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Football is finally here

Football is finally here Football is finally here

Athens ready to start its game schedule Friday

By Casey Krautkramer

After waiting one month, local varsity high school football teams like Athens are ready to start playing actual games that count this Friday night.

Teams began practices later this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, which resulted in the cancellation of non-conference games to start the 2020 season. Athens plays its first football game this season at 7 p.m. this Friday, Sept. 25, at Edgar.

The Athens football team got a taste of what it’s like to play eight-man football during its scrimmage against Auburndale on Friday night.

Athens still plays traditional 11-man football, while Auburndale will compete in eight-man football during this wacky 2020 season because of COVID. Auburndale plans to return to 11-man football next season.

The Bluejays traveled almost 40 miles to Auburndale to scrimmage against the Eagles, formerly nicknamed the Apaches, on a 60-degree sunny Friday night.

Fans couldn’t see fourth-year Athens head coach Todd Diethelm’s normal facial expressions on the football field during the scrimmage, because he was wearing a gaiter mask that covered his neck and the majority of his face to prevent the possible spread of the coronavirus to his players. Therefore, fans will need to take his word on how his players fared in the scrimmage.

“I believe the scrimmage went well,” Todd Diethelm said, who’s spent over 12 years coaching in some capacity in the Athens football program. “It was a little unusual running some eightman concepts for Auburndale, but the players had fun with it.”

Eight-man football teams normally only have three starting offensive and defensive linemen, compared to five in the traditional 11-man format.

The Athens football team returns eight starting players on offense and nine on defense this season from last year’s team, which finished the season with a 5-5 record after a 30-7 loss at Al-



MARTENS/ REMBS Junction City

mond-Bancroft in a WIAA Division 7 opening playoff game.

The Bluejays return junior quarterback/ linebacker Cooper Diedrich and senior running back/linebacker Dayne Diethelm, who is head coach Todd Diethelm’s son.

“The plan will be very similar to last year for both Dayne and Cooper,” Todd Diethelm said. “They are like having coaches on the field, they know what I want and expect from both. Cooper is very athletic who can elude defensive players and go the distance for a touchdown. Dayne is our physical running back who loves contact and has the ability to run through tackles and run for a while.”

The team’s other top returning players are senior Jake Denzine, running back/defensive back; senior Cobie Ellenbecker, running back/defensive back; senior Kaden Redmann, offensive lineman and linebacker; seniors Patrick Redmann and Kyle Peel, offensive and defensive linemen; junior Caleb Borchardt, offensive lineman, running back and defensive lineman; sophomore Kyler Ellenbecker, offensive lineman, running back and linebacker and sophomore Aiden Janke, tight end and defense.

Todd Diethelm also expects the following new players on the varsity squad to see playing time this season: Seniors Brody Lipinski and Dakota Zillmer, offensive and defensive linemen; senior Michael Komarek, tight end and defensive end; juniors Aiden Guralski and Evan Guralski, offensive linemen and linebackers, and junior Kody Lepak and sophomore Blake Hein, offensive and defensive linemen.

One of Athens’ goals is to beat Abbotsford this season. The Bluejays haven’t beaten the Falcons since their historic 2014 season when Mike Thurs was the team’s head coach. That season, Athens’ only loss was to Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs in the game right before state.

“We need to play more physical in the trenches against Abbotsford because their players have beaten us up front the last few years,” Todd Diethelm said. “Our mentality has to be that we can be physical and go out and play that way.”

Athens plays against Abbotsford at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 30, at home. In the meantime, Athens is gearing up for its 2020 season-opening game at Edgar this Friday night. Head coach Todd Diethelm said he’d have his players ready to go.

“We have a lot to work with as well as work on,” he said after Friday’s scrimmage. “Blocking and tackling at this point are our main focus in practices this week. Our players are looking forward to strapping on their helmets on Friday night to try and get back to some normalcy this year.”