In his first two years leading the Red Bud offense, Musketeers quarterback Griffin Ziebold threw for more than 3,300 yards and 38 touchdowns.
Last season, he combined with dynamic running back Ryan Hess to help the Musketeers reach the second round of the Class 2A playoffs.
This year, the 6-foot-1, 180-pound senior has been even better.
Heading into the Musketeers’ regular-season finale against visiting Sparta on Friday, Ziebold has completed 55 percent of his passes for more than 1,600 yards. He also has 22 touchdown passes against just two interceptions.
Red Bud (5-3) needs to defeat Sparta (1-7) to clinch its second consecutive postseason berth.
“Last year we had a great running back in Ryan which took so much pressure off of me,” Ziebold said. “This year we still have very good running backs but they are young and they are still learning. I think this year with me not only throwing the football, but also looking to run the football more than I have in the past, that I’m more into the game. I’m so much more focused on not only throwing the football but all parts of the game.”
In a must-win situation and coming off a crushing 50-7 setback at Portageville, Mo., in Week 7, Ziebold and the Musketeers played their most complete game of the season as they pounded Cahokia Conference rival Columbia 41-21 last week.
Getting lots of help from an improving offensive line, the quarterback was 17-for-27 for 336 yards and four touchdowns to go with 58 yards rushing.
Red Bud pulled away from Columbia with a four-score burst during a nine-minute stretch in the second half.
With the score tied at 7, Ziebold connected with longtime friend Alex Birchler on a 9-yard touchdown pass to give the Musketeers the lead. But that was only the beginning.
Birchler, a 6-4 215-pound senior, added touchdown catches of 35 yards and 44 yards in the third quarter. Then he hit Seth Bass on a 15-yard scoring play that put Red Bud in command with 11 minutes remaining.
Birchler finished with eight catches for 202 yards and three touchdowns.
“We have a special bond,” Ziebold said of Birchler. “We’ve been playing football together for 13 years and when you have a player with that kind of size and athletic ability, he’s easy to see. He was open on the curl (pattern) all night. When (Columbia) tightened up, it opened up the long passes and we were able to score on them later in the quarter.
“Seth and a couple of other players did a good job on making big catches on third down plays and our offensive line did a great job of giving me plenty of time. I couldn’t have done it without those guys. They have gotten better each week. As a team this was probably our best game of the season.”
Ziebold’s performance came as of no surprise to Red Bud coach Dave Lucht, who thinks Ziebold can continue playing beyond high school if he wants.
Griffin wasn’t interested in playing college football before this season. But now I think he’s changed his mind and would like to play. I think he should.
David Lucht, Red Bud head football coach
“Griffin wasn’t interested in playing college football before this season,” Lucht said. “But now I think he’s changed his mind and would like to play. I think he should. His arm strength is good and I really think he could play at the NCAA Division II or Division III level.
“But what has really helped him is his ability to run the football more this year. He’s not the type of kid who will run 80 yards for a touchdown. But he’s the type of athlete who can pull it down and get 6 to 10 yards a crack. Defenses have to honor that and that opens up the passing game even more.”
Ziebold is a three-sport athlete who is also a point guard on the basketball court and a pitcher/catcher on the baseball field. But football is his passion.
“There is just a brotherhood that develops in football more than any other sport,” he said. “You are with these guys all summer and everyday during the season. You get to know all about them and they become like family.
“We got off to kind of a slow start this year but we’ve picked it up here the second half. We’ve got one more to get on Friday in order to extend the season another week.”