West also expects big contributions from versatile senior slotback Matt Quarles (5’5, 155) and junior wideout Teddy Williamson (5’9, 165).
Up front, the Jags feature one of the area’s most imposing offensive lines with an all-junior front five of Briar Rice (6’2, 280), Ben Saint (6’2, 330), Dom Donato (6’2, 320), Kenny Boyer (6’2, 220), and Michael Carroll (6’2, 230).
On defense, West looks just as strong, with four first-team all-conference players returning, including senior defensive end Tanner Day (5’10, 220); senior defensive backs Brett Uhlemeyer (6’2, 190) and T.J. Fine (5’11, 180), and impressive junior linebacker Demetrius Bernard (5’10, 215), an impressive and imposing specimen, some college scouts consider the best class of 2013 defensive player in the area.
“He’s an outstanding player for sure,” Day said. “And the leadership he showed on our team as a sophomore is as impressive as anything else.”
Other potential defensive starters include senior linebacker Ashton Brown (5’7, 170), senior defensive lineman Quinton White (6’0, 200), senior free safety Dylan Myers (5’8, 155), and junior cornerback Kyle Harris (5’9, 155).
“It’s been some kind of offseason,” Day said. “You don’t get many of these in coaching where the entire offseason, your kids work so hard, but they’re also extremely talented. We’re really excited about getting going.”
The Jags will open the season on Friday, Aug. 26, when they’ll host CBC at Hoekel Stadium at 7 p.m.
2011 FORT ZUMWALT WEST FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
8/26 vs. CBC 7 p.m.
9/2 at Francis Howell North 7 p.m.
9/9 at Bentonville (AR) 7:30 p.m.
9/16 at Francis Howell 7 p.m.
9/24 vs. Wentzville Holt 1 p.m.
9/30 at Francis Howell Central 7 p.m.
10/7 vs. Wentzville Timberland 7 p.m.
10/14 vs. Columbia Hickman 7 p.m.
10/21 at Jefferson City 7 p.m.
10/28 vs. Troy Buchanan 7 p.m.