Another Familiar Foe: Level 2 Playoff Preview
BY RICH PALZEWIC
SUAMICO – For the second week in a row, the Bay Port football team will see a familiar foe in the WIAA Division 1 playoffs.
After a Level 1 victory over 2015 opponent Eau Claire Memorial a week ago, the No. 3 ranked Pirates will host Stevens Point Area Senior High (SPASH) Friday, Oct. 27, at 7:00 in a WIAA Division 1 Level 2 game.
A season ago, the No. 5 seeded Panthers (6-4) brought the Pirates’ season to an abrupt end with a thrilling 37-34 victory in the state quarterfinals at Bay Port.
“In general, Stevens Point lost to three quality opponents in Kimberly, Neenah and Appleton North in close games,” said Bay Port head coach Gary Westerman. “They are talented up front, especially on the defensive line. They have a safety (Trent Hamerski) that jumps off the screen at you. Offensively they have some incredible speed in the backfield (in Hamerski and Colton Kizewski). We have to try and be ball control on offense, but some of their defensive linemen are a challenge to block.”
Kizewski ran for 199 yards in a 48-47 overtime win over Hudson last week, while Hamerski added 136 on just 11 carries. Hamerski, the defensive back of the year in the Valley Football Association West Division, scored three rushing touchdowns and returned a blocked punt for a score as well. He also added 13 tackles on defense.
Despite the loss last year to end their season, Westerman hasn’t brought that game up to his players and won’t use it as extra motivation.
“As coaches we’ve used that film as a learning experience, but we haven’t talked much about it beyond that,” added Westerman. “Other than that, it’s a different team. Our kids are excited for the opportunity to play another game at home.
“I simply think about that game because we lost. I don’t remember the games we’ve won, but I could talk about every game we’ve lost. That’s the nature of being a competitor. Our goal is to advance as a program.”
Since that lost last year, Bay Port has won 10 in a row and 21 of its last 22 games. The Pirates are averaging 46.5 points per game and giving up 15.1. Quarterback Isaac Krause – the offensive player of the year in the FRCC – has accounted for 2,296 yards (1,421 passing, 875 rushing) and thrown 13 TD passes and rushed for another 11.
Jacob Calawerts (722) and Isaiah Gash (593) have been a double-headed monster out of the backfield, while first-team receiver Cordell Tinch has 57 receptions for 797 yards.
Call Verlanic, another first-teamer, leads the team with 78 tackles. In all, Bay Port had 13 players/coaches make all-conference.
This SPASH team is different this year. They started the season 1-4 and had to finish strong to guarantee a playoff berth. The Panthers have won five in a row, highlighted by a trio of wins to end the season over three playoff teams. Point won those three games by just seven points combined.
“We know that it will be a huge challenge to play in front of their fans with that atmosphere,” said SPASH head coach Pete McAdams, whose team played four state-ranked teams this season, including No. 1 Kimberly and No. 4 Fond du Lac. “When I look at the film on Bay Port, I see size, I see strength and I see team speed. They have a lot of athletes and outstanding football players. You also see a well-coached team that doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, either.”
The Panthers have other talented players besides Hamerski and Kizewski, who was the offensive player of the year in the conference. He rushed for over 1,800 yards and is averaging 200-plus yards per game on the ground with 19 TDs.
Point also has the defensive player of the year in lineman Cole Wright, who has 52 tackles, including 13 for a loss to go along with his five sacks.
Offensive lineman Seth Tosseth, fullback/tight end Owen Zakrzewski, defensive lineman Jack Kelly, inside linebacker John Bohanski, outside linebacker Alec Borchardt and cornerback Sam Simmons were also first-team selections. Bohanski led the Panthers with 16 tackles against Hudson, while Kelly had two sacks and 10 tackles.
“This year’s team is a different team, so we haven’t really talked about last year at all,” added McAdams. “We are just going to focus on playing our best this Friday. We’ve had our backs up against the wall for pretty much the last half of the season. We played some outstanding competition early and had some really close games the past two weeks.”
In addition to the overtime win over Hudson last week, SPASH squeaked out a two-point win over Fond du Lac in week nine of the regular season to solidify its playoff spot.
Note: the winner of Friday’s game will play the winner of Appleton North/Neenah in the state quarterfinals on Friday, Nov. 3.