SEYMOUR, WI – With temperatures in the low 40s, made even colder by the gusty winds and the persistent rain, Seymour head coach Matt Molle knew it was the perfect day to have one of the best offensive tackles in the country on his side to establish his team’s running game.
For a little over a quarter he was right, but he unfortunately got a glimpse of what life will be like once his prized player leaves next season for Wisconsin.
Dominant early to help Seymour take an early 7-0 lead, right tackle Jon Dietzen’s night was cut short because of a left ankle injury, and Seymour never looked the same in a 22-7 defeat to Appleton Xavier at Thunder Stadium Friday night.
“(Losing Dietzen) certainly makes a difference in your call sheet,” said Seymour coach Matt Molle. “You have calls behind him for a reason.”
It’s been a tough start to the season for the Thunder (1-3) on the injury front. Leading up to their game against the undefeated Hawks, Seymour had lost two guys to broken ankles and another to a knee injury. And then their best player gets his left ankle landed on and was forced to watch from the sideline for the final two-plus quarters.
“Hopefully he’ll be OK,” said Molle, as Dietzen moved gingerly, but without crutches, the rest of the night on the sideline. “It doesn’t sound like his will be broken.”
When the 6-6, 346-pound Dietzen is in the lineup, it’s evident that Seymour uses him to its advantage. On the opening drive, a methodical march down the field, the Thunder routinely ran through the middle or to Dietzen’s side, as the burley right tackle cleared massive running lanes by either pushing underweight defenders to the ground or pancaking them into the soggy turf.
Dietzen unofficially had eight pancakes in playing just over two drives, including one that cleared a path for a two-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, the Thunder’s only score.
“What you see is what you get, absolutely,” said Molle. “The superlatives used to describe him is not an exaggeration. It’s just the way it is. I thought our execution was definitely at a high at the start of the game.”
After Dietzen went out, the Thunder’s final seven drives included three fumbles, one interception, one turnover on downs and two punts, only crossing Xavier’s 40-yard line once.
“It was a little tougher with him out,” said Molle. “You’re trying to find a way to throw the ball a little bit and mix it in. Our identity is we don’t have a lot of explosive guys, so we have to try and ground and pound it a little bit.”
While obviously disappointed with his situation, Dietzen made it a point to return to the field in the second half to cheer on his teammates. One of four team captains for the game, Dietzen took responsibility for firing up his team prior to the game and talking with players during the game.
For a player who seems to have all the physical tools, Dietzen’s development from a leadership standpoint makes him a total package.
“He’s not a real vocal guy; he is a really good teammate but he’s kind of taken that role a little bit this year,” said Molle. “He gets guys fired up before the game. He’s come off the sideline a couple of times this year and said ‘hey let’s run this behind me coach’ and that’s the kind of stuff you like to hear as a coach when you get it from a guy like that. It’s been a big step forward in that way.
“The other piece of the puzzle is the real understanding of the game, talking about defensive schemes and how guys are playing him. We see some different stuff in front of him and we just have to adjust. He does a good job of that and asking questions. He’s been a good leader that way as well for our young guys.”