Defense carries De Pere to third straight win
By Greg Bates
DE PERE – The outcome of the game wasn’t in doubt, but De Pere’s defense wanted to preserve its shutout.
As Ashwaubenon got down to the De Pere 31-yard line with three minutes remaining, the Redbirds stopped a fourth-and-5 to get the ball back.
De Pere’s sideline reacted to the turnover on downs as if it was the changing point in the game.
The critical stop ensured the Redbirds’ defense had their streak of scoreless quarters moved up to 10.
“The guys wanted the shutout,” De Pere coach Chad Michalkiewicz said. “It’s not easy to get shutouts, and when you do it against a quality football team, it’s a special night.”
The Redbirds stepped up the entire night against Ashwaubenon in scoring a 21-0 victory in Fox River Classic Conference action Friday night.
The Jaguars, still searching for their first win of the season, didn’t back down.
“Our kids battled, and when somebody went down, the next guy came in,” Ashwaubenon coach Brian Ryczkowski said. “To only give up 21 (points), things were going our way. I’m excited about the resolve some of the kids showed.”
With back-to-back rivalry games coming up for De Pere – against Bay Port and West De Pere – having its defense get tested after a couple of blowout wins will be big moving forward.
“We didn’t want to overlook Ashwaubenon, which was good,” De Pere linebacker Luke Brosig said. “We had a good game plan for them and we knew we had to stop these guys. They were 0-3, but they had a tough schedule. We knew we had to get a good game plan for them, and we were able to stop them and execute.”
Three weeks after giving up 38 points in a season-opening loss to Wausau West, De Pere has allowed a total of six points in its last three games.
Offensively, De Pere (3-1 overall, 2-0 FRCC) keyed on its running attack and dominated the line of scrimmage.
The Redbirds finished with 205 yards on 41 carries and a pair of touchdowns.
“Even when they loaded the box, it was tempting to take some shots,” Michalkiewicz said. “We had (Jack) May, overthrew him by a little bit. They load the box, and we can still run the ball at will – I’m happy. I would have liked a few more points, but we dominated the football game.”
De Pere had a different look this week in its backfield with the addition of senior Sean Colwell.
After missing the first three games of the season, Colwell had three carries of more than 14 yards each and tallied 52 yards on eight attempts.
“He’s electric,” Michalkiewicz said. “You’re going to see his name a lot. I also thought (Devin) Koskey took another step in the right direction, too. He’s a nice running back. We’ve got a solid 1-2 punch, and then (Michael) Alexander in our heavy sets – he’s a beast.”
Koskey led the way with 16 attempts for 91 yards.
Like it has done all season, De Pere’s offense came out gunning on the opening drive.
Quarterback Gabe Herman connected with three different receivers on consecutive plays to get De Pere into Ashwaubenon territory.
The drive culminated in Herman – who finished 4-for-4 for 48 yards on that possession – hitting May in the flat.
The speedy receiver outran the defenders to the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown.
A second straight three-and-out by the Ashwaubenon offense gave De Pere the ball back at its 47.
The Redbirds ran six plays, all runs, as Alexander scored from six yards out to put the home team up 14-0 after the extra point near the end of the first quarter.
Ashwaubenon quarterback Boone Kirst was hurt early in the second quarter and replaced by sophomore Jayden Schoen.
Kirst didn’t return, and Ryczkowski – who couldn’t disclose his specific injury – didn’t know if his junior quarterback would be ready for next week’s game against Pulaski.
In Schoen’s first drive, he led the Jaguars to the De Pere 29 before Ashwaubenon (0-4, 0-2) turned the ball over on downs.
With De Pere stopping the 16-play drive, it was a major turning point early in the game.
“They got the fake punt, and that was demoralizing for our defense,” Brosig said. “Our offense wanted to get back out there, too. They drove on us, but we were able to stop it, which was good. We gained lots of momentum, and our offense dominated their defensive line.”
De Pere, which was 5-for-7 on third down, put the game out of reach early in the fourth quarter when it pieced together a drive that was capped by a Herman one-yard touchdown plunge.
Through the air, Herman was 6-for-11 for 53 yards and one touchdown and one interception.
De Pere now heads into its toughest stretch on its schedule, starting on the road with state-ranked Bay Port Friday and hosting West De Pere (1-3, 1-1) Sept. 24.
The Redbirds beat Bay Port 20-13 during the alternate spring season five months ago, with their defense helping in the win.
The Pirates (4-0, 2-0) are a revamped team after going 2-5 during the COVID-shortened year.
“That’s going to be a big one,” Brosig said. “The atmosphere’s going to be awesome. We know Bay Port is going to come in firing, but we’re going to come in firing, too.”