Let’s just say that the 2019 Jefferson Blue Jays football season was…different. There were highlights and there were struggles, which doesn’t seem very different for most high school football squads. But after the last few seasons, the 5-5 record wasn’t necessarily what most folks were used to seeing from the Blue Jays. After Jefferson lost in week ten to St. Pius, 29-16, preparations for the 2020 season began in earnest.
And while the off-season was obviously different than any experienced previously, there was a sense of calm as head coach Alex Rouggly and his staff maneuvered through the pandemic. A lot of that, perhaps all of that, was possible because of one simple number.
That’s how many letter-winners return for Jefferson this season. The team lost Brandon Perry, Dylan Duncan, Connor Surratt, and Klarcke Watz to graduation. And while those losses are critical, leaving big shoes to fill, the possibilities are endless. “Our expectations are extremely high for this fall,” Coach Rouggly stated. “With the success that our program has had in the past four years, last year’s 5-5 football season left this group even more hungry for the 2020 football season. They weren’t alright with being an average football team. That’s what our coaching staff really likes about this group. Our goal, as always, is to be playing our best football at the end of the football season. We feel that we have a very competitive schedule that will only make us more prepared for the postseason.”
But that biggest immeasurable still has to be all those athletes that have been through this before. “It has been huge,” Rouggly admitted. “With all of the outside presence of COVID, when we started on July 1, you could see that the kids were genuinely excited to be back at school. At our first mini-camp on July 6, you could see that our system was taking care of itself. The kids looked like they hadn’t missed a beat with our play calls and their rules on those plays. That’s exciting as a coaching staff.”
Rouggly has five seniors he thinks will lead the charge this season. These are names folks have heard over the PA for a long time now, and they certainly won’t sneak up on their opponents. Dylan Schnitzler (RB/Strong Safety), Colby Ott (RB/WR/Free Safety), Dawson Jakoubek (Guard/Linebacker), Will Schnitzler (RB/Cornerback/Punter), and Steve Stephens (OL/DL) each return for their final season in Jefferson blue, and Coach Rouggly thinks they can do something special. Here’s his rundown of his senior standouts.
“Dylan brings a physical style of play with him,” Rouggly pointed out. “He is a leader-by-example type of young man. His work ethic is impeccable in everything that he does, and his teammates thrive off of that work ethic. He has put on about 20 pounds of solid muscle in the weight room, compared to last fall. We are expecting even bigger goals to be attained by Dylan this fall. Colby brings that wow factor with him when he competes in anything. He is the type of football player that can score any time he touches the football. It is our job, as a coaching staff, to make sure he gets more touches this fall than he did last year. He is a leader on the field in all three phases of the game. His football IQ is through the roof, as he will now be a four-year starter in our defensive secondary. He will return kicks and punts, and play offense and defense. Dawson has the intangibles it takes to play the game of football the right way. He is an avid student of the game, and his physical and mental presence on our offensive line has been extremely important in the continued evolution of our offensive line. This is a group that will only get better as the season progresses. His demeanor on defense is exactly what our linebacking core needs in order to be successful. He’s just a physical, hard-nosed, smart football player. Will brings a unique presence to the offensive and defensive side of the football for us. He has physically matured since last football season, putting on ten pounds of good weight. His long look to him gives us options on the offensive side of the football. He can play RB or WR at any time. On the defensive side, that body style will be huge for us at cornerback. He got better through the year last year, and we expect him to start off further ahead of that this year. His punting abilities have also been a huge asset for us. He has a live leg with a lot of consistency. And Steve is excited to compete in his senior season. Last year, his season was cut short due to an off-the-field injury. He is working himself back into shape. His first three steps off the line of scrimmage on either side of the football are the quickest we have seen in a while. He moves extremely well at both positions.”
Those five players alone would be enough to bring on a lot of optimism for the season. But Rouggly has more than seniors that are set to make an impact on the 2020 schedule. “Jackson Combs (OL/DL) is a junior who had a breakout season for us last year as a sophomore,” the head coach explained. “He is continuing to gain strength in the weight room while moving very well at the positions he plays. Junior Colton Richardson (QB/OLB) brings a physical presence to the quarterback position. He has grown in a very good way since last football season. We believe that Colton will be a huge asset for us on the offensive side of the football, and he was also one of our starting outside linebackers last year. He gained very valuable experience at that position. His presence on the perimeter of our defense will be vital for our defense to be successful this fall. Drew Breeze (QB/DB) is a junior and another young man who had a breakout sophomore season for us last year. His football IQ is very high, and he takes great pride in being a student of the game. His work ethic has put him in the position that he is going to be in this fall. We are expecting big things from Drew on both sides of the football. And Mason Campbell (OL/DL), just a sophomore this year, really stepped up for us last year from week five on, when Steve went down with his non-football injury. He started at center for us as a freshman for the final six games of the year, as well as getting a lot of quality reps on the defensive line. Mason is a great teammate and a hard worker. He understands his rules on the offensive line, which is a big deal for any high school offensive lineman. He will be a key part to a veteran group up front.”
One of the keys to this season is the depth that this team possesses. Rouggly had to mention several other athletes who he thinks will play critical roles. Here is his list:
Ethan Deal – SR – (OL/DL) – “We believe he is set up to have a breakout senior season.”
Ethan Boyer – SR – (WR/DB) – “He will be a great possession receiver for us this year. He is such a hard worker.”
JJ Irwin – SR – (TE/DE) – “JJ will be a huge asset for us on both sides of the football.”
Marquis Meyer – SR – (FB/LB) – “This is his first year playing high school football, but he is catching on fast. He will be a factor.”
Chase Politte – JR – (WR/DB) – “Chase is a hard worker, who takes pride in everything he does.”
Will Breeze – JR – (WR/DB/Kicker) – “Will is extremely athletic, and he will be a huge part of our offense and defense.”
Robbie Hurley – JR – (FB/LB) – “Robbie is poised to have a solid junior year on both sides of the ball.”
Karter Dowd – JR – (RB/DB) – “A hard worker who has put himself in position to play on Friday nights.”
Sean Usery – SO – (FB/OLB) – “He has grown in a very good way. He is ready for Friday night football.”
Konnor Armstrong – SO – (OL/DL) – “Konner has a great work ethic and is a great teammate with a high motor.”
Dylan Travica – SO (TE/DE) – “Dylan will add great depth for us at these positions.”
Gavin Theodoro – SO – (QB/DB) – “He is very athletic and will see some Friday Night Lights this fall.”
When asked about what his team’s strengths and weaknesses were heading into this season, Coach Rouggly was quick to answer. “Our strengths are our team speed. Our kids move well. We take a lot of pride in that. We switched some things up offensively after week four last year, which put our athletes in space a bit more. Plan on seeing more of that this season. We believe putting our athletes in space is a big strength of this football team. Every year our offensive line/defensive line is a work in progress. We say that, but we have four of our five linemen back. That core group has got to continue to improve week in and week out. We believe that will happen. As a program, we believe our team will go as far as our linemen will take us. This is a fun group to work with, and we believe they will be ready to go in August.”
The Jays will head south for the season opener, traveling to Fredericktown for a 7:00 p.m. tilt against the Blackcats on Friday, August 28. For the rest of the schedule, follow this link: 2020 Jefferson Football Schedule