ASHWAUBENON – Mark Jonas isn’t going to change anything about the Ashwaubenon football team’s offense this season.
The Jaguars’ coach doesn’t need to be reminded that he no longer has former standout and Bowling Green freshman James Morgan throwing the passes in his spread offense anymore.
In his place is senior Will Ark, who has waited patiently for his opportunity to lead this offense and has been getting strong reviews from Ashwaubenon observers for some time now.
“No, we are not changing a thing offensively,” said Jonas, whose team led the Fox River Classic Conference with 2,645 passing yards last season and scored the second-most points in the then 12-team league. “Will does a great job in there. … any time you have a multi-sport athlete back there you are better off.
“He practices basketball all year round, he pitches all the time. He is in competition all year in different styles. He is kind of unflappable back there. If he makes a mistake he gets mad at himself, but he moves on pretty quickly.”
Ark likely won’t be throwing passes with the same consistent zip Morgan did, although wide receiver Jaret Curtis said both throw hard enough to make his hands hurt.
Ark already has developed a strong rapport with his teammates, including during 7-on-7 competitions this summer. He will get some help from other veterans returning on offense, although the unit did lose a lot of firepower from a team that finished in a tie for second behind Bay Port in the FRCC.
“I think he would have started for a lot of teams last year,” Curtis said of Ark. “I’m really excited to see what he does this year. He’s really impressed a lot of people.
“This offense is going to be something special this year.”
If it is, part of the reason will be Curtis.
The 5-foot-11, 183-pound standout already had a big role as a junior while serving as the team’s No. 3 option in the passing game. He had 46 receptions for 445 yards and three touchdowns in league play, while senior tight end Zak Imig will be an inviting option after catching 27 passes for 329 yards and four TDs.
The Jaguars also will have some quick tailbacks in seniors Josiah Santana (63 carries, 347 yards in league play) and Hunter Lade.
“We have a lot of young guys who are going to contribute, a lot of young guys who are going to compete,” Curtis said. “They are going to compete very well. I’m very excited to see what some of those guys are going to do.”
As for the defense?
It will be led by one of the best linebackers in the league in senior Nathan Wheeler, who will play alongside Imig. Jonas also thinks senior defensive tackle Jashawn Witt is poised for a big year.
The team hopes to pile up the inside and force teams to run to the outside where the Jaguars are quick enough and good enough tacklers that they won’t be gashed by big plays.
Their conference and playoff positioning hopes, meanwhile, both could be decided with a tough four-game stretch from Week 2 to Week 5 that includes games against Green Bay Preble, Green Bay Notre Dame, De Pere and Bay Port.
“We have really got to buckle down,” Jonas said. “That stretch is really going to make our season.”
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @scottvenci.
Ashwaubenon at a glance
Coach: Mark Jonas, seventh season.
2014 record: 9-2.
Aug. 21 — at Sheboygan South
Aug. 28 — Green Bay Preble
Sept. 4 — at Green Bay Notre Dame
Sept. 11 — at De Pere
Sept. 18 — Bay Port
Sept. 25 — at Green Bay Southwest
Oct. 2 — Manitowoc
Oct. 9 — at Pulaski
Oct. 16 — Sheboygan North