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West De Pere keeps postseason hopes alive

By Murray Gleffe

GREEN BAY – Sitting with two conference victories through the first seven games of the season, the West De Pere football team knew it needed to take a big step forward Friday night versus Green Bay Preble to qualify for the postseason.

The Phantoms scored on their first two drives of the night and ran away from the Hornets in a 41-0 Fox River Classic Conference (FRCC) game at Gauthier Family Stadium.

“From the get-go, I challenged our offensive line,” Chris Greisen, West De Pere head coach, said. “I told our running backs to hit the holes hard. The effort these kids put out tonight was awesome.”

Greisen returned to the sideline after missing the prior two games because of COVID-19 quarantine rules.

Running back Najeh Mitchell rushed for one touchdown, while also hauling in 145 receiving yards and a score.

Quarterback Duke Shovald completed 19-of-24 passes for 397 yards and three touchdowns, including a 91-yard pitch-and-catch to wide receiver Langdon Nordgaard.

“(Shovald) communicating with the backs and receivers for hot routes and his scramble ability is improving,” Greisen said. “He made some impressive long throws to put points on the board.”

Preble was limited to 67 yards of total offense.

Penalties marred the game, as the teams combined for 20 infractions for 153 yards.

“We have to get better at the fundamentals,” Greisen said. “We practice them all the time, but we came unglued tonight. We played hard, but you can’t grab people and go back to old habits.”

West De Pere opened up with a methodical 9 play, 66-yard drive capped off by a 1-yard plunge by Mitchell to give the visitors a 7-0 lead after the extra point four minutes into the opening quarter.

Preble extended its opening drive with a successful fake punt but turned the ball over to West De Pere a few minutes later.

Starting inside their 10 on their second possession, the Phantoms quickly moved down the field with the arm of Shovald and the sure hands of Nordgaard and Jonathan Kaster.

With 10:08 remaining in the second quarter, Shovald dove in from a yard out to give West De Pere a 14-0 lead after the extra point.

Just before halftime, the Phantoms added two field goals by Bryce Smith.

The second came via an interception from safety Carter Schmitt.

“After the interception, I wanted to make sure we used our timeouts correctly,” Greisen said. “We wanted to keep attacking with under a minute remaining. We used a run and a pass to set up the final three points, which gave us huge momentum going into the break.”

With a 20-0 lead at intermission, West De Pere successfully recovered an onside kick to start the second half.

“They had a guy with a club on his hand in the front line who kept fading back on kickoffs,” Greisen said. “We decided we were going to take advantage of it to start the third. Our kicker did an excellent job with the execution to get us the ball back.”

Eight plays later, the gamble paid off as Ryder Lesage made a one-handed snag as he headed into the left half of the end zone to extend the margin to 27-0 after the extra point with 7:57 left in the third quarter.

The offensive explosion didn’t stop there.

After two more drives went nowhere for Preble, West De Pere added a touchdown reception by Mitchell on a broken play and another by Nordgaard down the middle of the field to complete the shutout.

“We have to go out and handle our business against (Green Bay) Southwest next week to qualify for the postseason,” Greisen said. “We’re going to challenge the guys in the final week of the regular season. We know if we can get the win, we’re going to get quite the team in Level 1 of the playoffs with our current record.”

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