Turnovers cost teams wins, and perhaps nobody can echo that sentiment more than Paul Day.
Day, Fort Zumwalt West’s coach, has seen his team commit 30 turnovers. The Jaguars (4-6) improved dramatically in Class 6 District 5 play when they committed four.The Jaguars, who are minus 13 in turnovers, will try to hold on to the ball when they play Hickman (7-3) in the Class 6 quarterfinals at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Hickman coach Gregg Nesbitt said he expects the Jaguars to commit fewer turnovers.
“I guess the thing that scares you when you look at someone like Zumwalt is they are due to slow that stuff down,” Nesbitt said. “If I’m in their camp, certainly it’s a concern because neither team is good enough to go into this ball game and turn the ball over. If you’re minus two or three (in turnovers) it will definitely figure in the outcome.”
Fort Zumwalt West has played its best during district play, winning all three games by a combined 70 points. Its only other victory came on Sept. 26, a 13-7 win against Troy.
Day said the offensive improvement in district play has made the difference.
“I think not turning the ball over and executing a little better offensively are the keys to why we started playing better on offense, for sure,” Day said.
Hickman and Fort Zumwalt West have some similarities. Both have struggled with turnovers early in the season and showed improvement during district play. Both teams feature a mobile quarterback with Blake Tekotte for Hickman and Dustin Nellesen for the Jaguars.
Both teams have played Jefferson City with different results. Fort Zumwalt West lost to Jefferson City 32-0 on Sept. 12, and the Kewpies beat the Jays 42-16 to clinch the District 6 title.
Nellesen leads the Jaguars offense, rushing for 885 yards on 170 carries and nine touchdowns. The Jaguars run an option, with Nellesen keeping the ball the majority of the time. Fullback Dennis Gildea has the second most carries with 84 for 528 yards and seven touchdowns.
Although the offense has improved in district play, the defense has remained questionable.
Day said the defense has been a positive except for a few mistakes.
“We’ve struggled, giving up big plays, but other than that we’ve done a pretty nice job,” Day said.
The Jaguars have won their third straight district title and have had varsity football for only five seasons. The Jaguars struggled in the Gateway Athletic Conference, but Day said their confidence was not shaken.
That confidence should be at its peak coming into Saturday’s game, but Day said winning will come down to who can execute better.