De Pere bounces back with big win
By Greg Bates
DE PERE – A Week 1 loss Aug. 20 provided a reality check for the De Pere football team.
The Redbirds led Wausau West 14-6 on the road, but the Warriors scored the final 32 points of the game to win going away, 38-14.
De Pere’s motto leading into the second week of the season was: “Don’t take the foot off the pedal.”
The Redbirds built a 28-0 lead against visiting Manitowoc Lincoln Thursday, Aug. 26, with a fast-striking offense and a locked-in defense.
The result was a 56-6 victory for De Pere.
“It was a big win to get the confidence back,” De Pere linebacker/running back Michael Alexander said. “Last week was a tough loss, but great teams bounce back.”
De Pere head coach Chad Michalkiewicz said he was happy with the progress he saw from his defense between the first and second weeks.
The 38 points allowed in Week 1 was nearly as many as the Redbirds gave up (41) combined in seven games during the alternate fall 2020 season this past spring.
“It was an issue for us getting off the field against Wausau,” Michalkiewicz said. “Wausau is a better team than Manitowoc, so we can’t get too high about this. We did what we were supposed to do, but we liked what we saw defensively tonight.”
Michalkiewicz plugged in three new starters on the defensive line: Brennan Kincade, Patrick July and Glenn Mattison.
“We went back to our basics,” Alexander said. “We’ve got to know our assignments. It all comes down to assignment, alignment and execution. We got back to that this week. If we all do our job, we work as a fist, and a fist hurts a lot more than a slap.”
De Pere quarterback Gabe Herman saw a different team on his sideline in the team’s home opener in Week 2.
“Our team cohesiveness and having each other’s back – when the defense would get off the field, we have to execute,” Herman said. “We didn’t do that last week, but that’s what changed this week.”
Herman was different himself – a lot sharper.
He finished 9-for-13 passing for 139 yards and four touchdowns.
On the ground, Herman finished with 101 yards on seven carries and scored once.
De Pere (1-1) needed only seven plays in its opening drive to get on the scoreboard.
Herman hit Anders Davidson for a 7-yard touchdown.
The Redbirds defense then forced a three-and-out from Manitowoc (0-2).
De Pere ran the ball five straight times, and then Herman hit a pop pass to wide receiver Jack May.
One of the fastest 100-meter runners in the state, May turned the corner and was gone for a 25-yard score.
One play later, the Ships fumbled, and Alexander pounced on the ball.
One play after that, Herman connected with a wide-open May from 22 yards out to put De Pere up 21-0 after the extra point.
“Dating back to last spring and even last week, we scout teams good,” Michalkiewicz said. “Our opening scripts have produced lots of points here as of late. The key for us is first down, both offensively and defensively. If we get ahead offensively and we keep the opposing offense behind the sticks, we’re a dangerous football team – that’s the key for us.”
Another three-and-out by Manitowoc forced a punt.
Hit close to the De Pere sideline, returner Kobe Cullen retreated over, scooped it, received a couple of key blocks and raced down the sideline about 70 yards into the end zone.
De Pere took a 28-6 lead into halftime and got the ball first to start the third quarter.
On the fourth play from scrimmage, Herman called a keeper, found a huge hole in the middle of the defense and ran for a 53-yard touchdown.
Later in the third, Herman connected with Davidson from 15 yards out for the second touchdown for those two on the night.
Davidson, who finished with four catches for 45 yards and two touchdowns, dropped two passes in Week 1 but came back to redeem himself.
“He had the first three receptions of the game, including two big touchdowns,” Michalkiewicz said. That’s a huge game for growth for him.”
De Pere’s first-team offense scored touchdowns on six of its first eight possessions.
“We’re explosive,” Herman said. “We can make big plays whenever we want. But again, lots of it had to do with our defense. They gave us great field position most of our possessions.”
The Redbirds got a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown runs from backup Parker Cornell.
De Pere will look to start a winning streak next Friday when it travels to Green Bay Southwest for the Fox River Classic Conference-North opener at 7 p.m.
“Learning how to win is a skill,” Michalkiewicz said. “They weren’t shellshocked or confidence-shook (last week), but at the same time, getting that first win, I don’t care how or who it’s against, it’s big. Keeping them up for next week’s game won’t be a problem. They’ve tasted it, and they want to keep it rolling.”