BY RICH PALZEWIC
SUAMICO – The Bay Port football team was hit by some serious “Lightning” last night.
In dropping a WIAA D1 state quarterfinal game for the second season in a row, the Pirates couldn’t keep up in a 49-41 loss to the Appleton North Lightning at Bay Port High School.
The No. 3 ranked Pirates saw their season end at 11-1, while No. 9 ranked North (8-3) moves on to play No. 1 ranked Kimberly in the state semifinals next Friday.
Appleton scored touchdowns on its first five possessions of the game in building a 35-14 lead, only to see Bay Port claw its way back to make a game of it late. The Pirates actually had the ball to end the game, but with 78 yards needed for a potential game-tying score and just 27 seconds left to do so, it was too little too late.
“The effort was unbelievable, but we flat out just couldn’t get a stop defensively,” said Bay Port head coach Gary Westerman. “That was the game and that was disappointing.
“I’m proud of the effort that the kids put in this year, but when it comes to an end, it’s really disappointing.”
Trailing by that 35-14 margin, Bay Port got consecutive scores from Cordell Tinch (74 yards) and Jacob Calawerts late in the third, but a key sequence in the game put the Lightning back up by three scores.
On North’s ensuing possession after the Calawerts TD, running back Will Stewart raced 70 yards on the second play of the drive for a touchdown, which was then followed up by a Wes Sommers 55-yard interception return for a TD to make it 49-27.
“The interception was big and honestly that was a bad play call on my part,” Westerman said. “They were squatting on it with a safety over the top and I thought they were going to play off, but they just didn’t.”
Things started off well for Bay Port after Isaiah Gash ripped off a 53-yard TD run just two minutes into the game to make it 7-0, but the momentum was short lived after Stewart galloped 85 yards untouched on the Lightning’s first play from scrimmage 21 seconds later.
In North’s first nine plays of the game, it already had 239 yards of offense. They didn’t punt for the first time until there was 5:15 left in the third quarter.
With Appleton leading 14-7 late in the first quarter, the Pirates went on a 13-play, 75-yard drive to tie the game at 14 early in the second. Ryan Smith made an athletic play to haul in an Isaac Krause pass from 20 yards out to knot the score.
Krause had a 32-yard TD run with 7:38 remaining, and after North missed a field goal, Calawerts scored from seven yards out with 2:03 left, setting up the final last-ditch effort by Bay Port.
“I’m just so proud of the work my kids did,” said Appleton North head coach Rob Salm. “We knew Bay Port was a high-quality opponent and we knew we had to play all 48 minutes to win this game. We made it a little bit more difficult than we wanted it to be, but that’s what you expect at Level 3.
“To be truthful, I feel it shouldn’t have gotten as close as it did. We were pretty aggressive early on, but maybe we took the foot off the gas a little bit (defensively) to let them back in it a bit. Offensively we are as good as they come with our running and passing game. I’ll take the blame defensively, as we didn’t want to give up the big play.”
Now North will get another shot at Kimberly, who was a 28-21 winner over Fond du Lac and has won a state-record 68 consecutive games. The Lightning lost an earlier-season game to the Papermakers (38-31) in week seven of the regular season.
Stewart led the way for North with 243 yards on 20 carries with two TDs, while quarterback Carter Robinson completed 10-of-11 passes for 163 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver Adam Zeratsky had three receptions for 109 yards and a score.
Krause was 17-of-28 passing for 255 yards with two touchdowns and also rushed for 164 yards on 22 carries with a score.
Gash added 91 yards on the ground, while Tinch hauled in nine catches for 108 yards.
The Pirates actually had more yards (549 – 514) and time of possession (27:50 to 20:04) in the game, but North had 351 yards rushing.
Appleton North – 14, 14, 14, 7 – 49
Bay Port – 7, 7, 13, 14 – 41