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West De Pere returns to play, beats Xavier

By Rich Palzewic
Sports Editor

APPLETON – It had been nearly a month since the West De Pere High School football team played a game, but it didn’t seem to matter in a 25-14 Bay Conference road win Oct. 23 over Xavier at Rocky Bleier Field.

The Phantoms (1-1) held the potent Xavier (4-1) offense, which came into the game averaging 45 points per contest, to 215 total yards.

“Hats off to the defense,” said West De Pere head coach Chris Greisen. “They did a phenomenal job stopping a very good Xavier team. We put the defense in a couple of tough spots with turnovers, and they stepped up to the occasion.”

Shortly after losing to Hortonville Sept. 25 to begin the season, the West De Pere School District switched to all virtual learning, so the Phantoms missed three games.

The school got back to in-person learning Monday, Oct. 19, and sports resumed.

“It was good to be back,” said quarterback Josh Blount. “It felt good, especially against a team like Xavier. We knew they were going to be good – they’re fast and have a good offense. We are known for running the football, so we tightened up the playbook a bit. Our philosophy was to keep it simple, but do it right.”

Blount gave thanks to the De Pere community for getting the Phantoms back on the field.

“A huge thanks goes out to the administrators, coaches and the students who are doing things right to make this possible,” he said.

West De Pere got on the scoreboard first near the end of the first quarter when Najeh Mitchell scored on a 3-yard touchdown run.

Bryce Smith’s extra point made it 7-0.

The Phantoms went up 13-0 halfway through the second quarter on a 35-yard pass from Blount to Robert Jones.

The extra-point attempt was no good.

The Hawks made it 13-6 with four minutes remaining until halftime.

After Xavier picked off a Blount pass on West De Pere’s opening drive of the second half, the Hawks missed a 37-yard field goal shortly thereafter.

Less than a minute later, wide receiver Aaron Wagner caught a Blount pass over the middle and raced 81 yards for a score, making it 19-6.

Again, the extra-point attempt was no good.

On the ensuing kickoff, Xavier fumbled, and Jonathan Kaster recovered the loose ball.

Phantoms running back David Vanderlogt scampered for 23 yards and a score with 3:08 remaining in the third quarter to increase the margin to 25-6.

The two-point attempt failed.

In the fourth quarter, Blount threw his second interception of the game, this time inside the Xavier 10-yard line.

The Hawks ended the scoring three plays later.

West De Pere turned the ball over on downs inside the Xavier 1-yard line with time dwindling down.

Greisen said his team wore down the Hawks.

“We’re fortunate because we have several guys who can play both ways, but we do lots of rotating in,” he said. “Xavier had lots of guys going both ways, and we could platoon more.”

Greisen, a former NFL quarterback, gave most of the credit to the offensive line.

“Josh and David were great running the ball tonight, but our offensive line was awesome,” he said. “We couldn’t do much pulling (on the line) due to the field conditions being so slippery, so we played more downhill.”

Vanderlogt rushed 29 times for 157 yards, while Blount added 62 yards on the ground.

Blount was also 7-for-14 passing for 133 yards.

The first-year head coach said the win was special.

“With us starting, closing down and not knowing if we’d get a chance to play again, this was a great win,” said Greisen. “I’m so proud of these kids with how they played. We had a tremendous week of practice. Now I can’t wait to get back into some sort of routine with playing.”

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