Bob Bunton, a Parkway North alum, has been coaching football for 35 years at the school, 18 as an assistant and currently in his 17th as the head coach. This past season he eclipsed the 100 win mark and as far he’s concerned the milestone means nothing as far as coaching goes.
“It has absolutely no bearing whatsoever. I get so excited, I feel like a kid every fall.”
As far as expectations go for the Vikings, it’s something else to get Bunton joyful for.
“Win a state title. We’ve been close several times, but that is the goal for sure.”
It’s been a four-year master plan for the Vikings in terms of building up this loaded and talented senior class.
“This is the year we’ve been grooming for.” Five kids that are seniors started as freshman. We’ve had one losing season in 25 years and never won anything less than five games, but we’re tired of seven wins. It’s time to move up with this group.”
The Vikings primarily operate with a running attack and they return their top three rushers, Ryan Smith, Qion Butler, and Reggie Smith.
The trio combined for 1,177 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns, however the offense plans on chucking the pigskin around more than usual with the quarterback and athletes at their disposal.
“We’re trying to expand the offense and throw the ball. You always want to be complete and Luke Hertzler makes us complete.”
Hertzler is a three-year starter who is proven, but was limited last season when he sustained a season-ending injury in week five. He wasn’t the only key player that spent significant time off the field with an injury.
“We got banged up at the end of last year, no excuses. We gotta stay healthy. Losing our quarterback and losing our tailback after week three and that hurt us as well.”
Kevon McMiller and Jason Hawkins has under the radar skill according to Bunton.
“He’s (McMiller) quick as a cat and very athletic. They look like little boys out there, but they’re athletes. They are ballers,” Bunton said.
Michael Thompson, a four-year starter, Tyson Collins and Alonzo Smith will anchor the offensive line.
If that wasn’t ideal enough, Parkway North arguably has the best kicker in the area in Jack Faron, another four-year starter.
“Four years is very rare. He knows more about kicking than our staff combined. Whenever you’re a high school coach and you have you’re punter, kicker, and you’re snapper in place for four years we’re very, very fortunate. Jack is a very good one.”
Ryan Newton, will lead the defense at middle linebacker. He ought to know thing or two at the position because he’s been there for four years. Shocking. He led the team with 112 tackles last season. Coach Bunton also has high hopes for the defensive secondary.
“We feel very good about our defense and really like our DB’s in the secondary. Jelani Williams, in my opinion is going to be the sleeper in the area at safety. Very athletic, he’s light, but he can run. He’s an aggressive kid, but he’s just a sophomore.”
The Vikings conference, the Suburban XII-South, is locked and loaded for another potential bloodbath like the last couple of seasons.
“When you’re talking Kirkwood, Pattonville, Summit, Webster Groves, and Ritenour who's always athletic that’s tough. All of us banged heads last year. We all gave Kirkwood fits, but nobody could beat them. We all know one another and these are all great programs. If you’re not ready to play a conference game then you’re going to get your but beat.”
North opens up the regular season at home against their long time rivals, Parkway Central. It’s a fixture the two schools always relish.
“It’s a rivalry game and always has been. We told our kids to throw out the records, I don’t care if we’re playing them in week one or week 15. You can always expect great, physical game.”
The Vikings have a lot lined in up in their favor with several key players returning all over the field. North has all the experience they could ever ask for with some good, young players coming through the ranks. Starting out against Parkway Central and Marquette won’t be easy at all, but they will have the edge going into them. They’ll face Kirkwood on the road, but get Pattonville at home for senior night. With all that experience, talent, work ethic and hopefully less injuries, this team could come out of their conference with one loss or maybe undefeated going into the playoffs. Is it so crazy that a state title could be in the mix?
“In all of my time here, this group, in my opinion would be a group that we can strive for that goal. Doesn’t mean you get their automatically. That’s a long haul to Thanksgiving, a lot can happen. It’s a long sacrifice of a season and this would be the group to really shoot for that goal.”