By Greg Bates
ACN & Times-Press sports correspondent
OSHKOSH – It was Will Rydzewski’s first game under the lights at Titan Stadium. But it certainly won’t be his last.
Rydzewski will be playing football in the fall at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, but before that he got a chance to put on the pads one final time in high school. The former Seymour standout teamed up with Ryan Peterson, who both graduated last month, in the 41st annual Wisconsin Football Coaches Association All-Star Football Large School Game on Saturday, July 15.
The two guys were on the North defense, which held the South in check the majority of the contest. However, the South scored a touchdown with 31 seconds remaining in the third quarter to go up 10-0. After that play, the game was suspended due to lightning. After an hour and a half delay, the game was finally called.
The end result didn’t damper the spirits of Rydzewski or Peterson, who both had a great time in the week leading up to the game and the actual game itself.
“The three quarters we got in was worth it,” Peterson said. “I wouldn’t change this for nothing. All the hard work just paid off.”
“It was an experience of a lifetime,” Rydzewski said. “I made lifelong friends. Just the bonding and having 45 random guys come together and become like a brotherhood, just like your high school team at home. Just a great experience overall.”
Last year, Seymour had one representative in the all-star festivities, Trent LaCombe. Unfortunately, he was injured during practice leading up to the game and wasn’t able to play. However, he and other past participants from Seymour gave Peterson an idea of what to expect coming into the week.
“All I’ve heard for experiences is it’s the greatest week of their lives,” Peterson said. “They don’t really talk about the game, they just talk about the week, preparing. That’s what everyone talks about, not about the game. It doesn’t matter about the game.”
Rydzewski earned the starting nod on the defensive line for the North. He played defensive tackle, end and a little nose tackle in the team’s 3-4 and 4-4 packages. Peterson rotated in with the second unit, playing defensive end and outside linebacker in the different schemes.
Rydzewski finished with two tackles, one being for a loss of yards.
“I played pretty well. I’d love to finish,” Rydzewski said. “I had that missed sack that turned into an interception, just tackles in the backfield. It’s fun.”
Rydzewski’s tackle for a loss came midway through the second quarter. Brookfield East running back Sam Santiago-Lloyd, who is a big back, took a handoff and was bounced outside. North teammate Donte Johnson, from Fond du Lac, slowed down Santiago-Lloyd before Rydzewski took him to the ground.
“He was looking for a cutback and when that kid runs left and right, you can’t do anything. He’s just a downhill runner,” Rydzewski said. “So once we get him going sideways, he’s not very fast. Even I can catch up to him there.”
Peterson made an impact, but didn’t get credited with any tackles.
“I played alright,” Peterson said. “It’s a lot different than a regular high school game, because all these guys are all-stars. They quick pass, and there’s not much for D-linemen to do. You’re just out there, do what you can.”
It was a different experience for Peterson, taking on larger, more athletic players than he was used to seeing.
“The level of competition is just way higher than what I’m used to playing,” Peterson said. “Everyone’s good, but you work your butt off and just read your steps and go from there.”
Rydzewski and Peterson, who were both three-year starters at Seymour, had the chance to play against and with some of their rivals from throughout their career. Rydzewski joked some of the Luxemburg-Casco players still have hard feelings about their games against Seymour, which they played twice in each of the past two seasons.
“Enemies become friends for one week, and after that, we’ll see,” Rydzewski said. “But these guys are going to be lifelong friends.”
Said Peterson: “It’s awesome. Just meeting guys you thought you hated end up being amazing guys.”
The guys really loved playing football with each other one last time after sharing the same defensive line for three seasons.
“Just to play with a guy from my high school one more time,” Rydzewski said. “It was just a great experience just being able to reminisce one more time.”
“Starting sophomore year with him and then ending up here, it’s amazing,” Peterson said.
Both Rydzewski and Peterson will continue their football careers in fall. Rydzewski, playing at aforementioned UW-Oshkosh, and Peterson is heading to Upper Iowa University. They used the all-star game as a springboard to getting ready for the next level.
“It just gets me prepared for what I’m going to be seeing in college,” Peterson said. “Most of the guys here are going to the same division I am, so I’ll be seeing a lot of them in the future.”
The two Seymour alumni also found out some areas they need to work on in the next few weeks before they arrive on campus.
“Getting in the weight room and stuff, just getting faster,” Rydzewski said.