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Streak busters: De Pere topples Bay Port

By Greg Bates

DE PERE – The last time Bay Port lost a regular-season football game was Oct. 16, 2015, a streak of 38 games.

It’s a date Chad Michalkiewicz has ingrained in his brain.

It was also the only time the De Pere coach had beaten Bay Port.

With both De Pere and Bay Port off to identical 2-0 starts this season, the Redbirds were working up to a Week 3 showdown on Friday, April 9 – it was a chance to knock off the giants.

Two quick touchdowns in the first 5:59 of the game gave host De Pere a 14-0 lead.

The defense did the rest, holding Bay Port in check, as the Redbirds held on for a 20-13 Fox Valley Classic Conference (FVCC) victory.

Though the Pirates’ 38-game regular-season winning streak was snapped, their 36-game Fox River Classic Conference winning streak is still intact because this season, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the team is playing in the revamped FVCC.

“Your highest levels of performance require the deepest levels of belief, and every kid on this football team believed we could win tonight,” Michalkiewicz said. “That’s what you saw in their preparation, their practice all week and they put together four quarters of football. It was special.”

What made it more special was the play of De Pere senior wide receiver Maddax Shinners.

He hauled in four catches for 115 yards and two touchdowns.

“It’s pretty darn big,” Shinners said. “I remember in 7-on-7 last fall, we beat them in the championship, and they said we poked the bear. Well, I think we shot the bear this time.”

Bay Port (2-1) was held to 192 yards of total offense.

The Redbirds (3-0) put up 376 yards, rushing for 201 of those.

“They made more plays than us, and they out-executed us,” Bay Port coach Gary Westerman said. “We’ve got to go back to practice Monday and be better.”

Fired up from the beginning, De Pere threw a couple of gut punches at Bay Port that landed.

On the second play of the game, De Pere sophomore quarterback Gabe Herman hit Shinners in stride on a deep ball.

Shinners did the rest, racing 72 yards for a touchdown.

After forcing a three-and-out on the Pirates’ first possession, De Pere matriculated to the Bay Port 15 and faced a third-and-four.

Herman pitched the ball to running back Adam Timbrook, who faked a run and turned back to a wide-open Herman, who had leaked out of the backfield.

Timbrook threw a strike to Herman for a 15-yard touchdown.

After the extra point, the Redbirds were up 14-0 halfway through the first quarter.

“It was part of our game plan – it worked to perfection,” Michalkiewicz said. “We said we had seven shot plays, and if two or three of them hit, we thought good things would happen. The first two hit, and we had two touchdowns.”

De Pere had a chance to provide a bigger blow before halftime.

On fourth-and-16 from Bay Port’s 19, Herman had Shinners open over the middle of the field in the end zone, but he couldn’t corral the pass.

On Bay Port’s next possession, an Eli Frank connection to Mitchell Merhalski for 32 yards brought the Pirates to the De Pere 35.

On the next play, Frank hit Sam Barry for a 35-yard touchdown to cut the deficit to 14-7 with 48.7 seconds remaining in the half.

“Every sport is about a game of momentum, and right there, we took the momentum from the start of the game, and we ran with it,” said Shinners. “They got their touchdown at the end of the half, but we answered back, and we shut them down in the next half.”

After creating a fumble – the only turnover by both teams in the game – Bay Port had 19- and 21-yard rushes by Matt Grzybowski.

He capped off an 80-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown plunge to make it 14-13.

Westerman opted to go for two and try and take the lead with 8:28 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Grzybowski, who finished with 18 carries for 83 yards, took a handoff and was stuffed at the line of scrimmage.

“What Bay Port does well is they’ll hit you power, power, power, then counter weak – Grzybowski hit a couple off-tackle weak,” Michalkiewicz said. “They stuck with their guns, power right. We were there; we snuffed it out.”

On the first play of the ensuing drive, Timbrook raced 64 yards to the Bay Port 10.

Three plays later, De Pere faced a fourth-and-goal at the 11.

Michalkiewicz called a timeout to draw up a play.

“They hadn’t been guarding come-backs all game,” Shinners said. “We knew we could beat them on it, and I knew I could run it better than (the defensive back) could cover it.”

Herman threw a laser to Shinners in the corner of the end zone for an 11-yard score.

The happy Shinners was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, his second of the game, that prompted an automatic ejection.

The Redbirds missed the 2-point conversion to keep the score 20-13 with 5:46 left.

Given a window of opportunity, Bay Port was forced into a three-and-out and had to punt.

The Pirates didn’t see the ball again, as De Pere got to the 7-yard line before kneeling out the clock.

Herman finished 12-for-18 passing for 160 yards and two touchdowns.

Timbrook led the way on the ground with 19 carries for 126 yards.

With four games to go this season, De Pere has put itself in a position to finish the job it had planned since Day 1.

“We set a lofty goal of going undefeated this year, but we knew it only happens one game at a time,” Michalkiewicz said. “This was a game we had circled, but we took care of business in our first two, understanding we’ve got to learn how to win. Everything we want to do is in front of us.”

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