Buttering the roll: Jasper beats Mater Dei behind Mitchel Leinenbach's two interceptions

Anthony Kristensen
Evansville Courier & Press
  • Final: Jasper 35, Mater Dei 21

EVANSVILLE — The Japser football coaching staff has preached a food-based line to its players throughout the season. The saying, at this point almost inscribed on the back of the Wildcats’ eyelids and permanent in their heads, may border on cliche but it's worked for them so far — particularly on defense and in the running game.

“Be like butter,” they say, “and get on a roll.”

The melted-margarine-on-bread line has resonated with coach Tony Lewis’ men. The run-first offense is the toast, but the defense, when it works at its best, is the flavorful topping. Mitchel Leinenbach was the main scoop for the roll or the bun it was lathered on.

His back-to-back interceptions in the second half gave Jasper its flour in the 35-21 win over Mater Dei at Reitz Bowl on Friday. The you-score-I-score flow of the game added its side dishes, but the 6-foot-2 senior corner provided the main course.

Scoreboard:Find all of the Week 5 Evansville-area high school football scores here

“One of our goals defensively is to make the great play and he made two great plays,” Lewis said. “If our defense can hold like they did and he makes a good play, then we can take some time off the clock.”

The plays in question, those game-winning back-to-back drives in the third and fourth quarters, were similar. Mater Dei quarterback Tate Mallory dropped back and threw. He scrambled on the first though not the second, but both ended in Leinenbach’s hands.

When Jasper’s offense got the ball back in the fourth quarter, let alone when it became a two-possession game, the table was set.

Jasper Head Coach Tony Lewis speaks to the team after their victory over the North Huskies at Bundrant Stadium in Evansville, Ind., Friday evening, Oct. 7, 2022.

“Creating momentum is one of our goals as a team,” Leinenbach said. “It’s really important for us to do that, celebrate with our teammates and get a good spot on the field.”

Leinenbach’s defensive work, as it has throughout the season as it reaches its midpoint, well-prepared quarterback Max Bueltel and the Wildcats’ offense for the buttering. Jasper’s clock-killing, margarine-spreading offense got good field position in Mater Dei’s half after both of Leinenbach’s picks. Each possession finished in the end zone.

Bueltel’s ability to perfect the rolls after Leinenbach and his defense provides the butter has been one of the Wildcats’ biggest assets so far. Friday dinner was no different. Of Jasper’s 266 total offensive yards, 258 were on the ground. Bueltel had 47 of those with three touchdowns.

Jasper’s Carter Holsworth (6) carries the ball as the Jasper Wildcats play the Reitz Panthers at the Reitz Bowl in Evansville, Ind., Friday evening, Sept. 2, 2022.

Caden Erny and Carter Holsworth scored Jasper’s other touchdowns.

“(Leinenbach’s) been a great leader for us all year long, last year too,” Bueltel said. “I don’t know how many picks he’s got this year but he’s got a lot (and) had a lot last year, too. It sets us up perfectly on offense.

“Read the defense, the (offensive) line, credit them, had a great game (and) got a big push for us. I just found the holes.”

The Wildcats celebrated for a brief moment but remained focused on the goal. A buttery meal doesn’t start or end with a 3-2 record. The goal is to build momentum, keep winning and butter the role.

Much of the savory taste so far has come from Leinenbach and his defense. They provide the opportunities; Bueltel and the offense make the spread. Though the flavor hasn’t always come from a five-star level, Friday’s win against Mater Dei was held in high regard and left the Wildcats looking to build. Or, perhaps better put, providing for the table. 

“We gotta be on a roll the rest of the season,” Leinenbach said. “Our offense gotta come in, make plays, score touchdowns. Our defense gotta make plays and just keep rolling.”