Jaguars looking to bounce back after tough season
By Murray Gleffe
ASHWAUBENON – A season after losing its starting quarterback to injury and four of its first five games, the Ashwaubenon Jaguars are looking for a fresh start.
By the end of the 2020-21 alternate fall season this past spring, underclassmen had grown up, and the Jaguars ended with two regional victories over Green Bay Southwest and Green Bay Preble to end the shortened, seven-game season.
Previously, Ashwaubenon matched up against Grafton in the 2019 WIAA Division 3 playoffs for the first time in program history (which includes 25 appearances in Division 2 and state championships in 1996, 2000, 2001 and 2005).
“I couldn’t have predicted the up-and-down season we had in the spring,” Brian Ryczkowski, Ashwaubenon head coach, said. “We had some injuries and kids having to quarantine, which threw off our depth in each game. However, we’re not using it as an excuse. This is a new season, and we’re ready.”
The progressive movement will be in full force in 2021 as junior Boone Kirst takes over at quarterback.
This past season, he was forced into action by the second game after senior Cadian Vang went down with an ACL tear in his knee.
Despite a lack of reps, Kirst threw for a multitude of yards in his first year of varsity action.
“(Kirst) got a chance to play when we didn’t think he would get in a game,” Ryczkowski said. “It was awesome to see him develop on the fly. He got more confident as the season wore on.”
The Jaguars will be thin with experience in the backfield and need to replace all-conference performer Connor Ramage, who rushed for more than 750 yards in limited games.
Andrew Pludeman appears to be the leading candidate to replace Ramage.
Scott Cavin and Reed Deterville-Kehlerare will also be in the mix.
Those backs will have a few returnees upfront.
Kaden Jahnke, Ben Steeno, Tanner Campbell, Avery Jobelius and Josh Witt all contributed in the spring and will be the force to protect Kirst.
Kirst will have several receivers to play pitch-and-catch with, as Rhett Jonas and Caden Van Duyse return at split end, along with Eli Zollar at tight end.
The trio hauled in more than 25 catches and 400 yards in splitting starting duties.
“I like throwing the ball,” Ryczkowski said. “I know it’s Wisconsin in the fall, so, if you want to play for a conference championship, you have to be balanced with the potential weather you could get on Friday nights.”
With several defensive players having graduated, Ashwaubenon will look to some new faces.
The Jaguars gave up 62 points in their opener and an average of 32.4 points per game.
However, in its final two games, the defense came to life, giving up only two offensive touchdowns.
Cooper Routheau and Adam Newel could anchor the defensive line, and Trevor Secor and Blake Theodoru will be key assets in the secondary.
Ashwaubenon will be back to a more traditional schedule, as it opens with Kaukauna and Kimberly before tackling West De Pere, De Pere and Pulaski.
The combined programs went 27-6 last season.
“We can only control ourselves during games,” Ryczkowski said. “Our schedule is tough. Hopefully, when teams see Ashwaubenon on their schedule, they think of tradition and a tough out. We’ll play anybody, any time of the season. This year is a big step in moving in the right direction.”
Sports editor’s note: Ashwaubenon is the first team to be previewed in The Press Times for the 2021 season.
Ashwaubenon 2021 regular season schedule
8/20 – @ Kaukauna
8/27 – Kimberly
9/3 – West De Pere
9/10 – @ De Pere
9/17 – Pulaski
9/24 – @ Green Bay Preble
10/1 – Green Bay Southwest
10/8 – Green Bay West
10/15 – @ Bay Port
• All games begin at 7 p.m.