Phantoms can’t slow down high-powered Wauwatosa West
By Greg Bates
DE PERE – Week 1 of the high school football season is a time for teams to gauge what areas they excel at and what areas need improvement.
The season opener was an eye-opener for West De Pere.
The Phantoms couldn’t stop – or even slow down – a run-happy Wauwatosa West squad Aug. 20.
The visitors scored on eight of their nine drives and racked up 590 yards of total offense in a 60-31 non-conference victory at West De Pere High School.
“It’s a buzzsaw right there – that’s a good team,” West De Pere head coach Chris Greisen said. “When you’re that big and Andy (Kolstad, Wauwatosa West coach) has them playing well. They’ve got three backs who are fast and strong. You could tell by looking at their pants, their hamstrings and glutes (were big). We couldn’t compete with their size.”
West, which had the ball on offense for only 11 minutes, 47 seconds, runs a power-T where it has three running backs and a quarterback who’s also a good athlete.
The West De Pere defenders had a hard time knowing which player was running the ball on each play behind West’s massive offensive line.
“We could’t guess who had the ball,” West De Pere linebacker Gyriece Goodman, who had a team-high five tackles, said. “If you guess, again it was the one who you guessed didn’t have the ball. You’ve got to stick to your task. Everybody has to do their job on this defense, especially going against that offense.”
The 2002 Green Bay East graduate used to coach at West De Pere, so he knows the program well.
“Winning tonight, this was a statement for our team,” Kolstad said. “What happened tonight has been three years in the making.”
Kolstad – whose grandfather Howard was the St. Norbert football coach from 1969-82 and father John was the Green Bay East head football coach from 1987-2008 – is in his third season at West.
Two years ago, Kolstad implemented the power-T, which has its roots in the 1940s, after watching lots of film from an undisclosed successful Minnesota high school program.
“It’s a combination of things – the speed and the way we teach leverage upfront,” Kolstad said. “There are so many details. That’s why I don’t want to share where we got it from because if anybody did the research, they’d learn some stuff.”
The game was a back-and-forth affair early on.
West (1-0) scored on its first play from scrimmage, a 65-yard run from Elandis Peete to make it 8-3 after the 2-point conversion.
West De Pere (0-1) answered back as quarterback Sam Aleknavicius connected with receiver Langdon Nordgaard for a 41-yard touchdown.
The Trojans came right back with a three-play, 91-yard drive capped by a 29-yard quarterback keeper by Avery Dixon to put the visitors up 16-10.
The Phantoms had a nice drive as junior running back Najeh Mitchell did a shake-and-bake to the end zone for a 24-yard score.
After the extra point, that put West De Pere back in front, 17-16.
Two plays later, Waquon Kelly raced for a 73-yard touchdown run for West.
West De Pere went back to work as Nordgaard had an impressive one-handed catch and ran for 52 yards.
The drive was capped by a 3-yard Mitchell touchdown run.
After the Phantoms tied it at 24, West scored 36 unanswered points.
The Trojans tacked on another pair of touchdowns to go up 38-24 at halftime.
At the break, the team had 388 yards – all rushing – and scored on all five of its drives.
“I said at halftime, ‘We’ve got to tackle all three running backs and the quarterback.’ Don’t look and see around because some guys were doing that,” Greisen said. “More than one time, we had them wrapped up and guys let them go thinking he didn’t have the ball.”
The Trojans scored on their first three drives of the second half to pull away.
Kelly finished the game with four touchdown runs and more than 200 yards rushing.
Peete added a pair of touchdowns (97 and 65 yards) and four 2-point conversions.
Dixon ran in two touchdowns and one 2-point conversion.
“It’s a good offense,” Goodman said. “In a triple option, you never know – they only passed once. They run it, and you never know who has the ball. They’ve got a bunch of athletes. We could have played harder. The offense carried us.”
Aleknavicius was 15-for-26 through the air for 202 yards for the Phantoms.
Nordgaard had four catches for 111 yards and two scores.
Mitchell ran for 124 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries.
“We’ve got to get stronger,” Greisen said. “We’ve got to get some fire. We’ll continue talking about leadership and those types of things. There’s a lot of learning we can do. We’ll watch the film, evaluate it as coaches, show it to the kids and move on and get ready for Hortonville (Aug. 27).
Hortonville won its opener, 17-7.
“Like our coach talked about after, we can either stick with this loss and keep it on our minds and let it defeat our season or we can use it and have a great rest of the season,” Goodman said. “We’ve got a bunch of guys out here trying to play their hearts out. It’s a sad first game, but we’re going to fix it.”