Ashwaubenon didn’t look like a playoff team in the first quarter and a half of its game with Green Bay Notre Dame.
But from the midpoint of the second quarter on, the Jaguars stated their case that they’re deserving of a postseason berth.
Ashwaubenon fought back from a 13-point deficit, pushed across an insurance touchdown, then ran out the final 4 ½ minutes in defeating the Tritons 21-13 in a Fox River Classic Conference game at Goelz Field Friday night.
“We challenged the kids at halftime and just said: ‘Who’s going to show up?’ You know we wanted to find out what kind of football team we had,” Ashwaubenon coach Mark Jonas said. “We were close in a couple of other games and we didn’t finish in the second half. Tonight we did.”
The win evens the Jaguars’ record at 4-4 and makes them playoff eligible. The loss ended Notre Dame’s season at 3-5.
Ashwaubenon discovered a ground game in running back Jake Zills. They utilized the talents of two quarterbacks in sophomore James Morgan and junior Kyle Mrozinski. They had six receivers move the chains at least once with a pass reception.
Derek Fuller had an interception and fumble recovery. Beau Gueths forced a fumble that Hunter Pahl jumped on. Nathan Jarvis came through with two sacks.
“The defense just really did a fantastic job second half,” Jonas said. “To hold them to no points in the second half always gives you a chance.”
Zills rushed for 126 yards on 20 carries. He scored on runs of 17, 27 and 2 yards.
“Not on the varsity level (has he scored three times), but I’ll tell you, it’s an amazing feeling,” Zills said. “But I just couldn’t have done it without great blocks from the offensive line. They opened up a lot of holes and that allowed me to get into the end zone.”
The junior’s first carry went for 27 yards. Zills had three runs of more than 15 yards.
Notre Dame built a 13-0 lead on the strength of Isaac Seering’s running and a 31-yard touchdown pass on fourth down from Charlie Rotherham to Nick Martzahl. Seering had 98 yards rushing in the first half including a 2-yard run that was the Tritons’ last score.
Rather than fold, Ashwaubenon rallied. Mrozinski replaced Morgan and led an 11-play, 56-yard drive that Zills capped with his first TD run.
Early in the third quarter, Jake Imig hauled in a 19-yard, third-down pass from Morgan. Zills slashed his way to his second TD on the next play, and Ashwaubenon led for the first time 14-13.
Later in the quarter, Notre Dame reached the Ashwaubenon 38. But Jarvis blunted the drive by getting his second sack, dumping Rotherham for a 13-yard loss to force a punt.
Morgan then engineered a 14-play, 79-yard drive. Third-down passes of 3 yards to Matthew Perry and 17 yards to Jacob Monroe kept it going. Zills got his third score with 6:41 to play.
After forcing a three-and-out, Ahswaubenon ran out the final 4 ½minutes. The team overcame a 13-yard holding penalty with a Morgan-to-Joseph Southern screen pass that gained 30 yards in part because of a key block by Derek Potts.
Morgan kneeled at the Notre Dame 3-yard line to end the game.
“I had a great group of seniors. I didn’t have a whole lot of them,” Notre Dame coach John Nowak said. “We just never quite found a way to win, all year. It’s not a lack of effort. … These kids laid it on the line for us.”