‘Jays handle Norsemen
Seniors cherish playing in their final 2020 games
Current Athens High School football players weren’t born yet when rock band Cinderella released its most successful power ballad titled, “Don’t Know What You Got (Till it’s Gone)” in 1988. Some of their parents, however, were likely still attending high school in the late 1980s.
Athens seniors Jake Denzine, Dayne Diethelm, Kyle Peel, Kaden Redmann and Dakota Zillmer felt the pain of Cinderella’s hit song while they were forced to take a break from playing football, which is the sport they most love. They were quarantined after being within six feet of their high school teacher who tested positive for COVID-19.
These five senior starters could only watch from a distance as their teammates, who they call their “family members,” lost a 28-22 home game to Abbotsford on Oct. 30. Not playing against the Falcons gave them a new appreciation of the game of football, and they came out motivated to beat Westby, 46-28, at home on Friday.
Jake Denzine, son of Kevin and Heidi Denzine, hauled in a wide open 73-yard touchdown pass from Dayne Diethelm in the second quarter against the Norsemen. He also grabbed a tipped two-point conversion pass from junior quarterback Cooper Diedrich after Dayne Diethelm’s four-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Jake said he focused hard on catching the ball first on the long touchdown pass play, instead of wanting to run before securing the catch.
“Dayne just came around the corner and I thought he was tackled, but I just kept running down the field because I thought maybe there was still hope, and all of a sudden I see the ball coming up over the big crowd of players,” Jake said. “It felt great to catch the ball and run for a touchdown; I love making big plays like that in games, because it feels great when your teammates celebrate with you.”
Jake and his senior teammates who couldn’t play against Abbotsford because of COVID-19 contract tracing made the most of their offensive opportunities against Westby on Friday. They watched the football game against Abbotsford from a distance inside the Athens baseball field.
“It sucked; I’m not going to lie because it was painful to watch my teammates lose to Abby,” Jake admitted. “It felt great to get back onto the football field with my teammates against Westby, because they are like family to me and it just feels great to play with them. I wanted to get another win with my family.”
Athens senior linebacker/defensive end Patrick Redmann had two straight clutch plays in the second quarter. First, he made the special teams tackle to force Westby to start its offensive possession on Athens’ 16-yard line. Then he recovered a fumble on the Norsemen’s first play in their possession, to give the Bluejays great starting field position.
Patrick’s huge defensive play eventually led to Diethelm trucking over a Westby defender at the goal line for a four-yard touchdown run. Jake caught the two-point conversion pass on the tip to give the Bluejays a commanding 26-6 advantage against the Norsemen.
“It felt really good to help my teammates out; they are like family and I just love being with them,” Patrick, the son of Dean and Carrie Redmann, said after the win.
Diethelm completed both of his passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns in the victory against Westby, and he added 16 carries for 60 yards rushing and one touchdown.
Diedrich rushed the ball 17 times for 94 yards and three touchdowns against the Norsemen. Senior Cobie Ellenbecker, meanwhile, intercepted the ball deep into Athens territory in the fourth quarter to seal the team’s home win.
Athens’ linebackers wreaked havoc against Westby the entire game. Diethelm collected 20 total tackles, while sophomore Kyler Ellenbecker and senior Kaden Redmann had 10 apiece. Diethelm also recovered a Westby fumble and Diedrich blocked a punt in the victory.
Although the Athens football team improved is record to 3-2 this season, it didn’t qualify for the regional playoffs.
The Bluejays, however, are able to still play at least one more game this season, which will be against Rib Lake/Prentice this Friday, Nov. 13, at home.