De Pere hangs on for win over Notre Dame
By Greg Bates
DE PERE – With his game jersey on, Caleb Rinard roamed the De Pere sideline.
On every big stop by the Redbirds defense, Rinard was the loudest to cheer on his teammates.
It was tough for the senior to watch from a distance.
One of the best linebackers in the state, Rinard had to miss De Pere’s Homecoming game after dislocating his right elbow in the previous week’s victory over West De Pere.
De Pere’s defense could have used its leader against Notre Dame Academy Friday night.
Tritons running back Daniel Hornacek rushed for more than 100 yards on the night and had his way with the Redbirds defense in the first half.
However, De Pere clamped down in the second half.
Playing from behind for the second time all season, De Pere scored a touchdown near the end of the third quarter to take the lead.
De Pere’s defense made two big stops at the end of the game that helped the Redbirds clinch a 21-17 victory.
“I’d rather win ugly than lose pretty,” De Pere coach Chad Michalkiewicz said. “We’ll take it.”
It was a case of missed opportunities for Notre Dame and coach Mike Rader.
“You’ve got to take care of the ball when it’s your turn to take care of the ball,” Rader said. “You can’t drop an interception when it’s sitting in your hands. You can’t drop a pass when it hits you in the breadbasket. We had too many chances we didn’t take advantage of.”
Michalkiewicz couldn’t say enough good things about his defense and the play of Luke Brosig, in particular.
The senior shifted from inside linebacker to the middle to fill in for Rinard.
Junior Aidan Hill took Brosig’s spot.
“Everyone had to step up and pull the rope when we don’t have Caleb in there,” Brosig, who finished with seven tackles, said. “You don’t realize how much he does until he’s gone. He calls out the strength. He calls out the plays that are potential. He watches more film than anyone. He pretty much knows what play is going to come before it happens.”
Customary to what it’s done all season, De Pere – ranked No. 6 in Division 2 – scored on its opening drive of the game.
Devin Koskey had a 16-yard touchdown to put his team up 7-0 after the extra point.
After Notre Dame was forced into a three-and-out on its first possession, the Triton pieced together a nine-play drive – six runs by Daniel Hornacek.
He found the end zone from 3 yards out to tie the score.
Notre Dame (3-4, 3-2 Fox River Classic Conference) got the ball back after a three-and-out by De Pere (6-1, 5-0).
The Tritons mixed the run and the pass – with quarterback Samuel Lagowski connecting with Max Augustine for a 34-yard gain down to the Redbirds 20.
Four plays later in a wildcat formation, Braedon Curtis took a direct snap and plunged into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown to give Notre Dame its first lead.
Notre Dame tacked on a field goal by Samuel Gille to put the visitors up 17-7.
With time winding down in the first half, De Pere’s offense went to work.
The Redbirds converted two third downs and one fourth down, as Herman dove into the end zone to make it 17-14 after the extra point with 15.5 seconds remaining in the first half.
Driving deep into Notre Dame territory in the third quarter, Herman was intercepted by Augustine.
“Coach pulled me over on the sideline and said, ‘You’re trying to do too much right now. We’re a team. Just let us win as a team,’” Herman said. “But, not to be cocky, sometimes I need to make plays like that for our team to be successful.”
An excessive celebration penalty pinned the Tritons at their 3-yard line.
De Pere forced a three-and-out and got the ball back in prime field position.
Herman hit backup quarterback Micah Schaut for a 17-yard gain down to the Notre Dame 24.
Two plays later, Herman rolled out and found an open Jack May, who dropped to the ground to catch the pass in the end zone.
“He was just doing a crosser route, I scrambled right and he knows once I’m scrambling, discard the route he’s supposed to do and get open,” Herman said. “That’s what he did, and it worked.”
Michalkiewicz said he had confidence in his quarterback he’d bounce back from adversity.
“You’ve got to be careful with a kid like that because he was pressing, but you don’t pull a kid like that back because he’s going to make more plays than he’s not,” he said. “We had a talk – sometimes I might make a bad call or you might make a bad throw, but we’re in this together. It’s nothing but positive and love and respect between us. We put our heads down and got the job done.”
Notre Dame got the ball on its own 13 with seven minutes on the clock.
After not being able to convert on a third-and-10, the Tritons lined up to punt, but Rader called a fake.
Punter Gille connected with Jack Hackl, but he was stopped by Brosig to force a turnover on downs.
Notre Dame got the ball back again with 2 minutes, 32 seconds on the clock.
Augustine dropped a pass in De Pere territory, and then the Redbirds’ defense clamped down.
Coltin Blahnik got a second-down sack, and Brennan Kincade ended the game by sacking Lagowski on fourth down.
“Our D-line was getting in there, sacking the quarterback, getting pressure, which made him roll out,” Brosig said. “Our DBs, too, all game, they didn’t complete more than five or six passes. We did well on those last drives.”
Herman finished 11-for-19 through the air for 126 yards and a touchdown.
On the ground, he ran for a team-leading 86 yards on 15 carries.
Koskey added 47 yards rushing.
De Pere has another test when it heads to Pulaski next Friday night.
The Red Raiders are also 6-1 with their lone loss coming to Bay Port.
If De Pere can beat Pulaski and Green Bay Preble in the last two regular-season games, the Redbirds will be outright FRCC champions.
If it splits its final two games, it will earn at least a share of the title.
“It’s going to be a battle in the trenches,” Michalkiewicz said about Pulaski. “I think we’re a little more dynamic when we have to or want to throw than they are, but they want to fight in a phone booth, so we better be gap sure. I don’t want to sound redundant, but I think the story of that game is going to come down to first down. If you can keep them behind the sticks, you’re going to be alright. If we can win first down and sustain drives, we’re going to be alright.”
Following the victory over Notre Dame, Michalkiewicz said Rinard has about a 75% chance of playing against Pulaski.
“It’s going to be hard-nosed football,” Brosig said. “We know what offense they run, so we’ll have a good game plan, I think. We’re going to try and stop them. Hopefully, we have Caleb.”