Ashwaubenon falls to Kaukauna in opener
By Rich Palzewic
ASHWAUBENON – Things couldn’t have started much worse for the Ashwaubenon football team in its season opener against Kaukauna on Thursday.
On the Jaguars’ first offensive snap of the 2022 season, quarterback Boone Kirst saw a snap sail over his head for a 20-yard loss.
On second down, a Kirst pass slipped through a receiver’s hands. After no gain on third down, the Jaguars punted on fourth down.
Two plays later, Kaukauna scored the first points of the game on its way to a 35-14 nonconference victory over the Jags.
“It wasn’t quite the way we wanted to start the game, but I’m still proud of the effort from my guys,” Ashwaubenon coach Brian Ryczkowski said. “When you play a team in back-to-back years like we did against Kaukauna, it’s a measuring stick. We battled better than we did last year, but we’ve got some work left to do. We’ll find out how we respond after a loss.”
Ryczkowski said there might have been some nerves from his young players to start the game.
“We’ve got some first-time starters in a lot of positions,” he said. “I told the team, ‘We want to play our best football in September and October.’ We have two tough nonconference games to begin the season, but it will help prepare us for the FRCC (Fox River Classic Conference).”
The Jaguars travel to Kettle Moraine Thursday, Aug. 25, before opening FRCC play Sept. 2 at Green Bay Southwest.
On the Ghosts’ first play from scrimmage, a 39-yard pass completion moved the ball to Ashwaubenon’s 1-yard line.
One play later, Kaukauna went up a touchdown on a short run.
The Jaguars put together a nice drive on their next possession, but Kiefer Besson’s 32-yard field goal missed wide right near the end of the first quarter.
The Ghosts failed to increase their lead on the last play of the quarter when they also missed a short field goal.
The game remained 7-0 until late in the first half.
Kaukauna scored on a 35-yard touchdown pass with less than two minutes remaining to go up two scores.
“A couple of big pass plays hurt us in the first half,” Ryczkowski said. “Other than that, we were right in the game. I was proud of the defense.”
After the Ghosts surged ahead 21-0 early in the third quarter, Ashwaubenon executed a fake punt to keep a drive alive.
A few plays later, sophomore running back Gus Newel rumbled 29 yards for a score on the last play of the third quarter.
AJ Uhl’s extra point made it 21-7.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Jaguars attempted an onside kick, but Kaukauna recovered the ball at its own 45-yard line.
Four minutes later, the Ghosts had a 28-7 lead.
Jacob McVane took the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for a score to breathe life into Ashwaubenon, but Kaukauna scored another late touchdown to end the scoring.
In the last four minutes of play, the Jaguars lost three fumbles.
“Obviously, we need to take care of the ball better,” Ryczkowski said. “Having said that, the guys had a great sense of urgency in August and worked hard. It’s tough to lose the opener.”
Despite the loss, Ryczkowski said the team can take positives from the game.
“We played some sophomores who got a game under their belts,” he said. “Winning today would have helped their confidence, but in the end, they know they’re a good football team.”