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Large schools program of the year: Historic soccer sweep highlights Fort Zumwalt South's fantastic year

Large schools program of the year: Historic soccer sweep highlights Fort Zumwalt South's fantastic year

From the STLhighschoolsports.com program of the year: 2020-21 series
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Brooke Cattoor needed less than a minute to accept the challenge.

The Fort Zumwalt South sophomore midfielder watched intently as the seconds ticked off in the Class 3 boys state soccer championship at Cooper Soccer Complex in Springfield last November.

A standout on the girls team, Cattoor joined in the on-field celebration with her male cohorts following the Bulldogs' 3-0 win over Cape Notre Dame.

Cattoor quickly realized she would be facing some lofty expectations in a few months.

“One of the guys said, 'We did it, now it’s your turn,' ” Cattoor recalled. “I thought, 'Wow, could we really do it?' ”

The answer was a resounding yes.

The Bulldogs girls team matched the boys 196 days later by downing Grain Valley 5-2 in the Class 3 state title match at Soccer Park in Fenton.

Fort Zumwalt South became the first public school to capture a boys and girls state soccer title in same the school year.

That historic double was the highlight of a fantastic year for the St. Peters-based school. The Bulldogs shined on the athletic landscape from August to June. 

Cattoor and her teammates capped off the biggest athletic year in the history of the school, which began playing sports on the varsity level in 1988.

Fort Zumwalt South is the first public school to claim STLhighschoolsports.com large school program of the year honors since Edwardsville in 2017.

The magical campaign began with a boys soccer title and ended with both teams celebrating on an adjacent field at Soccer Park.

“There was a little bit of pressure there to keep up with the boys and win one ourselves,” said Cattoor, who led the girls team with 31 goals. “It was more motivating than anything else. Right after they won, we started believing that we could do it, too.”

The soccer crowns were particularly special for boys head coach Jim Layne, who also served as an assistant coach to LeAnne Sanders on the girls squadron.

“Both teams pushed each other to reach new heights,” Layne said. “There’s a competitive edge between both programs, which is fantastic. Watching the girls during the boys season, you could tell they were getting that itch.”

47 teams from the St. Louis region won state titles during the 2020-21 high school season. We were on the scene for every one of those championships. We salute each of these winners. Production by Michael J. Collins

Cattoor estimated seven or eight of her teammates made the trip to Springfield for the boys final. Just as many boys players, maybe a few more, were on hand for the girls final.

“The two teams — they’re very competitive,” South athletics director Ryan Rapp said. “They like to push each other’s buttons, but it’s all in fun. They talk (trash) to one another in a joking way. But they’re the first to cheer the other one on. It’s an amazing culture.”

Karson Gibbs, the Post-Dispatch boys soccer player of the year, led the boys team with 49 goals. The two squads combined to win 45 of 51 matches, with the girls posting a 22-2 mark.

The Bulldogs' other athletic teams had plenty of other memorable highlights in between the two state soccer championships.

The baseball team reached the final four for the first time since 2009 on its way to a fourth-place finish. The Bulldogs, under the direction of coach Bill Friedel, peaked at the right time, winning four successive games by a combined 37-6 to reach the semifinal round.

“At the beginning of the year, we felt like we could definitely win district, and the rest was a possibility,” said junior infielder/outfielder Joey Friedel, who also plays golf and basketball. "Then we just kept going."

The softball team reached the Class 4 state quarterfinals by posting a 14-9 mark — its first winning record since 2011.

The girls volleyball team won 12 of 18 matches to record its first above-.500 campaign since going 20-15 in 2004.

Both basketball teams reached the district final before losing to St. Dominic. They combined to go 34-16.

The boys volleyball team advanced to the Class 3 state semifinals.

The girls cross country team finished ninth at the Class 4 championship meet, led by all-staters Madelyn Gray and Sarah Morrison.

But one of the biggest feats may have come from the football team, which turned in a complete about-face. The Bulldogs compiled a 5-6 mark after losing all 10 games by a combined 436-93 the previous season.

Zumwalt South's boys wrestling team won the Class 3 District 4 and GAC North/Central team titles with three individual district winners and 10 state qualifiers.

All told, South compiled a 133-54 mark in the eight core sports.

“Seasons like this don’t happen often, but when they do it’s because you have good coaches and good kids that have created a culture where all sports are important,” said Rapp, who completed his fifth season at South after a stint in Rich Hill, Missouri. “It’s something you hope to repeat every year.”

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