Diethelm derails the Cardinals
Senior enjoys a career day with five touchdowns
There would be no stopping him, no force that could take him down, not as his legs kept churning and his friends and family kept cheering.
Athens’ Dayne Diethelm was the engine that powered the Bluejays on Saturday to victory over the Pacelli Cardinals.
Diethelm used his powerful legs and indomitable spirit to break tackles, and the hearts of the Cardinals, as he scored five touchdowns to lead Athens to a 44-35 victory that moves the ‘Jays to 2-1 on the year.
“I can’t take all the credit, my line played awesome today,” Dayne said, deflecting any praise. “They were some mean son of a guns, and a big reason I got into the endzone as much as I did today.”
The praise was left to his coach, and father, Todd Diethelm, who was not just proud of Dayne’s play, but the entire team and their efforts.
“I expect him to be a leader, and he puts in the time and the effort and deserves everything he gets,” coach Diethelm sayd. “He maybe gets chewed out more than anyone else, but I cannot be prouder of him and the boys. What they did on the field today was exceptional.”
It would take an exceptional performance to stop Pacelli on Saturday. The ‘Jays were focused on Abbotsford and their Oct. 30 meeting, but three days before the game they learned they would be taking on the Cardinals, who happen to have the leading rusher in the state in Brycen Cashin.
Cashin came into Saturday’s contest with over a 1,000 rushing yards in just four games, including a 356 yard performance against Iola-Scandinavia earlier in the year.
“We knew we could not stop him, so we had to do our best to contain him,” Coach Diethelm said. “He had a good game. He did what he was supposed to do. But I give credit to our defense, the kids came in and did what they were supposed to do.”
Cashin had a good game, totalling 127 yards on the ground and three TDs, but the ‘Jays game plan was better. They knew the best defense was sometimes a great offense.
“We wanted to pound the ball inside and get out ahead early because that takes the ball out of [Cashin’s] hands,” Todd said. “Our offense, every time they got close, answered.”
It was the offense that delivered the first haymakers, with Athens rolling to a 16-0 start in the first half. Dayne jump-started his offense, scoring from eight yards out and then converted for two that put the ‘Jays up 8-0.
Athens stopped Pacelli cold in the first quarter and took that 8-0 lead into the second. They then delivered a second blow to the Cardinals when Dayne scored once more, this time from three yards out with 11:47 remaining in the first half.
A successful two point conversion gave Athens a 16-0 lead, but in sports, no lead is safe until the clock shows double zeros.
And after seeing the ‘Jays put points on the board, the ‘Cards returned the favor, delivering their own big plays.
In less than six minutes the Cardinals not only scored three unanswered times, they took the lead.
Cashin scored the first ‘Cards TD on a 16-yard scamper, Pacelli’s QB Drew Kedrowicz called his own number and scored on a 24-yard keeper, and Cashin got in one final time in the first half on a one-yard dive that made it 19-16 with 1:23 left in the second quarter.
The ‘Jays stood stunned on the sideline, the wind removed from their sails. But sometimes all it takes is one big play to get the wheels turning.
Caden Decker supplied that play. Decker took the ensuing kick-off and bolted down the sideline for a 60-yard return that set his team up with the perfect opportunity to regain the lead.
All it took was two plays, the final from - who else? - Dayne from one yard out. The two point conversion failed, but Athens took a 22-19 advantage into the second half.
Athens got the ball to start the second half and went on a long, methodical drive as they pounded the ball inside to move into Pacelli territory.
The ‘Jays converted a crucial fourth down as Michael Komarek hauled in a 16-yard reception from Cooper Diedrich that kept the drive alive and took them to the goal-line.
Pacelli stood firm, and forced another fourth down situation. The ‘Jays tried to pound the ball in, but were stymied, and the air went out of Athens’ sails.
For the second time that day, the ‘Jays had the answer. Athens forced a fumble two plays later and recovered, giving the ‘Jays a fresh set of downs to work with on the ‘Cards 10-yard line.
“The momentum swings and the answers that we had, that was awesome,” coach Diethelm said. “The kick return was huge. And then the fumble, we’re going in to score and we don’t get in and our defense makes the play.”
Dayne continued to do the damage, scoring nine yards out. He dived in for the two point conversion, giving his team a 30-19 advantage with under four to play in the third.
The Cardinals refused to wilt, and Pacelli mixed it up with passes and runs as they piled up 238 rushing yards and 137 passing yards on the day.
Kedrowicz found Wes Peplinski for a 40-yard catch and run touchdown that pulled the Cardinals back to within three, but as they did all day, Athens had the answer.
Cooper Diedrich busted loose for a 47-yard scoring run, and Dayne added two on the conversion to make it 38-27. Cashin scored Pacelli’s final TD with four minutes remaining that cut into the lead at 38-35.
The Cardinals attempted an onside kick that was recovered by the ‘Jays, and with under two minutes to play in the game, Dayne rumbled in from one yard out for the final score of the day.
Dayne finished with 81 yards on 16 carries and also had one completion for 32 yards. Diedrich showcased his arm and legs, running for one score and 103 yards while also finishing five of nine for 59 yards passing.
Dayne also set the tone on defense with a team high 16 tackles. Caden Decker tallied 10 tackles and had 78 kickoff return yards.
The victory gives Athens a great deal of confidence heading into their next contest, a home game with Abbotsford. The ‘Jays are hoping to exorcise some demons and defeat a Falcons program that has gotten the best of them for the past few years.
“Abbotsford has been our nemesis for a long time,” Todd said. “I am excited to play them. I know my players are excited to play that game and I like our chances.”
The victory also serves as a wake up call for the rest of the Marawood.
“I think we learned a lot about who we are as a team,” Athens senior Cobie Ellenbecker said. “I think people are starting to see that Athens is maybe better than people thought.”