Jasper begins Friday at MemorialAugust 19, 2021
By COREY STOLZENBACH
JASPER — Jasper football is bound to look very different this year — and not just because of having to fill holes due to losing some key personnel to graduation.
The Wildcats went 7-3 in 2020, losing to Evansville Central in the sectional opener. Many who played on the team last year are back this year, but they’re not going to be in the same spots.
For instance, third-year coach Tony Lewis announced that senior Ashton Schuetter, who made it onto the All-Southern Indiana Athletic Conference Team as a center last year, will be utilized as a fullback this year.
“We moved him because we wanted to be able to get both he and (senior) Isaac (Day, who’s moving from wide receiver) some rest defensively,” Lewis said. “With him playing center all the time last year, he got pretty worn out. So, the fact that we’re moving him to fullback and kind of spell him with Isaac — those two can both get a little bit of a break so they can have more energy defensively.”
Lewis believes Schuetter and Day both fit nicely at the fullback spot where the graduated Lance Dawkins played at in 2020. He noted they’re two different types of players — as Day uses quickness and shiftiness. Meanwhile, Schuetter is a downhill runner who has some speed.
It’s more than just the shifting of personnel that will be different in 2021, but the team will also change from a 4-2-5 defense to the 3-3 Stack this year.
“We felt like (the) 3-3 Stack fit our personnel in terms of we’re not overly big, but we’re going to be pretty quick,” Lewis said. “This is a defense that you could do a lot of different stunting with — guys are always moving. And we just thought it fit our personnel, it fit our kids’ demeanors, things like that — and we feel like it’s going to be a good change for us.”
Both Dawkins and fellow 2021 graduate Blake Mann were crucial to Jasper’s offense last year with the yardage they could generate on the ground.
The Wildcats had a quarterback competition between sophomore Carter Holsworth and senior Will Weinzapfel, but in the end, despite both getting equal reps the last two weeks, the latter won out.
“Will just did a little bit better job in the scrimmage, and we made the decision based off of that,” Lewis said Wednesday.
The Wildcats will rotate some slot backs out in the backfield this year in seniors Cooper Ewing, Ian Giesler and junior Charlie Kabrick.
Day served as a slot receiver for the Wildcats last year, but they’ll be relying on fellow senior Jack Ahlbrand as a wideout this season. Lewis also cited senior Connor Foley as a huge target who will play tight end, but also be split out as a wide receiver.
Other names Lewis mentioned at receiver were junior Bralen Bair, senior Joey McGimpsey and sophomore Mitchel Leinenbach.
“Anytime you’re in the flex bone running option football — the run is the starting component to the offense,” he said. “However, we would like to be able to throw the ball more this year. I think a lot of that will be set up with our run game in terms of play action, in terms of bootleg — things like that.”
Jasper’s offensive line was slated to look different just by moving Schuetter from center to fullback, but the Wildcats also graduated Carson Chanley, Tyler Kelly, Quade Popp and Ross Peter in 2021.
Lewis told The Herald that Jasper is converting tight end Michael Buechler into a lineman, and play right tackle. Meanwhile, fellow senior Gus Heichelbech was getting work in as a left guard. Junior Jaxson Bower drew praise for how hard he’s worked in the weightroom, and he’s taking Schuetter’s spot at center.
Lewis liked how junior Mateo Hernandez had been going along at right guard, but he’ll be at left tackle against Memorial. Hernandez is a Jasper native who recently moved back from Texas. Senior Jacob Potts will also comprise of the offensive line at right guard against the Tigers.
“And then we’ve got some guys are working in there, competing for those spots,” Lewis said. “(Sophomore) Cole Trevino is a guy that’s working some at center. Dane Smith is a young man, going to be a junior that’s working at guard.
“And then we’ve got two tackle guys that are working in there at tackle in terms of Owen Weisman, who’s a senior — tall, lanky guy and then Griffin Hile, who’s also a 6’4, 227-pound sophomore, who’s also working there at tackle,” he continued.
Jasper has some returners on the defensive front, as Buechler and Foley both got time last year at defensive end. Lewis noted that Potts will move to nose guard this year, and the three of them will likely be the Wildcats’ front three this year.
Schuetter and Day served as linebackers in 2020, but Lewis said Day is being moved to free safety in 2021.
“He’s a guy that does a good job of tackling in space,” he said of Day. “He’s a very heavy player — a very intelligent football player — so, that’s why we’re moving him there.”
Schuetter has continued working as a linebacker, as has fellow senior Ty Weisman. Other names he mentioned for linebacker included another senior, Cale Schmitt, Holsworth and also Weinzapfel, who could play defensive end or work as a stack linebacker.
He listed Ahlbrand, McGimpsey, Leinenbach and Bair as names for cornerback, while Kabrick and Giesler were candidates for the strong safety position.
When it comes to special teams, senior Sam Leonard got experience last year as a backup to the graduated Alex Sermersheim.
“Sam has a lot of experience kicking (extra points) and field goals and kicking off,” Lewis said. “I would say Connor and Charlie — those guys are more punters, but can also kick that will also compete for that spot.”
Lewis had an issue at times in 2020 with Jasper’s inability to finish drives, and said the Wildcats might have to do a better job of focusing on the red zone in 2021.
“Part of our practice offensively — our scheme has to be set up to where we practice those situations — maybe in a little more judicious and a little more organized way,” he said. “And I think that’s something that we’ll do.
“It’s something that with our kids, we have to figure out what our kids are best suited for offensively — and then pick two-to-three good red zone type of plays that we’re able to run the ball downhill and get tough yards when you get inside the 10,” Lewis continued.
The Wildcats are set to begin their season Friday at Evansville Memorial.
Jasper heads into this campaign not having won a sectional championship since 2013 and hasn’t played in a sectional championship game since 2015.
“We’ve just got to do our best in terms of developing along the way and playing our best football come sectional time,” Lewis said. “I don’t know that we’ve played our best football during the sectionals the last two years, and as a coaching staff, we’ve got to do a better job of that.”
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