Preble uses turnovers to post win
By Greg Bates
GREEN BAY – Dustin Gresen figured coming into the season his defense might need a little time to get adjusted since half his starters were new.
But to the Green Bay Preble football coach’s delight, his defensive unit showed it was ready in the season opener.
The Hornets forced five De Pere turnovers and turned that into three touchdowns, as Preble beat De Pere 28-0 at Gauthier Family Stadium Aug. 22.
“Takeaways are always important,” Gresen said. “I think our defense finished with 13 stops, three takeaways and a score. Those are outstanding numbers for a defense, so that’s awesome.”
Conversely, De Pere got into Preble’s side of the field three times without a point to show for it.
Having four fumbles and one interception certainly killed drives.
“I told the boys, ‘We’re going to have a hard time beating anyone with five, six turnovers, let alone a quality opponent like Preble,” De Pere coach Chad Michalkiewicz said.
Gresen puts an emphasis on creating turnovers.
During a practice each week, he’ll have his guys participate in a takeaway circuit that shows the importance of getting turnovers, as well as preventing them.
“We noticed the guys on film carrying the ball loosely, and in the game, so we say, ‘Secure that tackle first and the second guy comes in, rip away,’” Gresen said. “Some of our defensive guys were flying around hitting hard tonight. It surprised a lot of us and we were excited to see those guys show up and do that.”
Preble (1-0, 1-0 Fox River Classic Conference) had a great opening drive.
Quarterback Ryan Buergi was throwing well early, connecting on back-to-back throws to Nick Renier and Nathan Vanseth for 12 and 17 yards, respectively, to put Preble in De Pere territory.
Two plays later, Buergi put the ball to the end zone that Renier high-pointed for a beautiful 34-yard touchdown catch.
“It wasn’t even a called play, really,” Renier said. “We didn’t have that play in practice, coach just threw it in there and it worked.”
De Pere (0-1, 0-1) had its best shot of the opening half when Christian Bocik hooked up with Maddax Shinners for a 50-yard gain to the 15.
After a couple of negative plays, the Redbirds were forced to attempt a field goal. Mulu Joyce missed from 41 yards out.
Later in the second quarter with De Pere pinned inside its own 5, the Redbirds opted for a third-down pass.
The attempt was tipped at the second line of defense and picked off by Hunter Yang.
He had a clear path to the end zone and scored from 20 yards out to put Preble up 14-0 late in the opening half.
“We would have felt OK at 7-0 at halftime given we kind of got put back on our heels early with the pick-6,” Michalkiewicz said. “But then we really at halftime, get a three-and-out, we get the ball at the 42-yard line, feeling good. Complete a pass and it’s a fumble right away. It’s the wind taken out of your sail.”
The turnovers woes continued for De Pere as the Redbirds’ first offensive play of the second half resulted in a fumble.
Starting with a short field, Preble utilized another short field. Running back Jamar Howell his first of two 2-yard second-half touchdown runs to put the ball away.
Preble’s offense showed a nice mix of balance as quarterbacks Buergi and Evan Holm ran the show well.
“We came into this knowing what we could do, we knew we could throw the ball around,” Renier said. “We knew our line could push guys around and our running backs would follow. We knew this would happen, we just had to execute.”
With so many positives from the season-opening victory, Gresen was able to learn about his team. The biggest thing Gresen took away: his guys have swagger.
“They fly around, they love each other and they play hard-hitting football,” Gresen said. “That swagger is hopefully going to take us long and far this year. That’s our goal, they want that conference championship and the seniors preached it from the offseason last year.”