By Tori Wittenbrock
Associate Sports Editor
DE PERE – The De Pere Redbirds worked through the poor weather conditions and to secure their final win of the regular season against the Ashwaubenon Jaguars at home on their senior night on Friday, Oct. 13.
“To send the seniors out the way they deserve, to win on this field, hold their heads high, and feel some joy in their last game. I’m so happy for them to experience that,” said De Pere Head Coach Ben Strickland. “I want to keep playing, and I know these guys do too, so I’m glad for the ability to have another week.”
Although they were able to claim a 14-6 victory over the Jaguars, the game got off to a slow start. De Pere gained possession around their own 41, but the Jaguars were able to hold them in place around half field, wrapping up a scoreless first quarter.
It didn’t take long, however, for De Pere to gain some momentum when Lucas Koskey was able to pick up a 12-yard carry for their first down with just 4:25 until the end of the half.
The Redbirds found themselves scrambling when quarterback Easton Arendt found himself working to avoid a sack, picking up a gain of five yards, leaving his team with a fourth down and seven yards to go at the Ashwaubenon 35-yard line.
Arendt was able to find wide receiver Noah Fischer with a short pass up the middle for the first down.
The Redbirds continued to work their way towards the end zone, reaching first and goal with the ball on the one yard-line with one minute until halftime.
Arendt kept the ball, running it in for a touchdown with 55 seconds remaining on the clock, taking a 7-0 lead going into the second half.
“We knew it was going to be a grinder. I have a great deal of respect for Coach Ryczkowski and Ashwaubenon, and we are very similar types of programs in terms of where we are at right now. It was very competitive last year, and was competitive this year, but we knew it was going to be that way,” said Strickland. “With the conditions, we knew it was going to be an on-the-ground type game. Proud of how our kids adapted and responded. The weather can either be something that is an excuse, or a reason why you’ve got to lean in even harder to your teammates and show up for your brothers.”
Ashwaubenon started off the second half with a decent carry from McVane, but a flag for illegal formation pushed them back.
However, Ashwaubenon did not hold back, making their way up the field with a reception from Jaiden Laboy for 3rd and 1 and Newel securing them a first down at the De Pere 30-yard line.
Newel continued to drag his team up the field landing them at the 3-yard line.
The De Pere defense came up big with a stop, bringing down MacGrath for a loss and then holding the Jaguars to 4th and 6, forcing them to attempt a field goal, which they missed, leaving them scoreless with six minutes left in the quarter.
“That was huge for us. Defense came up with a lot of big stops for us. There were some good drives on offense, but we couldn’t sustain it consistently, and so our defense came up big today,” said Strickland. “When one side of the ball isn’t pulling their weight, we need the other side to step up and the defense did that today.”
On Ashwaubenon’s next drive, MacGrath hit wide receiver Noah Platten with a reception about 49 yards down the field who then ran the ball in for a touchdown, but a flag on the play for illegal formation disallowed the score.
A quarterback sack from De Pere caused a fumble for Ashwaubenon that they recovered on their own 40 yard line for a big loss, ending the third quarter with De Pere still ahead by one touchdown.
Arendt started out the fourth quarter running the ball from De Pere own 26 to Ashwaubenon’s 45-yard line when he was pushed out of bounds with a late hit that gained them 15 yards, as Ashwaubenon racked up another flag for unsportsmanlike conduct which brought them just 15 yards out from the endzone.
A hand-off to Schampers for a 9-yard touchdown brought the score to 14-0 with 9:30 on the clock.
Ashwaubenon hurried down the field with a series of long balls thrown to AJ Uhi and Platten, and a pass interference call on De Pere brought them up in scoring position with a first down with the ball on the 16.
Newel secured a 5-yard touchdown for his team with 2:34 left in the game. However, the score remained 14-6 after Ashwaubenon failed to convert on their point-after attempt.
De Pere ran the clock down on their final drive, as the final score remained 14-6 at the end of the game.
The Redbirds wrap up their regular season in fourth place in the Fox River Classic Conference (FRCC) standings with a record of 4-3 while the Jaguars will place just behind them in fifth with a record of 3-4.